Few things will make your dog happier and your life easier than a big, fenced-in yard. But because many dogs are escape artists, you must be sure to select a fence that will keep your canine contained.
While there is no perfect fencing solution that will work for all dogs, there are a few options on the market that will likely keep your dog safe. We’ll talk about some of the best fencing options, materials, and styles below. We’ll even discuss the primary ways dogs escape – because knowledge is power!
But first, let’s talk about a few of the reasons your dog deserves a fenced yard.
There are a number of reasons fenced yards are beneficial for dogs and their owners. Some of the most important include:
Fenced yards allow your dog to get more exercise. Just like their owners, dogs need regular exercise to remain healthy, fit, and trim. A fenced yard – even a relatively small one — will give him room to run, jump, and play, and encourage him to get plenty of exercise.
Fenced yards help prevent boredom. Dogs who get the chance to chase squirrels, smell interesting things, and bark at passing pedestrians will enjoy a ton of mental stimulation (a handful of puzzle toys won’t hurt either). They’ll not only be happier when provided such opportunities, but they are less likely to become bored, which often leads to destructive behaviors.
Fenced yards make bathroom breaks more convenient. Even if you have an adult dog who only needs a few poop and pee breaks each day, there will surely be times when you just don’t feel like going on a long walk to allow him to do his business. A fenced yard makes it easy to just let your dog go outside and answer nature’s call without you even having to put on your shoes or grab the leash.
Fenced yards are great for dogs who can’t go to the dog park. Many dogs have a blast at the local dog park, but some aren’t capable of playing nicely with others (I’m glaring at my own beloved, yet antagonistic, pup at the moment). Other dogs can’t go to the park for medical reasons. And while your backyard may not provide much social interaction, it’ll still allow your dog to have a bit of fun.
Fenced yards may help your dog ward off criminals. Even relatively small dogs will often bark up a storm when strangers approach, so a fenced yard may help keep your home a bit safer.
A fenced yard should not serve as a replacement for daily walks – your dog still needs the chance to cruise around the neighborhood, pee in all the right spots, and enjoy a change of scenery.
You certainly don’t need to go on as many walks if you add a fence to your yard, but walks will still be an important part of your dog’s daily routine.
For example, if you normally walk your dog three times a day, a fenced yard may allow you to cut this down to a single, leisurely walk each afternoon. Just let your dog out in the backyard first thing in the morning and right before bed, and then take 20 minutes to explore the neighborhood with your pooch when you get home from work.
Fences are obviously not one-size-fits-all items – you’ll have to go with a style that suits your home, your tastes, and your dog. In actuality, fences are almost always “custom built” to satisfy these and other criteria (even if they’re made from prefabricated pieces).
This means you’ll need to think carefully about a number of issues when selecting the best dog proof fence for your home. Some of the most important things to consider include:
Some fences are easier to install than others. For example, prefabricated vinyl fences are pretty easy to set up — even for those without much home improvement experience. You’ll probably want a friend or your spouse to help you with the project, but you won’t need to pay for professional installation.
On the other hand, privacy fences and some other styles will require plenty of time, effort, and expertise to install properly. If you aren’t willing to dedicate a full weekend (and maybe longer) to the project, you’ll probably be better off hiring professionals to install your fence.
You’ll also want to pick a fence that appeals to your sense of style. There are no right or wrong answers here; you like what you like. However, it is wise to consider how your choice will affect the resale value of your home and be sure that you aren’t running afoul of any local codes or homeowners’ association rules.
To avoid conflict with your neighbors, make sure that you know exactly where your property lines are located. If your house has been surveyed recently, you may still be able to locate the property lines, but if your house has not been surveyed in the recent past, you’ll probably want to have a crew come out and identify the lines properly.
Fences represent a significant investment, and many will also require you to invest a lot of elbow grease during the installation process. Accordingly, you’ll want to consider durability when making your choice. This not only means selecting a fence made from durable materials, but also choosing one that features robust connection points.
Different types of fences require different types of maintenance. Some, such as chain link fences, typically won’t require any, but wooden fences may need to be repainted every few years. Others, such as wrought iron fences which will rust over time, may need to be sanded periodically.
It’s obviously important to select a fence that will keep your dog safely contained. Different dogs will present different challenges in this regard, so there is no single type of fence that will work in all cases. For example, a picket fence may safely contain a small, relatively calm dog, but it wouldn’t even slow down a bigger dog, who could simply jump over it.
Cost is always a factor in the real world, so you’ll want to figure out your budget before you start trying to pick a fence. Make sure you factor in the installation and maintenance costs when making your choice.
Different dogs tend to embrace different escape strategies, but most employ one of the following five methods.
You’ll need to address these escape techniques in different ways.
Jumpers & Climbers. Jumpers and climbers can be thwarted relatively simply – just install a fence that is too tall for the dogs to clear. Six to 8-foot-tall fences will suffice for most jumpers, and they will also make it harder for dogs to climb over the top. However, opting for a fence with a smooth surface will prove even more effective for containing climbers.
You can also install rollers at the top of your fence to help keep your dog from escaping. Rollers are generally made of PVC pipe, and they’re mounted around metal pipes that hold them in place. When your dog puts his front paws on the roller, it will spin toward him, thereby preventing him from getting a grip.
Diggers. Diggers can be trickier to keep sequestered in the backyard. You can put down a gravel barrier at the base of the fence, which may discourage your dog from digging under it. Alternatively, you can install a fence that extends below ground level about 12 to 24 inches. This will require you to dig a trench, which will increase the labor needed, and it will also increase your materials costs, but sometimes it is the only way to safely contain dogs who like to tunnel their way to freedom.
Bustin’ Through (AKA “These Walls Shall Not Hold Me”). Other dogs just try to bust through fences Kool-Aid-man style. They may fling their body against the fence, try to slip their head and shoulder through gaps, or they may even gnaw at the fence until they create an opening. Opting for super-durable materials, such as wrought iron, brick, or, in some cases, properly sealed hardwoods, will usually stop dogs from powering right through the fence.
Gate Openers. The best way to thwart gate openers is to simply add a padlock or dog-proof clip to the gate. This will prevent most dogs from liberating themselves.
There are a number of different types of fences on the market and they are made from a wide variety of materials. But only a few styles and materials will work well for dog-occupied yards. Some traditional fences are primarily designed to be decorative, and others lack the strength or security to keep your canine contained.
From a dog owner’s perspective, there are five basic options, which we’ve arranged in the approximate order of the security they provide:
Picket fences are generally rather short, and they have moderately large gaps between the slats. They may also feature scalloped tops or decorative post caps. They’re usually employed for aesthetic purposes or to keep those darn kids off your lawn, or reminding neighbors that you have indeed achieved the “American Dream,” rather than for security or pet care.
Picket fences have traditionally been made from wood, but you can also purchase prefabricated sections made from other materials, including vinyl and PVC. Wooden versions can be painted any color of the rainbow, but the other varieties usually come pre-dyed in a few common, relatively neutral colors.
A picket fence will never keep medium-sized dogs like labs, boxers, or golden retrievers contained. It won’t even slow them down – they’ll simply jump right over the top. Even small, athletic dogs like Jack Russel terriers could probably leap over them in a single bound.
If you have a laid-back Lhasa Apso or Maltese who never wants to leave your side, a picket fence may provide some value. You probably don’t want to rely on a picket fence to keep unattended dogs contained, but it may allow your tiny toy dog to hang out with you while you’re doing yard work or chilling on the porch with an adult beverage.
Wide-gap metal fences are usually comprised of a series of vertical metal poles and a pair of horizontal connecting rods (sometimes called pickets and rails, respectively) at the top and the bottom. They are sold in 6- or 8-foot-long sections, in heights ranging from 3 to 6 feet tall.
The poles may be round or square, and they are usually made from wrought iron or aluminum. Wrought iron is incredibly strong, but it is expensive and will rust over time. Aluminum is cheaper than wrought iron and won’t rust, but it isn’t as strong. Aluminum is, however, much lighter and therefore easier to install yourself.
The gaps between the poles of most wrought iron and aluminum fences are between 3- and 4-inches-wide, but you may find fences with larger or smaller gaps than this. Just be sure the gaps are narrow enough to prevent your dog’s head from slipping through, and it should keep him contained.
Really athletic dogs may be able to jump over these fences, but they’re pretty tough to climb. They’re probably best suited for medium to large dogs who aren’t great leapers.
Chain-link fences are made from a series of steel poles and a long sheet of galvanized steel wire, which is attached to the poles for support.
The tallest versions available in most consumer-level retail outlets are about 6 feet, but you can find 8-, 10-, or 12-foot-tall options at fence supply companies. Some chain-link fences are coated with colored vinyl.
Chain-link fences are one of the more affordable options, and they’re extremely durable. They don’t look great, nor do they provide any privacy, but they are a cost-effective option that is especially well-suited for large properties. Chain-link fences are also relatively easy to install on uneven terrain.
Some dogs can climb or jump over chain-link fences, so taller versions (those over 6 feet tall) are considerably more secure than shorter fences. Some dogs may be able to chew through the connecting wires and break through these fences too, but this is typically only a problem with the most determined escape artists.
Privacy fences (which are sometimes called shadow box fences) are usually constructed from wood, but they can also be made from PVC, vinyl, or other materials. Wood is generally the most affordable option, while those made from plastics or composites usually require less maintenance.
Privacy fences are generally rather tall (they are often more than 6 feet high) and their slats directly contact each other. Some dogs can climb over them, but they aren’t as easy to climb as chain-link fences. They’re probably too tall for most dogs to leap over, but use caution when trying to contain dogs who are world-class jumpers.
Privacy fences are probably best suited for dogs who get excited when they see pets or people on the other side as they’ll help limit this type of visual stimulation. Privacy fences also feature more secure corners than many other types of fences, as no gaps are present.
Brick fences certainly blur the line between walls and fences. However, some designs feature numerous gaps, which usually form a decorative pattern and make them somewhat fence-like. The bricks used in the construction of these fences vary from standard red bricks to concrete blocks.
Dogs won’t be able to climb most brick fences, and you can make brick fences whatever height you like. They’re resilient enough to contain the largest and strongest dogs, and they won’t require much maintenance over time.
The downside to brick fences is their cost. You could conceivably spend more on the materials for a large brick fence than you did on your home, so they are typically only used to enclose rather small areas. Brick fences also require considerable expertise to construct properly, which will also increase their cost.
Traditional fences aren’t the only way to keep your dog safely contained. There are a number of other options available to dog owners, which may suit your situation well.
Invisible dog fences (sometimes called shock or electric fences) are a popular option among many owners who don’t wish to have a physical fence in their yard.
To install one of these fences, you’ll need to dig a trench around the perimeter of your yard (or the area you wish to enclose). A long wire will be placed in the trench and then buried.
The wire will connect to a control box, which will, in turn, connect to an outlet on your home. Your dog will then be fitted with a special collar that is capable of delivering shocks of varying intensities. Small flags are often placed over the trench to help provide a visual clue to your dog and help him understand where the boundary is (the flags can usually be removed after a few weeks).
While underground wire is the best invisible fence set-up for unusually shaped yards or property, wireless electric fences also exist, which use radio frequencies to emit a specified boundary radius out from the core unit. The only problem is that radio units cannot be customized for oddly shaped yards (you’ll always have a circle for a boundary line) and large boulders or land masses can obstruct the radio’s boundary line.
When your dog approaches the boundary, the collar will begin delivering a mild shock. If he keeps getting closer, the strength of the shock will increase. This will discourage most dogs from crossing the boundary.
However, some dogs appear to decide that a strong shock is an acceptable price to pay for the glory of freedom, which means these fences aren’t effective for all dogs.
Invisible fences are generally best suited for dogs who aren’t incredibly inclined to wander off in the first place. The invisible fence will simply serve as a reminder about the boundaries and help prevent your pet from straying while chasing squirrels and birds.
A few options for invisible dog fences are included below:
A leash stake is a long piece of corkscrew-shaped metal, with a large ring attached to the top. You’ll twist the stake into the ground and then attach your dog’s leash or a long tether to it. This will keep your dog from running off while giving him a relatively large amount of area to roam.
If installed properly and used with a flexible chain rather than rope (which your dog may be able to chew through), stakes can be relatively secure. However, they won’t prevent people or other animals from approaching your dog. Accordingly, they are still better used while you are able to supervise your pup.
Petey’s Pet Products makes a standard leash stake that will work well for most dogs. It comes in two different versions: one has a 20-foot-long lead and the other has a 30-foot lead. However, the SUREswivel 360-Degree Swiveling Pet Tie-Out may be a better choice for big or strong dogs, as it is capable of withstanding 1,000 pounds of pulling force.
Dog runs also keep your dog from running off via a leash or tether. They feature a long cable or wire, which is usually suspended several feet above the ground. Your dog’s leash or tether is clipped to a sliding pulley which is connected to the cable. This allows your dog to run the length of the cable, plus the length of the leash or tether to each side.
Dog runs give your dog more room to run than stakes do, but they still present the same safety hazards, so they’re not appropriate for all situations. Also, because your dog will be running back and forth over the same stretch of your property, you may end up with bare patches on your lawn.
Owners who know their way around the local hardware store may simply want to design their own custom dog run, but you can also buy ready-to-install kits. The Pet Champion Aerial Run is a good option that comes with a 60-foot, vinyl-covered cable, a 10-foot-long tether, and all of the hardware you’ll need. This system will allow your dog to enjoy up to 1,200 square feet of play space.
Many manufacturers make small, fenced enclosures that can simply be placed in your backyard. This eliminates the need to construct a permanent fence, and it also means that you can move the playpen or kennel around your backyard. Most of these enclosures are constructed from chain-link fencing, but there are a few other options available.
These enclosures rarely come in sizes large enough to give big dogs room to run, but they’ll usually provide little dogs with enough space to get some exercise. They are available in a variety of heights, so you can usually find one that will work for your high-jumping dog, but you will need to be careful to ensure your dog can’t crawl beneath the fence.
The Iris White Eight Panel Pet Containment Pen is a great example of an outdoor playpen. It is made heavy-duty plastic, so it is lightweight, yet durable, and it won’t rust when exposed to the elements. It’s only 34-inches tall, so it isn’t a great option for big dogs, but it’ll work for small breeds and dogs who aren’t inclined to jump or climb.
The Advantek Pet Gazebo is a better option for large dogs, as it measures 90-inches tall (there are also smaller versions available). It is easy to set up or move, and it even comes with a cover to help protect your dog from the sun or rain. It also features a handy “window” that’ll make it easy to give your dog his favorite toy or a bowl of food without having to open the main door.
If you’re considering this option, also make sure to check out our guide to outdoor dog kennels, as we discuss some larger kennel run options for folks willing to have such a structure in their yard.
Have you installed a dog-proof fence around your yard? What type of fence did you select? Has it worked as well as you hoped it would? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below.
Last update on 2018-12-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Ben is a proud dog owner and lifelong environmental educator who writes about animals, outdoor recreation, science, and environmental issues. He lives with his beautiful wife and spoiled-rotten Rottweiler JB in Atlanta, Georgia. Read more by Ben at FootstepsInTheForest.com.