Good Fences Make Safe Neighbors
By Stephanie Borns-Weil, DVM, DACVB
Dogs that roam free run the risk of being lost, hit by vehicles or injured by wildlife. Free-roaming dogs may also pose a risk to neighborhood children and wild and domestic animals.
A good fence is tall enough to prevent a dog from jumping and free of gaps that it can squeeze through. For some dogs, it may be necessary to bury the fence deep enough to deter tunneling. Wooden, cast iron, plastic, and chain-link fences are all good options. For people who value a view, a good option may be the almost invisible flexible net fence by Pet Playground.
Electric “invisible” fencing is not recommended. As with physical fences, electric fences tend to heighten territorial responses by defining the boundaries of the property. The difference is that physical fences keep the resident dog in and people and other animals out. Electric fences are one-way barriers. People may inadvertently wander across the fence boundary without knowing they are in an area belonging to the dog. Wildlife too can enter the yard and threaten your “fenced” dog who then can’t escape.
There are other problems with electric fences, too. Electric fences will not keep every dog confined. When very excited, some dogs will run right through the “fence.” For some sensitive dogs, the electric shock delivered by the fence mechanism during the training period is so frightening that a lasting fear of the yard develops.
If you do not have a fenced yard, exercise your dog with a long training leash. Add a shock absorber to avoid being pulled off your feet by a sudden jerk on the leash. A tie out is another option but should only be used when you are in the yard supervising your dog.
If your dog enjoys running off leash, head to a public space where off leash play is allowed. Many towns have enclosed dog parks or other areas, such as disused tennis courts, where dogs can run freely or chase a ball.
For dogs that do not enjoy the company of other dogs or people, consider renting an enclosed area by the hour through the Sniff Spot platform.
Veterinarian Dr. Stephanie Borns-Weil heads the behavior service at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center. She is a 2007 graduate of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.
Electric “invisible” fencing is not recommended.