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Safe and Secure: The Right Fence for Your Dog

Let's say you've just signed the papers on your dream home and you're evaluating options for fencing the yard. Your dog likes to run and roam if given the chance, and you need some help making the call on what type of fence to install. You want to make the most of the landscape while also protecting your dog and your property from harm. It's not just about keeping your dog from running away - it's about potentially saving their life. I am an ER vet and I have seen too many dogs injured or killed because of improper fencing.

When you start looking into the options, you may be greeted by a seemingly endless array of choices; in-ground, wireless fence, wood, chain-link, brick, and on and on. Which one's best? A lot of this decision depends on your particular situation, but don't despair.

Below, I'll run through a few considerations to evaluate before you make the call on any type of fence.

I have a homeowner's association that has strict rules on height, color and style of fence. What do I do?

wireless fenceWINNER: Wireless or in-ground fence

An in-ground or wireless system is likely your best bet. There's no visible component, just a zone of security that your dog will learn and respect in a very short time. The in-ground wire transmits a signal that the collar detects, which makes the collar emit a training tone that gets your dog's attention.

If he proceeds out of the zone of protection, the collar gives him a static correction - not enough to hurt, but enough to get his attention and respect the boundary. Over just a few days, he learns that stopping when he hears the tone means no correction and he stays inside the perimeter. Thanks, Dr. Pavlov!

The only ones who'll know it's there will be you and your dog. Styles come in wireless (where a circular boundary keeps him contained when linked to the static correction collar - more on that below) and a mapping version for unique-shaped yards. In most cases, the wire can be hidden and covered with soil, lawn - even cut into asphalt to traverse your driveway.

I've had 2 wireless fence systems in my life, one of which was used to cover almost an acre. In both cases, the wire was totally out of sight and controller panel (about the size of a box of crackers) was hidden away in the garage. My formerly chicken-chasing dogs learned to live a poultry-free life in just a few days and relations with my chicken-owning neighbors were much improved.

I have a dog who's obsessed with chasing squirrels, runners, and other dogs walking by. Which option's best for keeping him in?

WINER: Traditional fence

For some dogs, the drive to chase, conquer and escape can only be met by a solid wall of fence. When making the call, consider the following factors:

  • traditional fence vs. wireless fenceHis ability to jump: make sure the fence is tall enough to prevent escape and the jet pack is out of reach
  • His ability to dig: concrete at the base or a portion of buried fence at the bottom can minimized the chances of digging out.
  • Safety: A traditional fence is only as safe as its weakest part. If the gate is left open, or a section rots away and your dog can push through, all you have is a false sense of security that your fence can keep your dog contained. In the vet ER, the gate left open or the board that the dog has pushed aside to get out is one of the most common causes of escape and being hit by a car.
  • Local regulations on type and style of fence: You don't want to end up in Fence Jail. The food is awful.
  • Cost: a traditional fence can run into the thousands, or the many-thousands if you want to get really fancy and gold-plated .
  • Looks: While a fence can beautify a property, some can look great the first year or two, but really appear shabby after a few years. The fences with the strip of lattice at the top are particular prone to looking drab after a few years when the weather takes its toll and some of the slats are missing.
  • Neutering: Before you invest in a spendy fence, neutering may decrease hormone-driven roaming behavior to the point that an in-ground fence will be enough to get the job done.

We camp almost every weekend in the summer, and my dog loves to come with us. At home she's contained by the in-ground fence. What can we do when camping to keep her safe?

WINNER: Wireless fence

As long as you camp where there's an outlet, you're good to go and so is your dog. A portable wireless system gives your dog the same training combination of signal then static correction that she respects at home.

All you have to do is plug in the small, portable transmitter and set the power to the right level to enclose the space you are camping in. Lead your dog around the perimeter to where she hears the training tone and she'll learn the boundaries of your campsite sooner than you can say are the s'mores ready? Your campground neighbors will thank you, and your dog will be happy you've taken their safety seriously.

Whether you ultimately choose in-ground, wireless or traditional fencing, the old saying rings true: good fences make good neighbors. As an emergency vet, I'd like to add one more aspect to that familiar phrase: good fences make for healthy pets. Keep them securely contained with a good fence and you avoid all the dangers the modern world holds for pets - cars, antifreeze, dog fights and kids with BB guns. Fewer trips to the veterinary ER mean more quality time spent with your pet and life of injury-free health.

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Thank you so much for sharing more about what kinds of fencing are best for dogs. I haven’t had a fence around my yard, but we are getting a dog soon. I am worried that he will run away and get lost, so it would be really great if I could get a good fence. After reading your article, it sounds like the best fence to get would be a traditional fence. Then he can still run around, but he will be kept in. I will also be sure that the fence is tall enough so that he doesn’t jump over it! Thanks for the great post!

My dog definitely fits under the second category. He his a big chaser of anything he can find. I hadn’t thought about making sure there’s cement on the bottom so he can’t dig under it. I’ll be sure to keep that in mind for the future. Thanks for sharing.

Thanks for sharing this advice on choosing the right fence for your pet.  My dog has a tendency to bark at passersby, so I think I’ll get a traditional fence for the front patio.  That way, I can at least try to prevent unnecessary barking!  However, I need to get a fence tall enough so that he won’t be able to jump over it either.

I am a fan of getting a traditional fence and taking the extra steps to make sure your dog can’t jump over or dig under it. If you have a dog like mine, I would also recommend using screws instead of nails to attach the fence slats. My dog tries really hard to jump over the fence and over time has knocked a few boards loose. I have since screwed them back in and have had no problems.

I’ve never seen a wireless fence before, but I’ve heard really great things! Growing up, my dogs used to chase cars all day, so we thought it was a better option to put a chainlink fence around our property, because of how large it was. This worked well, but wouldn’t for everyone (especially if your dog was a digger like you said)!

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