Please Fence Me In: Creating Good Neighbors & Keeping Dogs Safe

Do you have a dog fence for your pets? Lately I’ve noticed more “lost dog” notices in the local paper, and that hurts my heart. I don’t know what I’d do if Magic disappeared. He’s microchipped, but folks would need to catch him first. While he’s quite good off-leash during most morning rambles with my husband, “most” is the operative word. Although we have 13 acres for him to play, chase Frisbee (endlessly!), and baptize every tree and grass tussock, in his younger days, Magic really really (really!) wanted to get “productive” right next to the neighbor’s fence. Arg! That does not make for appreciative neighbors.

dog fence

A Pet Dog Poking His Nose Through A Hole In A Fence

Dog Fence, Leashes & Keeping Canines Confined

I’ve harped and harped on “keep him on leash!” until I’m blue in the face. Unless you have a Frisbee or other irresistible toy or intermittent treat reward to keep Magic’s attention, he will do what comes naturally and go where the sniffing is good.

Several years ago, the American Bulldog next door decided to get out of his fence and teach Magic a lesson. Both dogs were fine, but Magic did end up with a red, swollen eye for several days.

Don’t Blame the Dog

Dogs do what comes naturally so you really can’t blame the dog. If I were the neighbor I’d be aggravated that another dog pooped on my fence-line, effectively taunting my own pets. At the time, my husband had the best intentions but every time Magic “went AWOL” to visit when he was off leash, he was self-rewarded by getting fun sniffs, a game of chase with my husband, AND a car ride. Yep, honking the car horn brought him running back home whereupon Magic was given a car ride for being a “good dog” and coming home.

Do you see where this is going? *s* Magic got to practice the behavior, knew what to do to get everything he wanted. SMART doggy! Did I ever mention it’s easier to train dogs than humans? (ahem)

These days, I’m the one who gets up early to take the dog-meister for his morning rambles (ON LEASH) and we’ve had no more incidents. Part of that is Magic’s age, of course–he’s nearly eleven now, and not moving as quickly as he used to. Magic gets car rides other times, of course, but they’re no longer associated with illegal pooping expeditions.

Of course we also have a fenced area in the back yard amidst the roses. And afternoon runs with fetching toys keeps Magic happy. Here are more tips for keeping your pets safe.

PLEASE FENCE ME IN!

Good dog fences make good neighbors and safe pets. You may think you’re indulging your new puppy by allowing her to roam. But not only can ?roaming pets turn into pests or worse (coyote bait comes to mind), they can become lost, contract disease or spread illness to other beloved pets.

You wouldn’t let your four-year-old human toddler roam outside unsupervised, and let him “learn the hard way” if something goes wrong. The cost of safe fencing is offset by saved emergency room bills and lost sleep.

Curious chained dog on a pile of wood.

WHY CHAINING DOGS IS BAD

Avoid tethering or chaining your dog. Some localities have laws against this, unless it’s for very short periods of time while under your supervision.

When I was a kid, our dog was typically chained outside to his dog house. He ended up towing the house all over the yard, and frequently broke the chain. What was done in the “good old days” today is known to cause additional problems, though, so we need to be smart like our dogs and learn from experience.

Today, behaviorists warn AGAINST tethering dogs. That’s because a tether prevents dogs from escaping perceived threats, so a chain or tether can make dogs more defensive and more likely to bite and attack those within reach. Physical barriers are the safest and most reliable options.

Match Fences To Adult Dog Needs

You’ll need to figure out if your dog is a jumper or a digger before investing and planning the fencing. What contains a Border Collie puppy may not do the job once he’s an adult. The tiny paws of a Miniature Dachshund or other terrier digging terrors probably won’t manage tunneling until he reaches adult size, but plan now for excavations.

Privacy fences made of wood may work for the vaulting maniacs, as they won’t be as easy to climb out. They’ll need to be six to nine feet high to stop the leaps. Chainlink fencing works well for most dogs. Some athletic dogs also can climb out, in which case a top may be needed.

For the diggers, the fence should either be sunk into the ground—frankly, that doesn’t work so well—or install a “lip” of fencing flat against the ground all around the perimeter. It can be installed at the bottoms of privacy or other barrier fences, too, to keep the dog from digging out. Landscape (vine roses, for example) help camouflage any unsightly fences. The thorns also help persuade dogs from either side of the fence to keep their distance. Grass grows up through the lip of fencing and can be mowed with ease.

Electronic Fences & SHOCK Collars

Sometimes housing developments won’t allow physical fences. “Electronic fences” may be popular but I cannot recommend them. According to experts including the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, shock training devices can cause “ . . . potential adverse effects which include but are not limited to: inhibition of learning, increased fear-related and aggressive behaviors, and injury to animals and people interacting with animals.” Read more about the AVSAB position statement on “punishment” in dog training.

Electronic fences are only as good as the training, and they are not magical or foolproof. Some companies are better than others in offering training advice. But there are other “do it yourself” products and unless you have good training skills, your dog could be hurt by the training—or training failure when he escapes the fence despite the shock. Chasing a stray cat or squirrel can tempt dogs to run through the electronic barrier, and then the shock can keep them from returning home. Besides, there are more humane and equally effective alternatives to electronic containment.

I like the “Virtual Fence” type products that use the same sort of technology with a buried cable around the perimeter of the property. But instead of an electric shock, the collar first emits a warning beep and only later emits a burst of citronella spray. Cornell University studies showed that citronella (an aversive scent) collars were much more effective than electric shock collars to train. They’re also more humane.

Keeping Other Pests Out

A major downside to these non-physical fences is they won’t prevent other animals or people from coming into the pet’s yard. A goofy puppy intent on the exciting chase could follow a squirrel and cross the boundary—and then the collar’s shock or scent prevents him from coming home. People may not recognize your dog is “confined” and this could invite strangers to pet the puppy or even steal him.

Fences do more than keep pets safely inside. They keep temptations and dangers out, and reduce our liability as pet owners. When you have a clueless puppy that attracts trouble like a magnet, it’s even more important to supervise, even when you have a fence. And that’s peace of mind for us, and our beloved animal friends.

Do YOU have a safe area for your doggy wonders and “wanderers”? I’m preaching to the choir but feel free to share the link to this blog with those who need the help.


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Comments

Please Fence Me In: Creating Good Neighbors & Keeping Dogs Safe — 14 Comments

  1. We have a fenced in yard with chicken wire to prevent the local coyotes out and my dogs in. Both my dogs are hunter/ territorial and will go after any animal that comes into their yard. Gonzo has such a high hunting drive that an invisible fence wouldn’t work. But that wouldn’t be my preference anyway.

  2. A wonderful post Amy, and one I hope people take seriously. Why anyone would allow their dog to wander and risk them getting lost, hurt or dead is beyond me. Thanks for making specific mention against chaining dogs and electric fences, as too many people still haven’t gotten the message.

  3. Unfenced dogs killed Dash Kitten, if you don’t fence your dogs around here, I will throw rocks at it. Sorry but I have had enough of negligent owners. People need to think more about pet safety – and thinking is a big ask for some isn’t it ?*growls*

  4. Nice post. I don’t have a dog however see your valid points about the benefits of a physical fence over an electrical one. I had no idea invisible type fences were found to have negative behavior impacts on dogs. 🙁 Thanks for this informative post.

  5. I really enjoyed this post and I totally agree that fences are super important when you own a dog, especially if you have neighbors to consider or a dog who is a “flight risk.” And tethering is SO dangerous for dogs. Even when we were renting, we would only even consider houses with fences. Having 4 dogs, it’s definitely a necessity.

    While I’m not the biggest fan of invisible fences either, they saved us and our dog Boomer years ago. We had an actual fence and no matter what we did, she would find a way out. Over it, under it, opening gates. She would escape the fence just to chase the squirrels and the neighborhood cats, even though she was never left unattended and would do it right in front of us, or just wait for us to look away for 2 seconds. After multiple escapes, a neighbor threatened to SHOOT her for treeing his daughter’s cats. So, we got an invisible fence and but it along the base of our fence. It took one light shock and never tried again. She learned where the boundaries were (a few feet from the fence) and learned to happily enjoy running and playing INSIDE her acre fenced yard. Now that she’s older, she doesn’t try to scale fences. She could easily clear our 6′ wooden privacy fence with ease, but knows she’s not supposed to.

    In the end, I think as long as your dog is safe and isn’t in danger, whatever works best for you and your dog is the way to go.

  6. Great post and every time I see a lost post for a pet I say to myself what did the owner do wrong, I do not believe in shock collars or anything electronic on a pet at all. I live in an apartment complex so I am lucky and although the dog park is not fenced in, I am not worried about Layla there as we are a great dog community keeping our eyes on every dog all the time

  7. What a great post! Especially the blaming the dog part. It’s so sad when that happens. I love the invisible fences. I live on the 9th floor … so a non issue for us! 🙂

  8. Fences do make great neighbors – and good doggie safeguards. We’ve broken out of our fenced in backyard once and my parents lost their minds – and we got a brand new fence fully, double and triple locked up for us pups! Great article – and so very important for all pup parents to read!

  9. There’s a tethering law here. We don’t have a yard so Mr. N is on a leash when we go out. When we visit friends’ yards though, someone always supervises!

  10. This post is so informative and I’m sure that it will help a lot of dog owners realize how important this is. Sharing it! We are currently saving up for a fence so hopefully we will have one soon. We just recently became homeowners…we’ve always lived in an apartment. A fence is not only important for your own dog, but to keep other dogs away that are just roaming as well. Great post!

  11. Pingback: Summertime Pet Safety, July 4 & How to Find Lost Pets

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