Exterior Shutter Dogs

Exterior shutter dogs are both a fundamental component of the proper function of outside house shutters and an opportunity to personalize the presentation. This important piece of hardware is used extensively throughout the country and around the world to keep exterior shutters locked in an open position.

Exterior shutter dogs available in many different styles and patterns.

How Shutter Dogs Work

Shutter dogs, or tiebacks, consist of two primary components. The principle element floats parallel to the window in front of an shutter to keep it open. It revolves on a perpendicular supporting axle anchored to the facade of the house. The exterior shutter dog is intentionally asymmetrical so it naturally rests in a vertical position. Installed just beneath the open shutter, the tieback autonomously restrains an outstretched panel, then rotates horizontally to permit the release of the window shutter to close over the opening.

Some exterior shutter hinges, including Clarks Tip and Lull & Porter, self-lock when the shutters are ushered wide of the window. However, popular surface mount strap hinges are less dynamic, making exterior shutter dogs a vital accessory.

Shutter Dog Styles

Exterior shutter dogs are sold in an array of designs and patterns. The S-shaped scroll is most commonly applied throughout the United States. Other styles are more prevalent in defined regions.

Iron grape shutter dog with hinges on a black exterior shutter.

In the New England states, hand-forged cast iron designs are used for historic preservation. Paired with shutter horns and tails, the most authentic look can be achieved. Propeller-shaped and rat-tail colonial shutter dogs are prominent along the Atlantic North-Eastern seaboard. Ornate flower, grape, or star forms enhance the character of both traditional and modern buildings in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. Dolphin, scallop, sea horse, or alligator shaped tiebacks are frequently adopted on southern coastal or lakeside homes.

French shutter dogs hold exterior shutters open.

Shutter Dog Designs

European shutter tiebacks are varied in design. Most are utilitarian with basic construction. Simplicity naturally commands the market with the vast number of exterior shutters. However, pockets within any region may opt to use more ornate and visually stimulating shutter tiebacks.

French shutter tieback with two faces.

The most impressive shutter dogs features a head, presumably the likeness of a noble lady or French king. But, some tiebacks may merely feature typical civilians. In the up position, the tieback holds the exterior shutter open. Lift and drop the head forward to release the shutter to swing closed. The most intricate busts have faces when the shutter dog is seated both up and down. Shutter tiebacks complement board and batten shutters, solid panel shutters, and louvered shutters.

Purchase of European shutter dogs within the United States may be difficult. A search on eBay may prove fruitful.

Metal exterior shutter ties with flowers in the window.

Shutter Dog Placement

Shutter dogs should be installed after the shutters have been hung on exterior hinges. Only then can the proper mounting location of the shutter hardware be identified. Tiebacks should mount about 1/4 the width of the shutter from the outside edge and roughly 1-1/2 inches from the bottom of an open shutter. Occasionally, shutter dogs are installed incorrectly beyond the outside edge of the shutter panel, which diminishes the effectiveness. Hold the first shutter dog in place and measure the precise placement before drilling the first pilot hole. The opposite shutter dog installation should be the same distance from the window as the first.

S-pattern shutter dog with lag mount next to flowers.

How to Install Shutter Dogs

Lag Mount Tiebacks

One of three different methods can be used to install shutter dogs, depending on building material and window structure. Lag-mount tiebacks are employed for most applications, which utilizes a bolt through the face of the shutter dog can adhere to hard or soft surfaces. The bolt will firmly tighten into a pre-drilled hole with a right-sized ratchet. Use the lag bolt to attach shutter dogs to brick with a hole drilled through the mortar. The hole should be slightly smaller than the bolt circumference and deep enough to accommodate most of the threads. The use of wall anchors may provide a better hold.

Plate-Mount Shutter Dogs

A plate-mount tieback integrates well with relatively flat wood surfaces. Af flat plate at the rear of the hardware arm screws to the face of the building.

Simple shutter dog installed to hold shutters open.

Bent Arm Shutter Dog

When the first two options are not feasible,  a bent arm can extend from the window casing to support the hold back. This method is particularly useful for stone, rock or other unusual siding that prevents securing the apparatus.

Alternatives to Shutter Tiebacks

Shutter dogs are not the only way to lock outdoor shutters in an open position. Historically, long hooks that connect to the window sill to an eye bolt in the shutter were employed. The same system is favored in some districts today.

Rat tail shutter dog installed with a lag bolt on red wall.

For minimal visual impact, sleek bullet catches can screw to the face of the shutter. The receiving hardware is fastened to the house, which grasps the bullet when contact is made.

Why are they called shutter dogs?

According to Merriam-Webster, a dog can be defined as “any of various usually simple mechanical devices for holding, gripping, or fastening that consist of a spike, bar, or hook.” Therefore, it makes perfect sense to call a restraint that holds exterior shutters in place a shutter dog. Plus, it is fun to say.

French lady shutter dog with green farmhouse shutter.

Faux Shutter Dogs

False shutter dogs are produced for exterior shutters installed in a stationary position. Most are intended for the use with vinyl shutters. The faux hold backs can be added to enhance curb appeal but do not operate.

Faux vinyl shutter dogs on window shutters.

Shutter dogs are on prominent display in cities like Boston (MA), Providence (RI), Philadelphia (PA), Baltimore (MD), Washington (DC), Charleston (SC), Savannah (GA) and throughout the United States.