Fences with Staying Power

Good fences = safe dogs
By Robin Tierney, February 2009, Updated February 2015

For your dog’s security—and your peace of mind—you need a fence that’s tall enough and tough enough to do the job for which it’s intended. Here are tips for fences with staying power.

1. Block the view: Does Daisy thrill to the sight of passing people or animals? Might impetuous neighbors stick hands through gaps for a pat? Two words: privacy fence! Is your current fence made from chain link? Block sightlines by weaving plastic or fabric strips through the holes.

2. Thwart diggers: Sink bricks, pavers or large stones along the fence line; fill a several-inch-deep trench with concrete; or stake chicken wire along the bottom, rolling sharp edges away from the yard. Repel fence-side loiterers by laying chain link on the ground and anchoring it to the fence bottom.

3. Make sure it’s climb-proof: Secure welded wire or heavy fabric “leaners” angled sharply inward. Get fence-height extension kits. Apply plastic lining to keep high-jumpers from getting a foothold. Wrap slippery plastic piping or tubes cut lengthwise along the top edge. Plant shrubs or bamboo inside the perimeter to deter escape artists.


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4. Material concerns: Wood offers easy installation and a sight barrier; erect fence sections with the “inside” facing outward to thwart canine breakouts. Check pickets regularly, as they can work loose. Cedar costs more than conventional stockade but is usually more attractive and durable. Vinyl’s higher up-front cost is offset by greater durability and low maintenance. Or consider polypropylene, sometimes called deer fencing; made from a high-strength, UV-light-resistant plastic, it can be secured to posts or trees using super-durable ties, then staked at the bottom to the ground. The black material, which comes on rolls, blends pleasingly into the environment. Chew guards can also be attached to the bottom.

5. On a budget? Instead of skimping on materials, fence an area 10 feet wide and long enough for room to exercise adjacent to an exterior door.

6. Latch watch: Make sure gates are secure. And be warned: Some dogs learn to open latches.

7. Block those passes: A determined canine can squeeze through seemingly impossible openings, so patch all gaps, vertical and horizontal.

8. Good fences do not make good dog-sitters. To avoid nuisance barking, taunts and worse, don’t leave your dogs alone in the yard for extended periods of time.
And finally, here’s the word on electric fences: Avoid them. Among the many reasons to do so: Dogs will cross them if the temptation is great enough, but will not risk a shock to come back in. When the power fails, so does the fence. And unwanted visitors can enter your yard undeterred.

Robin Tierney is an award-winning writer based in Washington, DC; she's currently on the road in northwestern Florida.