Is a fence in your dog’s future?
If you’re looking to confine your dog, you’ll need to first decide what kind of fence is right for you, your pet and your home. Read on to learn about the pros and cons of traditional fences and invisible fences.
Traditional fences can be made of wood, vinyl or chain links.
Wooden fences — A solid wood (not slatted) fence is ideal for extra-excitable pups because it blocks their view of people walking by. Additionally, wood fences are typically 5-6’ tall, which is high enough to prevent dogs from jumping over them to explore the neighborhood and possibly get lost.
Chain-link fences — The most economical of traditional fence choices, chain-link fences (also known as cyclone fences) are your lowest maintenance option as well. Of course, dogs can see through chain-link fencing, but you can obscure their view by training vines through the fence or by adding plants on either side of it. For a quicker solution, you can weave plastic or fabric strips through the chain-link fence gaps.2
Vinyl fences — Unlike wood, vinyl fences will not split, twist, warp, rust or rot. Vinyl fences are five times stronger than wood and last significantly longer. Because vinyl fences are so durable, many fence sellers are able to offer impressive warranties on their fences. Vinyl is also more flexible than wood, meaning it can take more weight and force, which is good if you have a larger dog who likes to jump. Cleaning a vinyl fence is easy too, so it’s worth extra consideration if you live in a muddy region or your dog is likely to put his or her paws on it. If your vinyl fence gets dirty, all it takes is a little soap and a hard spray of water to quickly wash it off.
Invisible fences are popular but not perfect.
Reasonable cost — If you’re considering a traditional fence for your dog, know that some neighborhood codes often specify the types of construction materials that are allowed. Some fencing materials are expensive (wood and iron, for example) and labor is an added cost. Invisible electric fences are often less costly even when professionally installed.
Adaptability — While traditional fences work well on flat or gently sloping yards, invisible fencing works on almost any terrain. Invisible fences can span hilly spots, wooded areas and water. Also, electronic fences can cover acres of ground in any pattern to create large exercise areas for dogs.
Aesthetics — Invisible fences are, well, invisible. These barriers do not visually interfere with scenic views or green spaces. You’ll be able to move around your yard freely without the hassles of opening and closing gates. You’ll have to deal with the inconvenience of outlining flags, but once your dog learns the boundaries of the electric fence, the flags can be removed.
Convenience — Electric fences can be installed more quickly than conventional enclosures. Trenching and laying wire takes less time than digging for fence posts, nailing boards, welding iron or unrolling wire. You also have the option of a “smart” fence that can monitored with your mobile phone.3
Reliability — Dogs with a tendency to climb over, dig under or chew through fences may be better contained with an electric fence.
Decreased human error — Pet owners often forget to close gates, so electric fences reduce the chance of escape in busy households with lots of foot traffic.
Protection — If intruders can’t see a physical barrier between themselves and a dog in your yard, they’re more likely to be deterred.
Training required — To be effective, your dog must learn where the invisible fence is. This requires a training period during which you and your dog walk the perimeter of the fence noting the flags. Fencing companies usually provide training protocols and spend time working with owners and their dogs.
Lack of protection — Although invisible fences protect dogs by preventing them from leaving the yard, they do not prevent hazards from entering the yard. Stray dogs and wild animals can still access your yard and interact aggressively with your pet.
Barrier frustration — Some dogs become agitated when they watch neighborhood dogs freely romp about and realize that they cannot join in. This is especially frustrating if neighboring dogs tease or play just out of range. Friendly, sociable dogs also become frustrated when they see another dog or human approach but cannot greet them.
Degree of discomfort — Most electric fences include an audible warning prior to the electric impulse and dogs learn quickly to respect the “beep” to avoid the shock. When a dog ignores the audible signal, an electric stimulus is discharged which startles the dog but is not painful if the apparatus is set appropriately.
Reliability — If the power supply is interrupted by a cut wire or dead battery in the collar, escape is still a possibility. Fortunately, most dogs remember their initial training and respect the perimeter even when the fence is not electrified.
Escape — If dogs see something they really want to chase or are frightened by thunder or something inside the yard, they may ignore their collar’s electric stimulus and breach the electric fence. But what happens when the dog wants to go back inside his yard? Some fences may “shock” a dog upon re-entry, while others have the capability to emit an electrical impulse only upon exiting the yard, so there is no “beep” or “shock” upon returning home.
Making a fencing choice
Like all decisions regarding pets, the choice of fencing is one that takes research and careful consideration. But with the safety and well-being of your dog at stake, the time you spend is always justified. Good fences don’t just make good neighbors, they make happy dogs, too.
1 “The Pros and Cons of Invisible Fences For Dogs,” VCA Hospitals, Lynn Buzhardt, vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/the-pros-and-cons-of-invisible-fences-for-dogs (accessed April 9, 2021).
2 “What’s the Best Fence for Dogs?” Pacific Fence and Wire, pacificfence.com/blog/fencing-tips/the-best-fencing-types-for-your-dog-run (November 2017).
3 “Outdoor Hidden Fences,” DogWatch, dogwatch.com/products/outdoor-hidden-fences (accessed April 9, 2021).
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