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