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.
Please Fence Me In!
Dog containment takes some thought, and depends on your individual pet. We kept our German shepherd puppy Magic on a leash until our fencing plans were completed, even though he’s quite reliable staying within boundaries. However, the American Bulldog next door escaped HIS fence several times, and takes offense at seeing Magic even when my boy is on leash. Just because your puppy follows the rules doesn't mean other dogs will.
Avoid tethering or chaining your puppy. Some localities have laws against this, unless it’s for very short periods of time while under your supervision. 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.
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, punishment training including use of 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.”
Electronic fences are only as good as the training, and they are not magical or foolproof. Invisible Fence, for example, insists on slow, careful training of the pet with the help of professionals. But there are other “do it yourself” products and unless you have good training skills, your puppy could be hurt by the training—or training failure when he escapes the fence despite the shock. Besides, there are more humane and equally effective alternatives to electronic containment.
I like the Virtual Fence from Premier. It uses 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 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.