FENCE ME IN

YOUR PET’S BEST FRIEND – CHRISTINE MALLAR – As I am spending as much time as I can in the garden and while the season lasts, my mind of course drifts to garden and yard topics that effect our pets. I’ve decided to do a little miniseries of blog postings with a yard/garden theme. Not too long ago we put in a new fence along our property line, and as we hope to be bringing a new dog into our lives soon, we took the dog into consideration for our fence design.

  • Even if your plans don’t require a privacy fence, you might consider a solid barrier vs. a fence you can see through like chain link. This is especially important for reactive dogs in busy neighborhoods that might bark if they see people/dogs/wildlife on the other side. Barrier frustration is a big deal for many dogs that spend a lot of time in yards, and removing those visual stimuli can be helpful to them. Make sure the spaces are also tight between boards, and there’s not a lot of daylight visible under the bottom.  Chain link is inexpensive however, and could work in areas without a lot of visual stimuli, but remember: A) it creates opportunities for people to interact with your dog, and B) some dogs can climb chain link! If you have a chain link fence and want to reduce visual stimuli and climbing risks, strips of Vinyl or tough fabric can be woven through the mesh. Here are two helpful links to foil digging and climbing (http://www.lostfoundpets.us/fences.php and http://www.dogsdeservebetter.com/clova.html).
  • We went with 6’ high to prevent jumping. We chose wood, but strongly considered plastic lumber, as it lasts longer and is less likely to be scratched up or chewed.
  • The bottom of the fence is important. Prevent your dog from digging out by either attaching a few feet of wire mesh to the bottom of the fence and burying the remainder, or consider installing a narrow cement pad along the fenceline. This will also make it much easier to mow!
  • My opinion about invisible fencing is that it should be avoided as a primary means of enclosure. First, I’m not a fan of anything that hurts a dog intentionally if it can be avoided. Second, I’ve heard stories of dogs spotting another dog or a deer, etc and forgetting the fenceline – if they’re running, they get a zap as they go through the barrier, which startles them and so they run harder. Now they’re outside the barrier and   don’t want to repeat the pain to get back in. Also, nothing prevents other animals or people from entering the yard where your dog is, which is a safety issue.
  • Make sure your gate area is as secure as your fence in regards to digging or squeezing through gaps. Your latch is also important – make sure it isn’t something your dog can operate or accidentally knock open.
  • Most importantly, realize that a nice big yard might look nice to you, but it’s simply not that stimulating for dogs to spend time out there day after day. Dogs generally want to be with their people, and the time spent waiting for your return can be boring! Before leaving a dog alone in a fenced yard, make sure that you exercise them well before you leave instead of waiting ‘till night time when you get home. Also leave novel toys with them to investigate, and certainly use things like stuffed Kongs, raw meaty bones, deer antlers, or other things they like to chew. Dogs that dig holes, remove siding, or bark all day are trying to tell you they need more exercise and stimulation in their lives!
PS: not to leave the kitties out, check out this nifty fencing system that allows cats safer access to the outdoors: http://www.purrfectfence.com
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