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Can’t Fence Me In?
Alternatives to Traditional Fences

By Dori Gilbert

What do you do to protect your dog and allow him to get fresh air, sunshine, and exercise if your community doesn’t allow fences? Chaining is never the answer. There are alternatives such as invisible fences, friendly fences, dog runs, and cable runs. There are pros and cons to all these alternatives and some are considered more humane than others. Before deciding on any option you should take time to consider the area you want to “enclose,” what you can afford, and most importantly your dog.

First, make sure you understand the ordinance that is restricting the use of fences. Some may allow certain fences, some may ban all fences, and some codes specifically ban electronic containment systems or you may have to apply for a special permit to use them.

Invisible fences, electronic fences, underground fences, and radio fences are all terms to describe pet containment systems that basically work under the same principles. They consist of underground wires (although there are some wireless versions available) that form a perimeter, a transmitter, and a receiver collar that your dog wears. Most give a warning tone or beep when your dog nears the boundary. When your dog gets too close to the boundary, a “correction” is delivered in the form of a mild shock, a light static energy pulse, an unpleasant noise, or a citronella spray. The costs of these containment systems can run from $200 - over $1000 usually can create a perimeter from 500-1000 feet. More information on these types of systems is available through pet supply stores.

The pros of these systems are:
ß They are invisible (once the flags or stakes are removed that initially establish the boundary for your dog).
ß Dogs can’t jump over or dig under them.
ß There is no gate to be left open.
ß According to a report in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, “The dog owners who tested these collars for our study felt the citronella spray was more effective and more humane than electric shock”.

The cons of these systems are:
ß They don’t prevent other animals or humans from entering the area.
ß Batteries can run down and the collar ceases to be effective.
ß Your dog needs to be well trained enough to respect the boundaries since a willful dog can choose to ignore the shock (or sound or spray) and once through the barrier there is nothing to get him to come back.
ß The electric shock can be considered inhumane or conversely dogs with thick fur don’t even feel it.
ß The citronella scent can remain for awhile and continue to bother your dog. If your dog gets used to the smell it may cease to be effective.

Another alternative for extended periods outside is the Friendly Fence. This is a fence that was originally designed to keep deer out and is constructed from high-strength and UV light resistant polypropylene plastic. The makers of this fence say it is “all but invisible to the human eye from as close as 15-20 feet away”. The fence comes in rolls of material that is secured to posts or trees by using zip ties. Ground stakes ensure that your dog can not push under the fence. Owners of aggressive dogs can use a nylon tension cable to reinforce the fence and there is a version that is 65% stronger than the standard fencing. The fence comes in heights from 5 – 7 feet. There is also a chew guard that can be attached to the bottom of the fence. The approximate cost of a Friendly Fence is between $159 - $345 depending on the size of your dog and the area you want to enclose. For more information on Friendly Fences you can go to their web site at www.friendlyfence.com. You also could use chicken wire between posts for a similar alternative.

The pros of this type of fence are:
ß They are a humane alternative to electric fences.
ß They are a cheaper alternative to electric fences.
ß They provide a more secure area than electric fences do.

The cons of this type of fence are:
ß The installation is more complicated than electronic fences.
ß They are not completely invisible and if trees aren’t used there will be visible posts.

If none of the above options will work for you, then, for shorter periods of exercise outside, you could consider installing a chain link dog run (if your community will allow this), or a cable runner. You need to ensure that these provide an adequate running area for your dog (you can get guidelines from the Humane Society of the United States – www.hsus.org). A cable runner, or trolley, is a cable attached to an aerial line that allows your dog to run back and forth. They should never be used with a choke collar or set up near obstacles in which your dog could become entangled. A cable runner should also only be used with supervision as it does leave your dog vulnerable to other animals and humans. Also for supervised exercise periods there are dog exercise pens that can be set up and taken down easily. Again, all these options are for short periods of time only.

There is another option for your dog to safely go outside. Put him on a leash and take him for a walk (or run). This will provide fresh air, sunshine, and exercise for both of you. And best of all, your dog gets to spend time with the most important person in his life – you.

With any of these options the first priority is your dog’s safety and well-being. Supervision is essential, at least until your dog becomes comfortable in his new environment. A spayed or neutered dog is less likely to try and get out of his yard. And regardless of which option you end up choosing, a dog that is trained in at least basic commands will be the happiest and most successful.


—To contact Dori, please email: DoriFG@aol.com


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