Oh sweet, sweet fences. How much do I love thee? Let me count ways:
- Fences Keep Dogs Inside. My dogs are off leash, safe, and free to roll in dead stuff without getting tangled in long leads.
- Fences Keep Others Out. Except for a family of Whistle Pigs and one mole with a grudge, no one is cutting through our yard.
- Fences Provide Privacy. It is my right as an American to wear my pajamas all day and not have my neighbors see me slob out.
So clearly, fences are rad. They’re awesome management tools. Not only do they keep everyone safely contained, but they also allow you to do all kinds of fun stuff at home in your yard. Playing at home is super handy if you have a DINOS and need a break from walking your dog or you need to exercise them prior to a walk.
As you probably know, there are many different kinds of fences to choose from. Go check ’em out:
Invisible (I have some thoughts on those)
Plastic (affordable option alert!)
In the end, what you choose will come down to your personal needs in these areas: Privacy, Finances, Function, and Aesthetics.
As soon as we bought out first home last year, we hired some pros to install a fence. We have a few acres, but could only fence in part of the yard. We chose six foot, solid wood fencing for the portion of our yard that faces the street. The rest is six foot, 2”x4” galvanized, no climb, horse farm fencing from RedBrand. The majority of our fence is the wire farm fencing. This allowed us to save a ton of money, but also provides unobstructed views of the rest of our property. This is a good option if neighboring dogs/properties aren’t an issue.
No matter what type of fence you choose (or what you already have, thanks to your landlord or the person who lived there before you), you’ll probably have problems with it. That’s the way life rolls.
Maybe your dogs are fence fighting with the neighbor’s dogs or kids are sticking their hands through the fence and you’ve been finding tiny fingers in your lawn clippings. Or your dog is a jumper, a digger, or a Chris Angel impersonator. Maybe your dog screams at passing skateboarders or the ice cream truck.
Luckily, there are some ways to prevent these common dog-related fence problems (escaping, reacting, being tormented):
1. Landscaping: If you have a dog that is a jumper or likes to patrol the fence line, consider using landscaping as a way to keep your dogs away from the fence. By planting dense shrubs, like Boxwood, along the fence line, you’ll force your dogs to back up, making the jump further (aka harder). And if you have a patroller, the landscaping will make the buffer zone between the fence and your dog a few feet wider, which might help your dog take the day off from guard duty. Just remember to check in between the shrubs on the regular to make sure the dogs haven’t created a secret tunnel to Naughtyville.
2. Bamboo/Reed Rolls, Garden Fencing, and Slats: If you have a chain link fence and you find that your dog is reacting to stuff he sees on the other side of the fence, try zip-tying rolls of reed fencing onto the inside of your chain link fence. It looks nice, it’s cheap, and it’ll give you a lot more privacy (note: it’s not 100% opaque). The reed fencing comes in 4 or 6 foot high panels and can be cut easily. Bamboo looks nicer/is much sturdier, but is also more expensive.
If style isn’t your thing, but function is, you can try a black plastic construction fence as a visual block.
And if you have a fence that your dog is able to stick their head through, but you don’t care about privacy, try adding rolls of garden fencing to your fence to block ‘em in!
3. L-Footer: If you have a digger, consider an L-Footer. That’s wire fencing laid down against the base of your fence and bent perpendicular (90 degree angle) to it. You know, like an “L”. You can bury this fencing underground, but it doesn’t have to be buried to work. Some people just lay it on top of the grass and maybe add some rocks and garden gnomes to hold down the fort. This site explains it well (and has tons of other great tips). Also see Bad Rap’s rebar tip.
4. Concrete Footer: If you have a serious digger, consider pouring concrete along the perimeter of the fence line and sinking the bottom of the fence into the concrete before it dries. It’ll take some work, but this is super effective.
5. Coyote Rollers: If you have a jumper or climber, you can try these rollers, designed to make it impossible for coyotes to get a grip on the top of the fence (the bar spins). Think rolling pins at the top of your fence. You can DIY this with PVC pipe, if you’re handy.
6. Lean-Ins: Another option is to build lean-ins using farm fencing, so that the top of your fence is angled in a bit horizontal to the ground. It’s like adding a little awning of security. Here’s one to check out. It’s like a cat fence, only sturdier.
If your dog is a champion jumper, and none of this is enough, you may have to consider an expanded exercise area that is totally enclosed with a ceiling. Or a Bio-Dome (sans Pauly Shore, since you actually like your dog).
7. Redundant fences: Redundant fences are the jam. I know of more than one family (mine included) whose backyard life got an extreme makeover when they put in one of these babies. So what is a redundant fence exactly?
It’s a fence within a fence. You can put up a secondary, internal fence on just one side of your yard – wherever the problems are occurring – or all four sides. Most people I know have it on just one side of their yard where they share a common fence with a troublesome neighbor, with a busy commercial building or street, or with a damaged or ineffective fence that can’t be changed for some reason (like when you rent or your neighbor owns the fence).
The idea is to manage the situation with a secondary internal fence, set back from the common fence line, thereby preventing your dog from making bad choices, rehearsing behaviors like fence fighting, or escaping easily. Plus it can help speed up training and will prevent other people/dogs from putting your dog in dangerous scenarios.
The redundant fence doesn’t need to be expensive. We used to rent a house that had a rickety old wood fence that belonged to the next door neighbors. Since we couldn’t do any repairs to the fence, we put up a roll of green plastic fencing about 3 feet back from the common fence line to keep our dogs from poking their heads through the broken fence. We also used a plastic, staked-in-the-ground, corner piece at one point. Could I have trained them not to poke their heads through the broken fence? Sure. But putting up the cheap redundant fence was easy, cheap, fast, always effective, and did I mention easy?
Depending on what issue you’re trying to prevent and your dog’s personal kung-fu skills, the redundant fence may need to be as strong as the outer fence. For some dogs, just having the visual of light pvc fencing will work, for others, they’ll need a solid wood fence to contain them safely.
One more thing about redundant fences: do it. I think people feel funny about a fence inside a fence. It seems silly to have two fences, especially if you just paid to put up the first one! But the families I know that went for it are enjoying their lives again. So if you think it could provide you with some peace at home, just do it.
BONUS: here are two more ways to keep your dogs inside and safe:
Airlocks: These are perfect for areas without a fence. You’ve probably seen airlocks at your local dog park or boarding facility. These handy gated areas are built in front of your main entrance, so that if the door opens and a dog escapes, they are still contained by the small gated area (the airlock) right outside the door. For some dogs, this may be as simple as adding a sturdy baby gate to the opening of your front porch. In other homes with other dogs, this may mean building a small fenced in area with a locking gate in front of your door. Grisha Stewart’s BAT book has some more tips, including adding a doorbell to the airlock, so that visitors have to wait outside the airlock (instead of at your front door) for you to let them in. We did something similar with our enclosed porch that leads to our front door (see here).
If you have kids, this one addition could mean the difference between being able to keep your dog and surrendering him to the shelter. I can’t tell you how many families brought in dogs to the shelter where I used to work because the dog was always escaping when the kids opened the door. If you have an escape artist or kids that let the dog out, add an airlock.
Locks: They keep your dogs in and other people out. We have 10’ swinging gates on our fence and after a few bad storms we discovered that the gates would sometimes blow open. We added a second lock (on the inside) to help keep those bad boys shut.
Depending on where you live, it’s not uncommon for people to let themselves into your fenced in yard. Maybe they wanted to cut through your yard and throw empty 40 bottles at your wind chimes (it happens). Whatever the reason, you don’t want people to be able to let themselves into your yard without your permission. So consider adding locks on the inside of your gates. It can be as simple as a big hook and eye.
All that being said, prevention is awesome, but supervision is always super important. Don’t leave your dogs unattended in your yard. Don’t. Especially if they fence fight or are canine Houdinis. Not only can they get into trouble sniffing snakes (I’m looking at you Boogie), but they’re likely to get bored. And bored dogs want to go on adventures. Give them a reason to stay inside the fence by hanging out with them and playing.
Of course, if nothing else, I’m a realist. So I know that most of us do leave our dogs unattended in the yard sometimes (even if it’s just for a minute) and that’s why all the above stuff should be considered. It’s our job to prevent, manage, supervise, and train…
But all in all, training goes a lot faster when you can prevent your dogs from practicing naughty-pants behaviors like door dashing, tunnel crafting, and fence fighting. So no matter how much training you’re planning on doing, the solutions above will support your dog as they learn, keep them and others safe, and will only make things easier for you. And easy is my favorite.
Now go on and get! Hit the local hardware store and: Set your dogs up to succeed!