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The Best and Worst Fences For Dogs

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Fencing – keeping a dog confined

What's the fencing situation in your yard?

When it comes to keeping the majority of dogs safe, certain kinds of fences are better than others. If you have the best fencing, there are more breeds available for you to choose from. If you have different fencing, you should exclude some breeds from your consideration.

As responsible owners, we should only choose a dog who is likely to remain safe inside the particular kind of fencing we can provide.

Traditional privacy fence

Stafford inside solid wood privacy fence

This Staffordshire Bull Terrier belongs to a family of dogs that can be aggressive toward other dogs. They're best contained with a solid privacy fence.

The safest fence is a solid privacy fence, usually wood or vinyl.

  • Solid fencing blocks your dog's view of the world, which makes him less likely to bark at (or charge towards) passing people and dogs.
  • Solid fencing hides your dog from view so he is less likely to be stolen or teased.
  • Solid fencing is much harder to climb than chain link or wire.

See-through fencing (chain link, wire mesh, pickets, wrought iron)

white picket fence

Pickets are one type of see-through fence.

  • See-through fencing encourages dogs to bark at (or charge toward) people and dogs passing by. If see-through fencing runs along a sidewalk traversed by other people/dogs, I don't recommend breeds that tend toward excitable barking (Norwegian Elkhounds, Shelties, Corgis...), or suspiciousness toward strangers (Rottweilers, Cane Corsos...), or aggression toward other dogs (Pit Bulls, Akitas...).
  • See-through fencing leaves your dog more vulnerable to being teased or stolen.
  • See-through fencing leaves you more open to legal liabilities if someone sticks their hand through it and gets bitten. So again, I wouldn't recommend putting a potentially aggressive breed behind this fencing unless there are no passersby in your setting.
    Cane Corso looking thru wire fencing

    I don't recommend keeping a barky breed, or a potentially suspicious or aggressive breed (like this Cane Corso), behind a see-through wire fence unless your setting is so private that no one walks by.

  • See-through fencing can be dangerous if you choose a breed who can squeeze through the openings. Remember that puppies and adolescents are usually much slimmer than adults and can squirm through amazingly narrow gaps. You should run a strip of small-mesh chicken wire across the gaps, if necessary.
  • See-through fencing is climbable, so I don't recommend nimble escape artists like Siberian Huskies, Shibas, Basenjis, Border Collies, Miniature Pinschers, Jack Russells (and other agile terriers), and Beagles, among others.
    Terrier mix climbing chain link fence

    Terrier mixes can be both nimble and adventurous. I don't recommend them for climbable fencing.

To be fair, see-through fencing can be fine IF you get a dog who can't climb it or squeeze between the gaps; and IF your yard is located in a private setting with no passersby (or IF you add dense plantings that block the view).

The HEIGHT of your fence matters

Don't measure the height of your fencing at its tallest point, but at the lowest point accessible to the dog. Many dogs are very clever about making their escape attempt from the lowest/weakest point. Make sure there are no objects close to the fence (a tree stump or heavy-duty storage container) that your dog might scramble onto and use as a springboard.

If your fence is less than 6 feet

Siberian Husky scaling chain link fence

Siberian Huskies need high solid fences, as these canine escapists can both jump and climb.

I don't recommend breeds that are athletic jumpers. For example, Siberian Huskies (and similar spitz breeds), Whippets (and other sighthounds), Fox Terriers (and other agile, long-legged terriers), Poodles (and their crossbred "doodle" or "poo" cousins).

I once watched a small Italian Greyhound square off against a 7 foot solid fence. He didn't even make a running start. He simply crouched, then soared effortlessly skyward, hooked his front feet over the top of the fence, and did a remarkable chin-up that poured him over the top and down the other side. Took 4 seconds. Maybe less.

If your fence is less than 4 feet

I recommend sticking with tiny, small, and midsized breeds – but only those breeds that are NOT jumpers or climbers.

If you're determined to keep a serious escape artist... think prison yard containment.  Start with a high solid fence and install an overhang  all around the top. This consists of 12- to 18-inch steel extension bars attached to the top of the fence, angled inward  at 45-degrees, and strung with chicken wire.

Will this keep every dog confined? No... some determined dogs must be secured in an enclosure completely roofed over with wire mesh. And don't forget dogs can dig under fencing, as well!

If your dog is a digger

Walk around the inside perimeter and study the bottom of the fence where it meets the ground. Some dogs can crawl under a surprisingly small gap!

To deter serious diggers, line the inside perimeter with landscape timbers or patio blocks. Or dig a trench along the inside perimeter, then fill it with concrete or attach a strip of chicken wire or garden fencing to the bottom of the fence, burying the lowest few inches in the trench.

Alternative fencing

What if you don't have a traditional fenced yard? Suppose you only have...

  • an invisible/electronic fence.
  • a freestanding kennel run or pen (usually chain link or wire).
  • a tether connected to a stake or cable/pulley system.
  • or maybe... you don't have any kind of fenced yard.

In all these cases, see my article: Do dogs need a fenced yard?

Finally, don't put your dog in a position to escape or to bark at or charge toward passersby. Simply don't leave him outdoors unless you're home AND you're outside with him, or inside but watching him closely, prepared to go out immediately if he starts doing something inappropriate. In other words, don't allow a bad behavior to become a bad habit.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

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