DO Fence Me In !

(Good Fences Make Good Dog-Keeping)

All dogs , and especially all Bouviers, love to be housedogs and constant companions to their human packleader. The purpose of this article is to discuss the two most useful structural assets for success in the housedog lifestyle, namely the FENCED YARD and the DOG-DOOR.


by Pam Green, © 1994, 2013

<a href="fence_me_in.mid">[Play Sound]</a>

( to tune of "Don't Fence Me In" )
Oh give me a small piece of land,
Land where I can poop and play :
   DO fence me in !!!
Let me slouch on the couch,
While I'm home alone all day,
With dog-door out and in.
Let me lie on the porch in the morning breeze,
Roll in the grass and anoint the trees,
Let me be your dog forever,
But I beg you , please,
   DO fence me in !!!


All dogs , and especially all Bouviers, love to be housedogs and constant companions to their human packleader. While they would prefer to accompany their humans everywhere, they are generally content to remain at home in the comfort of the house during their human's absence. The purpose of this article is to discuss the two most useful structural assets for success in the housedog lifestyle, namely the FENCED YARD and the DOG-DOOR, with emphasis on how to achieve these amenities in various problem situations, eg renting, condos, anti-fence CCRs, or for problem dogs, ie escape-artists, barkers, etc.

To be of value to you and your dog , a fenced yard does not have to be large and the fencing does not have to be expensive, difficult to erect or difficult to remove again and transport to another home. The difficulties of achieving good fencing with dog-door access are modest indeed relative to the major benefits.

It is NOT the purpose of this article to enable you to fence your yard so that you can exile your unfortunate dog to the deprived life of an "outdoor dog". Dogs should NOT be shut out of the house for more than brief periods. Dogs exiled from the house and family life for extended periods suffer emotionally and sooner or later develop behavior problems due to boredom, loneliness, and anxiety. If you are not willing to share your home and your life with your dog, please do not get a dog !!! The purpose of this article is to help you fence your yard and add a dog door so that your companion & housedog can enjoy the benefits of part-time or full time access to the yard, preferably free to move back and forth between yard and house at will.

You will probably have to jump around a bit back and forth in this article, as various topics are inter-related to other topics. There is also some repetition for the sake of clarity within topics. Thus I have added some internal navigation between the main topics. Or you may just read straight through.

internal navigation between topics :

WHY : advantages

advantages of fenced yard with or without dog door

The essential purpose of having a fenced yard is to provide your dog with a safe and convenient toilet, thus allowing the dog to obey his natural instinct to make his eliminations at some distance from his sleeping quarters, which simultaneously fulfils your own preference for zero eliminations inside the house. The fenced yard spares you the necessity of taking your dog for eliminations walks several times a day every single day of the year, whether you want to do so or not, eg when the weather is horrible or when you are ill or desperately busy, or just feel like sleeping late on a weekend morning. For this purpose , the yard does not have to be very large : as an absolute minimum even an area of only 6 feet X 10 feet would suffice, and an area of 20 feet X 20 feet would be generous. Thus a portable chain link kennel run would suffice, and in some situations would be the best answer. Whatever the yard, its toilet function will best be fulfilled if it connects to your house through a dog-door so that the dog can use it whenever he needs to or wants to.

The secondary purposes of having a fenced yard are to allow the dog to give himself outdoor exercise and to give yourself an area in which to play with your dog off-leash and in which to do some basic obedience training. For these purposes, a moderately larger area is needed : eg 50 feet X 100 feet for a larger dog would be ample. If you don't have this kind of room, don't worry about it. There are other ways to give your dog exercise, play and training. Not all dogs will take advantage of yard access through the dog-door to give themselves exercise. Some dogs, including most adult Bouvier, are quite indolent in the absence of stimulation from a playmate, ie either you or another more energetic and playful dog. For many dogs, their principle source of exercise will be walks, jogs, or bicycle runs with a human member of the family. Play can often be provided at fenced school-yards, sports-fields, or parks. Some parks provide a fenced "dog play area" where well behaved dogs are allowed off leash; this is an ideal play situation for anyone whose dog enjoys play with other dogs. Such areas are also ideal for doing obedience work with high levels of distractions. For obedience work generally, while you may use your own yard as a quiet and distraction-free place to teach new exercises, to advance into the "proofing" stages, to make the dog reliable under distraction, you will be going to public parks and other public places. Many parks provided a "dog training area" where off leash work is allowed ; others are likely to tolerate off leash work or work with a light drag-line so long as the dog isn't creating a nuisance. Of course on any land that is not your own private property, you should be prepared to "poop scoop" , ie bag and remove all solid wastes.

fenced yard plus dog door

Finally, a serious advantage to the fenced yard plus dog door is that it allows your dog to better deter burglars and other undesirables from attempting to enter. A yard that completely wraps around your home does this best, as there is no way a burglar could reach a door or window without first having to go through the dog-defended yard. Locks on the gate enhance the value of the yard, as a burglar would have to spend time in a very exposed position either to pick the lock or to climb the fence.

WHY NOT : disadvantages

disadvantages to having a fenced yard (without dog door) : none

There are NO disadvantages to having a fenced yard, and there are huge disadvantages to living where fencing is not permitted or is unduly limited in height.

disadvantages to having a dog door from house to yard

The only serious disadvantages to providing full time dog door access into the yard are safety related. Do you live in the sort of neighborhood where a dog or a child left alone and unsupervised in a fenced yard (with or without locked gate) might be in danger from human depravity? Poisoning, theft, kidnapping, etc ? These risks are becoming more serious and more widespread, and are likely to get worse in the future. So if you have a young child and live in a high risk area, you probably don't want to have a dog-door through which the child can gain unsupervised access to the yard. Likewise in a high risk area, you may wish to deny your precious dog unsupervised yard access, and / or use poison-proof training (with "hot wired" bait, see Koehler'sbook "Guard Dog Training" for details) plus use of a locked and roofed kennel run instead of full yard access.

Needless to say, your dog should be tatooed in the flank with his AKC registration (or ILP) number and/or your own state Driver's License number, and these numbers should be registered with National Dog Registry (hotline 1-800-NDR-DOGS ; address P O Box 116, Woodstock, NY 12498-0116). (Note : do NOT use your own Social Security number as an identifying tattoo : it's not that easy for a legitimate finder of your dog to use to locate you and it's something you wouldn't want a dog-stealer or other ill-intentioned finder to have.) UPDATE : I originally wrote this in days before microchips. Today a microchip is another line of secondary identification. Of course there is no reason why you could not use both microchip and tattoo.

Some people worry that a dog door could permit human entrance by a burglar. It's true that a small adult person can crawl through a large dog sized dog door. How many burglars are really going to be willing to risk meeting the dog that fits that door -- especially to meet him while in mid-crawl through ?? Most commercially made dog doors have provision for a sliding panel to close off the dog door, thus allowing you to decide when to have the door operational and when not, eg disabling the dog-door at night. You could add a lock to such a shut-out panel for further security. There is at least one brand of cat-door that allows entry and exit only to those wearing a special gizmo on the collar; but this mechanism is not currently available in dog doors. Perhaps if enough of us wrote to the manufacturer ?? (UPDATE note : since I originally wrote this , such a product has become available and I've seen it advertised in dog magazines.)

Obviously if your yard contains items or areas hazardous to your dog or your child, such areas should be fenced off. The most common such item is a swimming pool. Until such cross-fencing can be erected, you'll probably want to delay putting in a dog door, as you will need to personally supervise your child's and dog's yard activities.

If you have a cat whom you wish to confine indoors, ie thus avoiding the cat's exposure to those many outdoor hazards (cars, other people's dogs, etc), you will have to choose between foregoing a dog-door versus confining the cat to a portion of the house that does not include the dog door. (It's not a bad idea to separate dogs from cats when humans are not present to superrvise anyway. ) The life expectancy of an indoor cat is two to three times that of an indoor-outdoor cat. The inescapable truth is that fenced yards do not confine cats unless the yard is totally roofed, eg a roofed kennel run with dog door access to the house or a fully enclosed porch.

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HOW & WHAT : basics of fencing & dog doors

There is of course no limit as to how fancy, beautiful, and expensive a fence can be. However the practical necessities of good dog fencing can be accomplished much more modestly. The critical qualities of good fencing are adequate height, security at the bottom, security at the gate or gates, resistance to chewing and toenail attacks, and (for some dogs especially) the nature of what is on the other side. Additional issues for dogs with escape-artist tendencies will be considered below in the section on "problems".

Height should be decidedly taller than your dog (or your future dog) could possibly jump and , preferably , also taller than he could climb. This varies with the breed and the individual. (Eg many Bouvier are athletic enough to jump 4 feet or more, and most can climb 5 feet easily and 6 feet with effort.) However it should also be tall enough to prevent jumping or climbing entry from the outside by other dogs in the neighborhood, and probably also tall enough to discourage such entry by human children and adults. To me this means 5 feet as a minimum, with 6 feet being much preferred. Remember that your fence is only as tall as its lowest point ! So a 9 foot fence with a 4 foot gate is no better than a fence that is 4 feet all the way around. Likewise a 6 foot fence with earth piled up 2 feet in one corner is no better than a 4 foot fence. Be aware of any "launching pad" objects near the fence, eg can your dog jump on top of the covered hot tub and from there jump over the fence? Is the dirt piled up high in one corner of your yard? A cord of firewood stacked against the fence?

Security at the bottom is often overlooked, but quite essential. Many dogs are quick to spot an opportunity to slip underneath a fence, and it's really surprising how small an opening can suffice for a fairly large dog. So your fencing needs to come all the way down to the ground or even beneath it, and the ground near the fence should be somewhat dig-resistant ---- especially if you have a terrier or other digging prone dog. Wooden fences, while beautiful, are vulnerable to gradual deterioration at the bottom from termite access (through wood to earth contact) unless special precautions are taken; putting a few rows of concrete blocks beneath the wood is one possible solution. Wire fences can be buried 6" to 12" below the ground, providing outstanding security. Finally, the bottom can be guarded with a line of "hot wire" (electric fencing wire) : see below under "Problems : escape."

Gates need to be secured in various ways. Ideally the gate should be locked. A locked gate is not vulnerable to being opened accidentally or left open (improperly shut) by a visitor or by a less responsible family member. To accompany a locked gate, I recommend an intercom system of some type, so you can remain inside the house while speaking to a visitor outside the gate. Gates need also to be secured near the bottom against possible canine efforts to push the bottom edge of the gate outwards and so escape. An extra chain or latch near the bottom of the gate will provide this security. If fence and gate are solid, you may want to cut a slightly larger than fist sized hole to allow this to be reached from the other side or you may prefer to have only one-sided access.

What's on the other side of your fence can incite your dog to run back an forth up and down the fence, with or without barking, or to try to escape to reach the other side. The most common sources of problems are a dog or cat on the other side; but teasing children can provoke the most extreme problems, including bites. If you have such a provocative neighbor , your fencing on that side will have to be especially strong and resistant to teeth , toenails, and body battering, and it should also be visually opaque. You can achieve visual barriers with wood or by adding diagonal slat of wood, metal, or plastic to chain link. You may also want to add electric fencing tape or wire to your side of the fence, just as you would for the escape-artist dog (see below in section on "problems"). In the case of a teasing cat who walks back and forth along the top of the fence, I suggest securing a number of mouse-traps along kitty's route; you will have to re-set these periodically. In the case of a teasing child, I strongly recommend a serious and non-hostile talk with the parents. See also the section below under "Problems : digging, barking , fence-ighting.

Materials for fencing include masonry (brick or concrete block), wood, chain link, and woven wire or welded wire of various types. Woven or welded wire is the most economical, is easy to erect, easy to take down and transport to another site, is amenable to having the bottom edge submerged in the earth , and generally functions very well as dog fencing and as livestock fencing. The dimensions of the wire mesh must be small enough not to allow passage of small dogs (including neighbor's dogs from the outside inwards) or small livestock (eg neighbor's ducks or chickens); I would suggest 2" X 4" spacing as being excellent and 4" X 4" as adequate for most situations. Go to your local livestock and ranch supply store to see what is available.

Support posts for fencing includes treated wood posts (which will eventually rot out anyway), round metal posts (as for chain link), and T -posts. Your corner posts and gate support posts need to be especially solid and secure, possibly with diagonal bracing for extra strength. T-posts go in easily (with an appropriate tool which you can buy or borrow at the ranch supply store) and provide a good level of support for woven or welded wire. It's a lot easier to pound T-posts into damp ground than hard dry ground, so you might want to pre-wet the ground with soaker hose. T-posts can be removed easily with the right tool, otherwise not so easily. Finally, of course consider self-supporting kennel run panels (with or without added support from T-posts) to enclose your dog yard.

The same hardware store or fencing store where you buy your materials will often be happy to lend you a trailer to transport materials and a T-post driver (to pound posts into the ground). Someone at the store might also be able to give you valuable advice.

How much of your yard to enclose within your dog fence , and what areas to exclude, are matters of your choice. If you have some fancy landscaping or a vegetable garden or other area you wish to preserve from possible canine damage, make the choice to use fencing to exclude the dog from this area. Likewise your fence should exclude the dog from areas dangerous to him For example, possibly a swimming pool in relation to a dog too small or old or weak to be certain of being able to climb out of it. Some outdoor plants (as well as some indoor plants) can be poisonous if ingested. Give the dog an area that is safe for him and safe from him.

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HOW & WHAT : problems with the dog

"escape artist" dogs

The most serious of fence-related problems is the canine "houdini", ie the escape artist. Some dogs slip underneath the fence, some jump over, some climb (scale) over, some push against a yielding lower gate corner, and some are ingenious at finding and sliding through small holes. For most of these, the best answer is electrified wire or tape, strung so as to barricade the preferred escape route or routes. I particularly recommend the bright yellow or orange electric fencing tape, as it is highly visible and dogs and children soon learn to respect and avoid it. The electric fence is powered by a fence charger, either a small inexpensive one (eg "Fido Shock" brand) made for dogs and able to power a few hundred feet of fence or a large one , made for livestock and able to charge 1/4 mile or more of fence. Some chargers are powered by 110 volt current from an outlet ; but some are powered by battery or by solar power. If the fence is made of electrically conductive material, ie chain link or woven/welded wire, the ground line from the fence charger can be attached directly to the fence and one or two hot lines can be run on stand-out insulators (which project the electric wire or tape about 6" in front of the fence to which they are attached) near the bottom of the fence (to prevent slip unders) and several hot lines on stand-out insulators across the upper half of the fence (to prevent climbing) or above the fence (if fence is not tall enough to prevent jumping). If the fence itself is of non-conducting material, then either the fence must be covered with chicken wire attached to the ground line or else alternating hot and ground lines must be run in parallel pairs, so that the escape attempting dog will contact both hot and ground. With electric fencing, the timing of the correction to begin simultaneously with the dog's attempt at the undesired behavior, ie contact with the fence, and the cessation of the correction simultaneously with the dog's breaking off the undesirable behavior, constitute a perfect lesson and ensure the best possible situation for the dog to learn. In my experience with a few Pound rescue dogs, Bouvies and others, who were fence climbers, I have found that most dogs need only zap themselves once or twice ( three times for very stupid dogs or very impulsive ones) in order to gain a healthy respect for the fence and the wisdom of remaining inside it. However , I would recommend leaving the fence electrified for several months thereafter or (preferably) longer (preferably permanently) and leave the visible electric tape in place permanently (with or without power) for maximum insurance against relapses. (In case you are worried about your young children contacting the electric fence, don't worry : they too will learn fast. ) If the idea of shocking your dog painfully for just a second to teach him not to try to escape the fence seems repugnant, please remind yourself that an escape artist dog is certain to soon have a close encounter of the fatal kind with either the wheels of a passing vehicle or the shotgun of a neighboring livestock owner. Better a few painful but harmless zaps, than agonizing injury and possible crippling or death.

If use of electric fence is not practical (eg perhaps because there is too much vegetation close to your fence), then an alternative is to use a remote training collar on very high setting; to do this you must be willing to spend quite a lot of time lying in ambush waiting for the dog to try his tricks so you can zap him for it. You will probably not achieve as perfect a timing of onset an offset of correction as would be achieved by electric fencing, but you can do well enough. I have found that just two or three serious corrections of about half a dozen seconds duration delivered as the dog is actually in the act of escaping, ie in mid-climb, will convince most dogs. But you don't have the anti-relapse insurance of the continued presence of the electric fence. So this approach is far inferior to using electric fencing. A better alternative would be to add aa secondary layer of "Invisible fence" as described below.

digging, barking, fence-fighting

Another set of problems which makes some owners unwilling to give their dogs unsupervised yard access are digging , barking, and fence-fighting. All of these backyard nuisance behaviors are more likely to occur in dogs which have been exiled to the backyard, either unfettered or (worse yet) on a chain or overhead trolly line, and denied access to the house, with limited human companionship and leadership. Such dogs bark, dig and otherwise raise hell largely because of boredom, loneliness , and separation anxiety. Thus reduction of these causes will often produce a full or partial cure. Often such behaviors will become less frequent and finally disappear when the dog is given a dog-door (ie access to the home) and is given more human companionship, more basic obedience training (ie human leadership), and more exercise in the form of walking, jogging, or biking with human family members. Nocturnal nuisance behaviors can be eliminated immediately simply by bringing the dog into the house at night (initially with dog door de-activated), preferably having him sleep on the bedroom floor of a family member.

For digging, there is a bizarre sounding but often highly effective cure : simply re-fill the holes with some dog poop (feces) and top off with dirt. Somewhere between one-third and two-thirds of all dogs dislike digging into dog feces badly enough that they will either avoid re-digging treated holes or will give up digging altogether. For those who continue to dig, try placing mouse-traps in the holes to correct further digging. If digging is directed towards certain areas , plants, etc, you could fence these off. For the dog who has already learned to avoid brightly colored electric fencing tape, just surround the forbidden zone with such tape, whether or not you can connect juice to it (and you can connect juice to it by using insulated wire buried underground, possibly even running through PVC pipe). Finally for those dogs who simply cannot refrain from digging (eg many dogs of the Terrier breeds, which have been bred for an exaggerated love of digging up "varmit" animals), I advise you to sub-divided (cross-fence) your yard into a dog zone where digging is OK and a non-dog zone, then encourage the dog to dig in his designated digging pit (eg pit of sand) inside the dog area .

To deal with barking, you must first identify any provocative causes. Since most problem barking takes place in the owner's absence, this will require enlisting one or more of your neighbors to help you investigate possible causes. Ask each of your neighbors for help in identifying what triggers your dog to bark. If there are a few specific causes and if they are something that can be made to happen, ask your neighbor for help in some training sessions. Let the neighbor deliberately create the provocation at a time when you are present (possibly in ambush) and can correct the dog firmly. Sometimes a series of such "set-up" lessons will succeed in silencing a barking problem. At the very least, by asking your neighbors for help, you will be letting them know that you respect their rights to an acoustically peaceful life.

(Update note : since I wrote this years ago, home security cameras have become dirt cheap So consider installing one or more, hooked up to a video-recorder. I am not sure if you can get a camera with sound recording or not. If you are a Total Geek,, you could put web cameras indoors and out and route the live feed to your desk at work. That's probably over-kill for anyone but a True Geek.)

For persistent and intolerable barking, there are only three real solutions. One: bring the dog into the house, de-activate the dog-door, and do not let him have any unsupervised access to the yard. (When you supervise his yard activities, you will of course correct any and all inappropriate barking. ) If he still motor-mouths inside the house, crate him : most dogs will settle down and snooze in the crate. Obviously I do not mean that your dog should live out the rest of his life in the crate, but crating him for a few hours at times of maximum barking temptation could help him learn to be comfortable without barking. Two : use a bark collar (which really should be called an "anti-bark" collar). The best is the Tritronics , which allows a range of settings of degree of shock, which is set off by the vibrations of the dog's vocal cords, and which is very reliable. This device will correct the dog with a very brief shock each and every time he starts yapping. Used properly (read directions carefully and follow them), this will soon produce a dog who is silent --- or at least who is silent when wearing the collar (and of course at night when asleep on your bedroom floor). (UPDATE note : many people report sucess with the newer citronella spray anti-bark collars, which uses a spray of citronella into the dog's face as the corection.) Three : if all else fails (or if you are simply unwilling to use a bark collar), have the dog surgically de-barked. You may have to shop around quite a bit to find a vet who is willing and able to do de-barking, as many dislike it or (thanks to the effectiveness of bark collars) are called upon to do it so seldom that they feel out of practice. The de-barked dog will continue to attempt to bark, relatively little noise is produced, at most a somewhat ghostly sound which you may or may not find annoying but which is not loud enough to bother your neighbors. I have known a number of de-barked dogs and they seem to be perfectly contented with their life and their muted voice. (If you need to meet some de-barked dogs, just call your nearest Sheltie or Rough/Smooth Collie club : these two breeds keep de-bark surgeons in business.) Some dogs do eventually grow back enough scar tissue in place of the vocal cords that they are again able to make an annoying level of noise and if so then they must be surgically de-barked once again. If de-barking or use of an anti-bark collar sounds "just too horrible" to you, please consider that the truly incorrigible barker will eventually drive your neighbors into taking legal action against you to compel you to silence or get rid of the dog. A less civilized neighbor or an intolorably frustrated one may shut your dog up by tossing poisoned meat over the fence or similar "final solution." Your only other recourse would be to move to a county home at least several miles (sound carries a long way in the country) from the nearest neighbors. Don't bother trying to give your problem dog to someone else. If you think that anyone else will want to adopt your incorrigible motor-mouth dog, think again. They will get rid of the dog again a lot quicker than you did, and ultimately your otherwise nice dog will be euthanized (killed) to shut him up.

Fence-fighting , which is running up and down the fence , biting at the fence or at what is on the other side, often combined with barking, is provoked by actions of animals or people on the other side of the fence. Sometimes a friendly and sober discussion with the neighbor involved might bring about a reduction in the provocative behavior. Otherwise, see the discussions of visual barriers and electric fencing above in earlier sections of this article. Again, a well placed security camera could be the best way to discover the provoking cause and document it (to show to legal authorities or parents of provoking children)

Does the postman or the meter reader or other service personel need to go through the dog's yard to do their duties? If so, this is a potential source of problems. While your dog may be so friendly and so unterritorial that he does not mind strangers coming and going through the yard, not all service people like dogs or trust dogs and not all can be trusted to be fail-safe careful that the dog does not get out the gate. If your dog is more territorial or less friendly , or simply if he is large or intimidating in appearance, the problem potential is obvious : service personel will fear him and their fear-inspired behavior will soon teach the dog to behave in a more aggressive manner. Don't let unsupervised encounters happen ! Either confine the dog into the house (dog-door de-activated) when service personel will be visiting the yard in your absence, or else be home and present to supervise the encounters. Otherwise eliminate the need for the service person to enter the dog's yard. Eg move your mail box outside the fence. Ask the gas and electric company to put you on the "self-read" system, whereby you set special meter cards outside your gate just before the meter reader is due to visit. (Update note : the adoption of "smart meters" by electric companies in some areas has eliminated the need for a meter reader to actually come to read the meter.) And, once again, keep your gates locked !

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HOW & WHAT : alternative fencings

From the sheep industry comes a new product, "Electro-Net", which is a readily transportable electrified fence used to contain sheep within a particular area for grazing. This is made of a net of electro-conductive cord, held up by fiberglass rods with metal spikes on the bottoms. the net can be powered by either a plug-in unit running off 110 volt or by a battery. It's lightweight and utterly easy to move and set up. The ones I've seen are only about 3 feet high. they hold sheep well, at so long as the grass is not greener on the other side. It seems to me that this net might very well suffice to hold a small to medium small dog of fairly soft temperament, ie one who would be easily corrected by the mild shock. For a bolder or larger dog or for one with ability to jump over two feet easily, I would not trust this fence as the sole containment; but it could make a useful auxiliary or reinforcement for other fencing. Eg it would probably be quite effective to keep a dog out of a flowerbed or away from the swimming pool. I am presently trying to learn more about this type of fencing. I DO NOT RECOMEND THIS TYPE OF FENCE AS YOUR ONLY FENCE !

A recent product usually termed "Invisible Fencing" has been getting a lot of attention lately, especially from those under legal restrictions (see below) from using conventional fencing. In this case, a wire carrying radio waves is buried around the perimeter and the dog wears a special collar with receiver and shocking unit. As the dog approaches the fence , he first receives a warning sound from the collar and then if he continues to approach closer he receives a shock from the collar. The dog should soon learn to respect the warning tone. Sounds OK so far. But some serious problems should be immediately obvious. The "invisible fence" does not keep other people's dogs out, nor does it keep children and adults out. If such a trespasser is injured by your dog, the "invisible fence" will probably not give you the degree of protection from legal liability that a real (physical barrier) fence would give. Certainly your dog will not be protected from possible injury by the trespasser. Needless to say, the dog must be spayed / neutered as invisible fence will definitely not prevent visits by dog of opposite sex. Worse yet, I would not count on the fence to keep your dog in, especially if your dog is the sort that can be triggered into strong "prey drive". In the event that some overpowering temptation , such as a bolting cat, were to excite your dog sufficiently that he runs through the warning sound and brief shock, the receiver collar will keep your own dog from re-entering your yard. Certainly you will not be protected from legal liability for any damage your dog may do while outside the fence. I would see "invisible fencing" as having some value as a reinforcement to real fencing, eg place the invisible fence some feet to the inside of the real fence : the combination may succeed where either alone would fail. Finally, all the "invisible fence" systems I have seen advertised are rather expensive; for the same amount you could have a small yard of genuine physical barrier fence that would be much more reliably effective. (UPDATE note : those in snow country tell me that if covered by a few feet of snow, many brands of "invisible fence" cease to function.) I DO NOT RECOMEND THIS TYPE OF FENCE AS YOUR ONLY FENCE !

An even less reliable fencing substitute is the so-called "boundary training", in which the dog is taught by conventional correction training not to cross a visible boundary line. Each time the dog approaches and begins to cross the line, it is scolded and corrected, eg with a long-line and collar jerk. For a dog which has very little inclination to leave the immediate vicinity of the house and which has just about zero prey chasing reactions, this may work. But for most dogs, it works only to the degree that any temptation is absent; sooner or later an adequate temptation will entice the dog out. Obviously, like invisible fence, boundary training does absolutely nothing to keep out other animals and human beings. Boundary training definitely does not satisfy the legal requirements of local leash and fence-in laws. I advise you to consider such training to be absolutely worthless. I DO NOT RECOMEND THIS TYPE OF TRAINING AS YOUR AN ALTERNATIVE TO GENUINE PHYSICAL FENCE !

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HOW & WHAT : various legal restrictions

If you own a conventional house, your freedom to choose your fencing and erect it is limited only by local zoning , CCRs in your deed, any Homeowner Association rules, and by your available labor and money. If you rent a house or apartment, you are additionally restricted by the terms of your rental contract or lease, or any modifications thereof which you may be able to negotiate. And in an apartment, the physical site may also pose limitations. If you own or rent a condo, you are additionally restricted by any or all of the foregoing, but especially by the Owner's Association and by the physical site.

Zoning and CCRs are legal matters. The following is NOT intended to serve as definitive legal advice or to take the place of such advice from an attorney who specializes in real estate matters. (Ideally you would get proper legal advice on these issues before buying your place, but I'm assuming that you didn't and now have cause to think that there is a problem.) The general rule of law is that you can do whatever you please with your own property so long as you are not creating a "nuisance" (violation of the rights of , peace of , or health of your neighbors); thus Zoning and CCRs tend to be interpreted very narrowly, ie to minimize their restrictions on your rights. You can learn about any zoning restrictions by calling or visiting your city or county Zoning or Planning office. You can learn about CCRs (= covenants, conditions, and restrictions) by calling the title company that wrote the title insurance on your home. (If you aren't sure who the title company is, ask the real estate brokerage who sold you the house or the bank that holds your mortgage.) It's fairly rare to find Zoning ordinances that prohibit fencing, but not so rare to find limits on heights. If you find a Zoning limitation, eg limiting fence height, that is a problem for you, don't despair : you can apply for a "variance" and , if your neighbors are not opposed, you will be likely to get it. If you can't get a variance, build the maximum legal fence in a permanent fashion and then add whatever else you need in an impermanent fashion; keep on good terms with your neighbors and you will probably never be asked to remove the non-conforming portions. CCRs restricting fencing are less common but the restrictions may go further, even to the extent of completely prohibiting fencing. CCRs relate to all the land in a particular sub-division or planned community, and enforcement can be sought by any owner of any of the subject parcels. Notice well that enforcement is by your neighborhood rather than by some city or county entity. Moreover CCRs usually contain a clause that allows any or all of the restrictions to be terminated by a petition of some particular portion (eg majority or 2/3s) of the owners. So if you find that the particular restriction that affect you is being widely ignored and violated within the sub-division, you can feel pretty safe that you too can do the same --- and maybe that it's time for you to circulate the needed petition to get rid of the restriction permanently. Also most CCRs provide for some kind of a Committee that can grant exceptions; if so, you should apply for permission to erect the fence you want, as the chance of receiving it is good. If a restriction remains that bothers you, apply the same advice as for Zoning : build the unoffending part permanently and the offending part impermanently and hope for the best. Study the restrictions carefully : a restriction on "fences" should not restrict hedges and trellises, and if so you may be able to hide your woven wire supported by T - posts within or behind a hedge or trellis. A restriction on "fences" should not restrict self-supporting kennel runs, even fairly large kennel runs.

Homeowners' Associations and the like are formed among the owners of a condo, sub-division, etc and each owner's obligation to submit to association rules is usually created by a contract signed at the time of purchase. (The renter's obligation thus should be written into the lease.) These rules are subject to change by a vote of the members, thus are generally more flexible than other restrictions. You should be prepared to win over enough of your neighbors to your point of view. To the extent that you cannot get a needed permission, look to impermanent fencing methods.

Renters, for your own protection you must discuss your proposed fencing and dog door with your landlord. Otherwise you may find that either he views the change as damaging and will demand that you pay for it removal or he views the change as so desirable that he wants to keep it permanently without paying you for its value. You need to be aware of the legal concept of "fixtures". Generally any change or addition of a type usually intended to be permanent becomes a permanent part of the real estate, ie cannot be taken away. The chief exception is if there is a contract between the owner and the renter that this particular alteration will remain the property of the renter and may be removed by him. So whenever you plan to add or build something you will later want to remove, you must obtain both written permission to make the change and written agreement that the change is not intended to be a fixture and may be removed by you at the end of your tenancy, restoring the premises to their former condition. Alternatively, you may prefer to make an agreement whereby the landlord pays part of the cost of the change (eg he supplies materials and you supply labor), but the change will become a fixture and remain when you leave. In the case of fencing, it is reasonable to expect that most landlords would be happy to agree to have you erect good quality permanent fencing if the landlord's share of the expense is much less than the value to him of the improvement to the property and if the fencing will remain. For you , this can be an acceptable deal if you have a long term lease of several years or more and if your share of the expenses is not too high. It is also likely that most landlords would agree to your erection of any form of impermanent fencing that you will remove when you leave. Various types of woven wire supported by T- posts would fill this need admirably as they are modestly priced, easy to erect, remove, and transport. Self - supporting chain link panels linked together to form anything from a modest kennel run to a larger yard would also suit this purpose, though more expensively ; you may need some T - posts for extra support. As for dog - doors, if the landlord does not wish his door permanently altered, the most reasonable proposal is that the renter will remove and store the original door, substituting a door of his own with dog-door installed in it, then re-hang the original door at the end of the tenancy.

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When there is NO FENCE : litter boxes , paper training

In an apartment or condominium, the real difficulty is likely to be that there is no yard of any kind. Many such situations have little or no vacant land belonging to the building, and such land if any is subject to the use of all the tenants or owners. If there is an adequate amount of common ground, and if there are a fair number of dog-owners in the building, you might consider organizing together to ask the landlord or the Owner's Association if some small portion of the common land might be fenced in (paid for by the dog owners as a group) to serve as the dog "exercise", ie elimination, area. If all the dog owners were to agree to confine their pets' eliminations to this area and to scoop up immediately into an appropriate container or dog-septic repository, then all tenants would enjoy the benefits of the remainder of the common areas being kept squeeky clean. If you can't get a dog yard, then at least make friends with some or all of the other dog owners and make some mutual aid agreements to walk each others dogs in the event of illness or other problems. It's important to educate all dog owners to the absolute necessity of scooping up all dog waste on all the common areas, so the building will continue to welcome dogs.

For condo and apartment dwellers, a final alternative or supplement to a fenced yard would be a sod box or litter box placed out on one's patio or balcony. A shallow box of perhaps 3 feet X 3 feet for a medium sized bitch or twice that size for a medium sized male, filled with dirt and grass, plus a small bush or other upright urination post for a male dog, may serve as an acceptable urination and defecation spot. I have not ever used this method myself, but I understand that it is popular with apartment dwellers. If placed on a balcony , it will be essential to ensure that the balcony is surrounded by a perimeter barrier, ie fence, that absolutely prevents the dog jumping, climbing, or falling off the balcony : even a one story drop can be crippling or fatal. No matter how safe and jump-proof / fall-proof you think your balcony may be, please do not allow your dog to be out there unsupervised !!

The final final alternative is the infamous "paper training" which is actually training and permitting your dog to soil inside the house, on one particular area (of urine resistant linoleum or tile) covered with newspapers or similar material. Understand that "paper training" is completely opposed to house-breaking and is opposed to the dog's own natural preference for keeping his den clean. However for someone who is unable to walk the dog outside regularly, it may be the only available choice and if so is certainly better than a dogless life.

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I hope I have enabled & inspired you to improve the quality of your dog's life with you as your indoor companion dog & HOUSEDOG by providing ideas that will let you achieve safe and practical yard fencing with dog-door access between yard and house.

Once more I beg of you NEVER to EXILE your dog from the house. EXILE destroys the companionship relationship which is the principal reason for associating with a dog. Please try whenever possible to educate the owners of unhappy socially deprived exiled backyard dogs to bring the dog back into the family. Encourage them to attend a good training class, so they can control the dog and educate him to become a civilized housedog and family member.


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site author Pam Green copyright 2003
created 4/12/03 revised 10/28/2013
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