If your dog spends time outside unattended and unobserved, you need a dog fence or other restraint system.
Every year, thousands of dogs are struck by cars and trucks because they wander onto a busy roadway, or they chase vehicles racing by.
Other dogs suffer from illness as a result of eating tainted food from a neighbor's garbage.
Others might become ill after eating toxic plants in a nearby yard.
Living in a rural area is no less dangerous for your dog.
Did you know that some areas allow farmers to shoot marauding animals, including dogs, if their livestock are threatened?
Some rural homeowners shoot first and worry about the consequences (if any) later.
Are you willing to put your dog's health, and his life, at risk?
If you don't have a dog fence or a restraint system of some kind, sooner or later he will suffer needlessly from something that could have been prevented.
While it's important to keep him contained in your yard with a dog fence, you may end up with behavioral problems if you neglect or ignore him while he's out there.
Dogs are social animals. They don't do well without love and attention. Just like a child who constantly interrupts or misbehaves to get his parents' attention, your dog may bark constantly, start digging up the yard or chew on forbidden items.
Please use your dog fence or restraint system as a temporary outdoor shelter and exercise yard.
Don't make it his permanent home. Allow your dog to come inside when you're home. Let him feel like he's part of the family.
And don't leave him outside for extended periods during winter cold spells. Hypothermia is a very real, and very deadly, danger for dogs who are forced to live outside all winter.
Any type of fence that can keep your dog away from the road and your neighbors yards will keep him safe. You can be as utilitarian or as fancy as you want.
A wire fence is strong but doesn't add much to your yard's aesthetics. It will, however, allow passersby to view your gardens.
A picket fence for your front yard will give your neighbors a view of your gardens while keeping your medium to large size dog contained. A small dog, however, might be able to slip between the slats. Of course, you could opt for a privacy fence that will keep your dog in and your neighbors out.
Whichever type of fence you choose, ensure that the bottom extends to no more than two inches or so above the ground so that your dog cannot crawl underneath it to freedom. If he's a digger, you may have to extend it below ground.
If you don't want to go to the expense of closing off your entire yard, a dog fence around a large run will keep him secure for much less money. A wire fence or chain link is the type most people use for dog runs.
A run 10 feet by 15 - 20 feet (3 x 4.5 - 6 meters) should be sufficient for any but the largest dogs. Try to make it as square as possible to cut down on the amount of wire fencing you need.
A 20 x 20 foot (6 x 6 meter) run requires 80 feet (24 meters) of fencing and 16 posts. A 40 x 10 foot (12 x 3 meter) run requires 100 feet (30 meters) of fencing and 20 posts for the same area.
Place the run where it receives sun for much of the day but also has a shaded area where your dog can stay cool in the hot hours of the day. Always provide fresh water for him, no matter how short the time may be.
Invisible fencing is another type of dog fence you can use. Although it's not as secure as a physical fence, invisible fencing (also known as radio fencing and wireless fencing) can protect your dog.
This type of fencing uses low-power electric shocks to keep your dog from crossing an invisible boundary, usually at the perimeter of your yard.
He wears a special collar that receives a signal whenever he nears the buried wire at the edge of the property.
While generally effective, invisible fencing only works when there is power to the fence, the batteries in the collar are still working, and the collar is still on the dog. Some dogs have learned how to remove the collar when they want to go exploring.
I spoke to one person whose dog would drag his neck and head along the ground until the collar slipped off, then rush away to explore the neighborhood. No-one ever said dogs aren't smart!
Some dogs have a higher pain threshold and will take the shock just to be free. Some thick-coated dogs don't receive much of a shock.
A panicked dog filled with adrenaline may cross the boundary to escape a greater threat. Once the adrenaline wears off, he may be unwilling to cross back into the yard.
These wireless fences have one other drawback: they don't keep unwanted and possibly dangerous animals out of your yard and away from your dog.
There are potential physical risks in using an invisible fence. Some dogs have been electrocuted when lightning struck the ground near the fencing wire. Others were electrocuted when a power pole fell and the wires passed electricity to the fence.
As long as you're aware of the potential problems and risks of invisible fencing, and are prepared to deal with them, this type of dog fence could be what you need at a much lower cost than regular fencing.
Some companies also sell systems for inside the house. If your dog likes to jump up or nip at people who come to the door, you can place a device by the door that will give him a small shock if he comes near.
A variation of the invisible fence is the sonic fence. This system, more effective for keeping animals out of gardens or certain rooms of the house, emits a high-pitched noise whenever the dog nears the boundary.
This type of system could be very useful for protecting your dog from toxic plants in your garden.
A stake and chain are a good alternative to a dog fence if your dog is outside only for short periods.
The best type of stake is a corkscrew type that you screw into the ground.
Buy a stake sturdy enough for the size and type of dog you have.
Most pet stores have these stakes.
Do not use a straight stake as your dog may be able to pull it out of the ground.
He would then be free in the neighborhood with a length of chain and the stake trailing behind him, which could pose a serious hazard in traffic or in closed-in rocky or forested areas.
Use a chain long enough to give him some freedom to explore, but not so much that he can get into trouble, or get himself wound around a tree or pole.
As with stakes, ensure that the chain is sturdy enough to hold your dog without separating the links. Do not use a rope or other line that he can chew through.
If you have a dog fence or a restraint system already, purchase a cable and chain to add to your evacuation kit so that you can keep your dog secure if you ever need to evacuate your home during a disaster or emergency.
An alternative to the stake and chain is a cable and chain.
If you have a long clothesline or other cable several feet above the ground, you can clip a chain to it so that your dog has a long run for exercise and exploration.
Purchase a swivel clip so that the chain does not tangle or twist.
A little restraint will go a long way towards keeping your outdoor dog safe and secure for years to come.
Use a dog fence or other restraint system, and keep him nearby.