Dog fences keep pets safe. Magical-Dawg used to take off after “critters” every so often, racing around the 13-acre spread (or beyond). We eventually trained him to stay with us, even when off-leash. It would have devastated me if Magic disappeared. He was microchipped, but folks would need to catch him first. Learn how to find lost pets here.
Bravo was a very different dog. He was so good off-leash during most morning rambles and didn’t want to go too far away from us. He’d chase and play with his “big-ball” in the field, and baptize every tree and grass tussock. And once he lost his leg, he couldn’t get out the back fenced area even if he’d wanted to.
Shadow-Pup, though, takes after Magical-Dawg. He’s so small, not even the fenced back area keeps him contained. He also likes to dig, so we needed to address possible escapes. Refer to this post for more help with digging dogs. Until recently, we had to keep him on a leash anytime we went outside, and that’s no fun for him–or for us. A fence is a dog’s best friend!
Shadow’s Fence Means Freedom
Since the pipe and rail fence couldn’t contain him, we needed something Shadow couldn’t wiggle through that wouldn’t cost us an arm and a leg. We’re also redesigning and simplifying our garden, and eventually plan to have vining roses or other flowers on the perimeter. My husband’s brilliant solution took a bit of time to accomplish, but within three weeks, we had the new fence in place and Shadow foiled!
The back fence measures approximately 100 feet by 100 feet, with three gates. The house serves as the fourth “side” of the enclosure. So we used four-foot tall rolls of welded wire and attached them with plastic zip-ties to the existing fence. These come in various lengths, but we chose the 50-foot rolls (about $50 each) as the most lug-worthy size for us to manage. So the upgrade cost about $350 and installing ourselves, a whole lot better deal than hiring it done or re-installing something like chain link.
In Texas, the 100+ degree summers quickly turns plastic brittle. We’ll eventually replace the plastic zip-ties with metal to more securely and permanently fix the barrier to the existing fence. We also have metal garden “hooks” for pegging the bottom of the wire mesh securely into the ground, as Shadow-Pup also likes to dig. Oh, and just because he has a fence, doesn’t mean we don’t supervise this smart dawg. He’s a thinker, this one!
Dog Fence, Leashes & Keeping Canines Confined
I’ve harped and harped on “keep him on leash!” until I’m blue in the face. Unless I had a Frisbee or other irresistible toy or intermittent treat reward to keep Magic’s attention, he’d do what came naturally and go where the sniffing is good.
Bravo stays next to us when we’re out with him (and he’s NEVER outside by himself). But 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. Even if your dog is well behaved, you can’t count on the others to be good.
Don’t Blame the Dog
Dogs do what comes naturally so you really can’t blame the dog. While some dogs would never consider leaving home and suffer separation anxiety if you go, others love the lure of outside sniffs. If I were the neighbor I’d be aggravated that another dog pooped on my fence-line, effectively taunting my own pets. Usually, quite frankly, it’s the human’s fault.
With Magic, my husband had the best intentions. But every time Magic “went AWOL” to visit when he was off-leash, he got fun sniffs, a game of chase with my husband, AND a car ride. Can you say, “self rewards?” Yep, honking the car horn brought him running back home whereupon Magic got 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) Did I mention it’s easier to train dogs than humans (or husbands? double-ahem).
PLEASE FENCE ME IN!
A good dog fence 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.
WHY A DOG CHAIN IS BAD
Avoid tethering or chaining your dog. Some localities have laws against a dog chain, 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 dog chain. What was done in the “good old days” today is known to cause additional problems, though, so we need to be smart as our dogs and learn from experience.
Today, behaviorists warn AGAINST tethering dogs. That’s because a dog chain 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 Dog Fence To Adult Dog Needs
You’ll need to figure out if your dog is a jumper or a digger before investing and planning the dog fence. 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.
A privacy dog fence 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, sink the dog fence into the ground—frankly, that doesn’t work so well—or install a “lip” of fencing flat against the ground all around the perimeter. Install at the bottoms of privacy or other barrier fences 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 Dog Fence & 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. “Do it yourself” products work only as well as the expertise of the trainer (you!). 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 With A Dog Fence
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 the fence and this could invite strangers to pet the puppy or tempt people to steal him.
A dog fence does 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.
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!
Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!
Thanks for the tip to choose a fence that is sunk into the ground to prevent digging dogs to get out. Reading this tip reminded me of my cousin, who gave his daughter a new puppy to play with. As she has a tendency to dig holes, I will find for him a fence company who can help install this kind of fence. That way, it will help keep everyone and the dog safe from harm.
My wife and I recently got a dog, so we are looking into building a fence for him soon. I like your point about how some dogs can jump up to 9 feet high. We’ll be sure to choose a fence that is tall and strong enough to handle him.
It sure was nice when you said before building a fence around the property, it is best to determine first whether or not the dog is a leaper or a digger to ensure that they do not escape. I am yet to know what type of dog my pet is so I am a bit worried about the fence that will keep him fenced in. It might be a good idea to call a professional to do the fence installation since I trust that they will be able to tell what my pet needs. Thank you.
Thanks for pointing out the fact that dog fencing not only keeps your pet safely inside your property but also makes sure that other dangers are kept out. My husband and I are getting a new puppy soon and we’ve been wondering if it may be a good idea to put in some kind of fencing. Now that I realize that this will also make sure that our liability as pet owners is decreased as well, we will definitely be investing in a physical barrier to use for our dog.
This is a great post. If you have a yard and dogs, you need a real fence.
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!
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!
We live in an apartment right now so unfortunately no fences. I can’t wait until we can finally get a house with a yard and it will most definitely have a fence.
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!
We always had a fenced in yard for our dogs. My sister even has a fenced in area for their dogs and they have a 31-acre farm.
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! 🙂
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
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.
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.
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*
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.
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.