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Hey guys, Ash here. A very sweaty, tired, grumpy Ash. I just spent all morning driving around, chasing, and cajoling a very naughty neighbor dog that got loose to get them back home before they got injured on the nearby highway. The dog is an escape artist who has managed to get through or out of every single type of fence that the owners have installed. I usually would leave the chasing to the owners, but I accidentally got involved when the little stinker decided to bother my hens on his way towards the main road.
First, let’s talk about how to improve your fence set up for escape artist, and then I’ll give you five options that aren’t fencing.
One of the problems that many homeowners face with breeds that like to run is that they are great at finding ways out of the fence. Here are a few ideas for making your fence more secure:
But if a fence just isn’t an option, here are five alternatives that you can try:
Probably the most common fence alternative, underground fences, or invisible fences, are a way to keep dogs within a specific area without having a physical fence. Instead, a wire is buried in the ground around your space, and flags are planted in the yard to mark where the wire is. The dog wears a special collar that gets a signal from the wire. If your dog goes outside the wire, the collar emits an electric shock that reminds them that they have gone too far.
For many owners, this is the best answer because it only takes one or two “shocks” for their dog to never venture past the yard again without you telling them to. These can be picked up for affordable prices, installed in an afternoon, and don’t take a genius to figure out. There are also wireless versions, in which a box creates a virtual electric fence, shocking the dog when they venture so many feet away from the box in any direction.
If you can’t fence in your entire yard, or you can’t put up a permanent fence, consider something like a play pen or a dog run. This is a movable fenced-in area that you can put up or take down pretty quickly, drag around the yard to give the dog different areas to play in, and so on. It’s great if you have a small yard and want to keep the dog poo out of the area where you barbeque, for example. Just keep in mind that this option is only meant to offer a place for a dog to use the bathroom and get out some zoomies, perhaps. It is not usually large enough to cover all their exercise needs.
These can be very handy if you are having work done in your home and need a place to put your dog outdoors to keep them out of the way, for example. Just be sure that you put it in an area where the dog can get to shade, and check on your dog frequently to be sure they aren’t getting anxious in the small space. It’s also a good idea to clean up the poop in one of these, because you don’t want your dog stepping in it and tracking it indoors, or rolling in it and getting smelly. Worse, dogs that are anxious may even eat it, so keep an eye on that as well.
This option probably won’t sound too appealing at first, but one alternate to fences is to train your dog extremely well. Many dogs can be trained to treat the yard as a safe zone that they may not leave unless you are with them. This isn’t foolproof by any means – if a dog sees another dog or something else that catches their eye just outside the yard, this could test their training to the max. But it works if you just need to trust that your dog won’t run off before you can get the leash on him as you are getting ready for a walk. It’s also a great thing to do regardless of your fence situation, because it ensures that your dog will be a little safer if they do escape.
In addition to teaching a dog to treat the edge of the yard like an invisible fence, you should also consider teaching your dog to heel or come back to you on command. You can use whatever command works best for you, but be sure that this one command they do not ever want to disobey. Don’t do this through punishments, but rather make it absolutely irresistible to be by your side on command by offering them their favorite treats only during this command.
Long time readers may remember that I’m not a huge fan of tie-outs for dogs. The fact is that most dog owners don’t realize that this can be very dangerous, and best case scenario, it usually leads to dogs being ignored and not exercised properly. That can lead to destructive behaviors, anxiety behaviors, and a lot of other issues that you just don’t want with your dog.
That being said, if your only option for a quick bathroom break, or to give your dog a few minutes of fresh air while you vacuum, is a tie-out, I would highly recommend one that is a “runner”, meaning it’s tied between two trees, and the leash your dog is on can zip back and forth across the line between the trees. This gives your dog the ability to move, and the trees provide some shade from the sun. More importantly, these are usually short leashes that don’t allow a dog to get wrapped around something and potentially hurt themselves.
Finally, the absolute best alternative to a fence is more exercise. If you wear your dog out as much as you can with long walks and lots of play time, they won’t need to be in the yard. They’ll go right out, do their business on a leash or while you supervise nearby, and come right back to you when you call – because they’ll be satisfied and worn out from their regular exercise program! This is truly the best way to take care of a dog when you can’t or don’t want to have a fence. For this, you’ll need a good leash and some fun toys like balls for fetch. Also consider getting your dog involved in something that keeps him busy, like lure coursing events and racing if he has so much energy that you just can’t keep up.
I would recommend that any breed, no matter the energy level, get at least half an hour of exercise a day. This doesn’t have to be intense – two 15-minute walks around the block could be all a low-energy dog needs. But for medium-energy dogs, an hour of good play time every day is probably better, and for high-energy dogs? As much playtime and exercise as you can handle is best. Remember, dogs were bred to do things. For the most part, it’s in their DNA to be moving and chasing and running. So use this to your advantage. Get your dog as worn out as you can and you’ll find that a fence is probably not necessary.
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These five alternates to fencing may not be the long-term solution you are hoping for. It may be that your dog would simply have a happier life with a large, fenced-in area to roam. But keep in mind that many dogs live out their entire lives in city apartments, even large breeds, and are perfectly happy. The key is to get that outdoor exercise when and where you can, and to work with what you’ve got otherwise.
That being said, there are ways to make your fence more secure if your dog, like my neighbor’s, has a habit of getting free. I listed a few in the first part of this article, but you can also different types of fencing and other tools, like coyote rollers, that are designed to keep dogs inside the fence. If you want some tips, I would suggest talking to your local boarding kennel or dog shelter. They likely have a very secure outdoor area where they’ve had to ensure that dogs aren’t getting loose, so ask them how they went about creating a safe outdoor space.
Whatever you do, just consider the safety of your dog along the way. Those tie-outs, for example, can be very bad news if you ignore a dog that is tied to one. Having your dog in a playpen in the sun can cause heat stroke and other major medical issues. And not providing your dog with adequate exercise in place of having outdoor space can lead to destruction, anxiety, and more. So be sure to consider what is best for your dog while you work out which fence alternatives you plan to use.
Don’t forget that your yard is your dog’s refuge. This should be his hang out zone, a place he wants to be in. Make this place fun and inviting with toys, fresh water, and associate it with good times by getting out there to play with him. This will help your dog want to stay in the yard more, and will keep him too content to try to escape.