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Fence Jumping Solutions and Fencing Yards

Key Principles
Using Positive Reinforcement and Modifying Behavior
Using Corrections
Other Important Steps
Fortifying and Fixing Fences
Choosing and Erecting a Secure Fence
Final Thoughts

First, some Key Principles:

* If you have recently acquired your dog or pup, take great care to not let him jump the fence. Fence-jumping is a self-rewarding behavior because the newly escaped dog feels a sense of freedom and hope of finding someone to pay attention to him and/or critters to chase. Unless and until he gets hurt or lost, the experience of romping freely will likely seem very fun and natural to the dog. So your job will be much easier if you don't give him a chance to escape.

* Consider the motivation for jumping fences. Usually the dog jumps for one or more of these reasons: he sees an animal or something else that he feels compelled to chase (especially common for dogs with prey drives). The dog sees a friendly person or dog he'd like to meet, understandable since companion animals naturally seek companions. The dog is bored and looking for something to do, or looking for his people.

Also, a dog could find it frightening to be left alone in a yard. For example, kids might taunt or throw things at the dog. Or a dog might learn to associate the yard with anxiety, fear or loneliness.

Other motivations: an unneutered dog is driven to seek out mates; a frightened dog might feel desperate to escape something in or near his yard.

* Realize that a dog with bad manners is not a bad dog. Manners can be improved with proper guidance from the owner. Jumping does not mean there is 'something wrong with the dog'; unacceptable behavior is not the same as abnormal.

* Watch your dog when he or she is in the yard. Do not use dog doors that give pets access to the yard (if you have to work long hours, it is clearly safer to have a neighbor, local dogwalker or petsitter come over to take your dog out to do his business). Better yet, be out in the yard with the dog. Dogs are less inclined to jump fences if there's something to do or someone they like in the yard. And naturally, when you are present, you can distract the dog away from the fence or verbally or physically deter him at the first sign of him having 'dirty thoughts' about jumping the fence.

* If your dog does escape the yard, avoid the common but ignorant and ineffective practice of punishing him when he returns or when you catch him. Dogs don't have long-term memories and have no idea what the problem is when their people scold or punish them afterwards. In the case of escaping the yard, the dog rarely even realizes that his person does not want him to jump out and run around ... that activity just seems like a 'good, fun thing' to the dog. In addition to being ineffective, physical and/or verbal punishment will only serve to confuse the dog, make him fear your approach and deter him from coming to you when you call.

* Deterring fence jumping is yet another reason to take the time to teach any dog basic commands, such as sit, stay and come. Indeed, 'come' is harder to teach, but is an essential command. As for 'stay,' if your dog understands its meaning, calling out 'stay' can be what distracts your dog before he springs over the fence or slips through a fence gap. You can find great, easy steps for teaching commands in web articles as well as in the many good modern dog management books available today. An obedience course will help as well.

* Make sure the dog is getting enough physical exercise as well as attention from his people. Many times, it is lack of attention that leads to a dog trying to escape a yard.

* Recognize that a dog left outside too much does not get the opportunity to learn good house manners ... and does not get properly socialized, leading to various behavior problems.

* Fortify the fence so the dog cannot scale it.

* Many dog folks neglect to praise their dogs for good behavior, and instead, focus attention on the dog mainly when or soon after he engages in unacceptable behavior. Give your dog reason to believe that the good times are inside your yard and home, and not on the other side of the fence.

Using Positive Reinforcement and Modifying Behavior to Discourage Escapes:

* Watch the dog when he is playing in the yard. If and when you cannot be there, have a responsible friend, neighbor, dogwalker or petsitter watch your dog. Be consistent in applying the following techniques.

* Take the time - preferably when you first get your new pup or dog, or when you first erect the fence - to teach your canine to respect the boundaries of the yard. Whenever you see him sniffing the fenceline, starting to dig, or contemplating jumping the fence, jump into action yourself and discourage these behaviors. Read on for how to do that.

* Channel the dog's energy into activities that take place away from the fence. Throw a ball or frisbee, and frequently praise the dog for getting the ball and returning to you. If he approaches the fence, regain his attention immediately, and when he looks at or comes to you, praise him right away and resume playtime. Remember that for most dogs, playing is a highly motivational treat. It can help to pair the verbal and play reinforcement with little food treats.

Directing the dog into good, desirable behavior is typically more effective than just trying to stop (or discipline for) unacceptable behavior, since dogs, like children, have energy they need to channel somewhere. Teach him good behaviors to substitute for, preempt and prevent 'bad' behaviors. This can be applied even when the dog is approaching the fence; instead of scolding the dog, call out a commanding 'SIT STAY', and praise the dog for responding. Once you teach your dog to 'come,' use that command and reward him for listening.

What if the ball approaches the fence and the dog, while retrieving the ball, looks up at the fence? Avoid scolding the dog, since he probably won't know whether his error was getting the ball or looking at the fence. Instead, call his name, tell him to 'SIT STAY', then come. As soon as he responds, praise. Have a desirable food treat ready in case he looks back at the fence; the edible treat will help you regain his attention. ('Fence ... or food, hmmm.' Most likely he will make the right decision.) While some dogs will respond to a loud, stern NO NO NO!', scolding can give other dogs additional reason to go ahead with their escape attempt ... especially if a previous owner physically or verbally punished them.

* Use voice and body to discourage the dog from going near the fence and thinking 'dirty thoughts' about jumping the fence. Shout the dog's name and 'SIT STAY' or "AH-AH-AHHH!" whenever the dog gets near the fence, and draw the dog back to you. For greater effectiveness and positive enforcement, reward the dog for any responsive behavior, such as stopping and looking at the person when his name is called. Carry a pocketful of biscuit bits, carrot chips, raw macaroni, or other tasty, small, bite-size goodies. Your goal is to interrupt the dog's dirty thoughts about escape, and to get the dog to realize, 'it's more fun to stay near my person.'

* If you are having trouble getting your dog's attention, blow a whistle and follow that by using your most commanding voice to state 'SIT STAY' or 'AH-AH-AHHH!' Immediately and always praise the dog when he listens, reinforcing the verbal praise with a treat whenever possible.

* Make the yard a place where the dog gets praise, rewards and amusement, so that the dog will associate good things with his yard, home and family. And keep it clean and orderly; mow the grass, fill in mud patches, check daily for debris (trash or a potential hazard could be deposited in your yard by the wind, a scavenging animal, or human passerby). Pick up all dog feces, preferably right after the dog defecates ... that way, nobody will step in it, and the dog won't be tempted to try eating it. Especially during warm weather or exercise sessions, keep a full bowl of fresh water available.

* Make all household members aware that you need to work as a team to discourage canine fence jumping and yard escapes. Share this tipsheet with them. Explain the effort in simple terms for younger children, and realize that some children can't or won't cooperate. For example, unbeknownst to their parents, some children accidentally or purposely encourage the family dog to jump near the fence or push on loose pickets. Make sure that visitors do not undermine your training efforts. And if you have a dogwalker or petsitter, inform that person as well.

Using Corrections:

* Some people choose to use a correction when the dog exhibits the jumping behavior instead of, or in addition to, modifying behavior to eliminate jumping attempts and modifying the physical environment to prevent successful escapes. Spraying with a garden hose is one example of a correction-based approach.

If you choose correction, remember these principles for the correction to be effective:

1. The correction must be applied immediately, such as when the dog is beginning to jump ... since afterwards is too late.

2. The correction must be adjusted to the individual dog. A tiny tug on a long line would work for a small or sensitive dog, but may not register with a strong or super-determined dog.

3. Like positive reinforcements, corrections must be applied with consistency. Use the same technique, practice repetitions, and apply the correction each time the dog appears over-interested in the fence, paws near the fence, or positions himself for a possible jumping attempt.

4. Ideally, you do not want the dog to associate the discomfort of the correction with you. Rather, you want him to associate it with the environment ('when I try to jump the fence, I feel something really unpleasant. That's not fun!').

Example: to give corrections using a spray from a garden hose, you need to be prepared for action. Be ready with the garden hose and hidden from the dog's view, perhaps behind a shed. Preferably, have an accomplice to assist you with hose duty during this exercise; your assistant could hold the hose and spy from the other side of the fence. You want to apply the correction when the dog starts launching into a jump, not after he has cleared the fence (buh-bye!). And the correction must be consistent: if the dog gets his first spray with a hose when he gets poised to jump, expect that he will make several more attempts, and each attempt needs to be met with the same correction, or the dog will not make the connection that 'trying to jump' results in 'unpleasant water blast.'

Same goes for the use of collar/leash corrections. To teach the dog that it's no longer fun or effective to jump over (or even approach) the fence, you need to have the dog on a leash each time you go out. You need to be ready to give the leash-collar correction when the dog gets ready to jump, not after he crosses the fence (you do not want to strangle the dog!). The intensity of the collar correction must match the dog's sensitivity level, temperament and his drive to exit the yard. As with other training and retraining techniques, it will take several consistent repetitions of a firm, swift collar tug to convey the 'no jump' message.

Other types of corrections include: blasting an air horn, blowing a whistle or shouting to startle and break the concentration of the dog when he gets ready to jump at the fence. Again, it's best to have the person issue the noise out of the dog's view, since you want the dog to associate the aversive with the environment ('awful sounds happen when I get ready to jump') instead of with you or your dog training accomplice ('ow, that person is making nasty noises so I'd better get away from him').

Other Important Steps to Take:

* Neuter your dog so he will not be at the mercy of hormones that drive him to escape and look for a mate.

* Stop letting your dog urinate on territory close to your yard. Urine marks give other passing dogs a motivation to leave their own competing mark. This in turn can incite your dog to exit the yard so that he can reclaim 'his territory' by marking over the other dogs' urine. Be aware that some female dogs can be territorial too.

* Do not let a dog loose in a yard with a fence that is too low. Better to walk the dog on leash. Remember, every time the dog is given a chance to escape, the exciting experience reinforces this undesirable behavior!

Fortifying and Fixing Fences:

* If the dog can escape through gaps in the fence, find those gaps and block them. Dogs can make themselves very skinny in order to escape. You can fortify a chain link or other gappy fence using chicken wire. Place the chicken wire at a ninety degree angle to the fence sections that need fortification. Attach one end of the chicken wire to the fence, then fold it over and attach it back to the fence. The chicken wire is stiff enough to hold itself up.

* If the dog is digging his way out under the fence, here are some solutions. Sink bricks, pavers or large stones along the fence line or use chicken wire or other material with stakes to secure the fenceline. Or fill a trench a few inches deep beneath the fenceline with concrete.

To close a gap beneath a fence, you can lay chicken wire all along the baseline, bend it in an L shape, and firmly attach the top of the wire to the fence bottom. You can also bury chicken wire at the base of the fence, making sure you roll the sharp edges away from the yard for safety.

Another technique: make it uncomfortable for dogs to walk near the fence by laying chain link fencing on the ground, anchoring it to the bottom of the fence.

* Latches and gates. Make sure they are secure; check them from time to time. Keep latches closed and locked, and tell your household members and visitors to do the same. Remember that some dogs can even learn to open latches. Plus you don't want anyone to be able to open your gate from the outside. Make sure to there are no gaps around the gate; many dogs squeeze through even narrow gaps.

* If the dog can jump the fence, raise the height of the fence. Keep in mind that it's easy for many dogs to jump a 'standard' four-foot fence.

* Install a fence-height extension. Some hardware stores stock kits and/or materials for extending fence height. Alternatively, you can climb-proof your fence using welded wire 'leaners,' a very affordable, practical and effective solution that's not hard to construct. Welded wire or fabric fencing makes a better leaner for dog containment purposes than does barbed wire. For clear, step by step directions, go to Clova Abrahamson's webpage at: http://www.dogsdeservebetter.com/clova.html

Here are two more fence-top anti-climbing devices suggested by Penny Scott-Fox, who heads up Best Training at Pasadena (Cal.) Humane Society. Use PVC plastic piping or large rubber tubes, at least 5 to 6 inches in diameter, cut lengthwise down the center. Place them along the top of all of your fence. This makes a curved, slippery surface that a dog cannot get a grip on to get over the top of the fence.

Another option: buy rolls of garden fence (AKA rabbit fencing), the metal mesh kind that you can bend. Get the 3 foot variety, enough to span the top of your entire fence. For wood fences, unroll the fencing and with a helper, attach it to the wood using a staple gun. You can use wire to attach it to an iron fence. Then bend it in half to make a 90 degree angle. Your dog will not be able to climb the wobbly wire hanging over his head. Some pet supply stores also sell "cat fencing' that would also work.

* Don't want to shoulder the costs of replacing your too-short perimeter fence? Here's a smart solution: create a play and privacy area just outside your back or side door, enclosing it with a tall fence, masonry or other sturdy wall. Aim for an area at least 10 feet wide and as long as practical to allow room to exercise.

* Erect a shorter, interior fence two or three feet from the outside fence - preventing the wannabe jumper from getting a running start.

* Plant shrubs a couple feet from the inside of the fence, again breaking that running start.

* Is your dog agitated by people, animals and things he sees through your chain link or wire fence? Here's a way to block the visual path and create more privacy: weave plastic or fabric strips through the fence gaps fencing to block views inside and out. Check home and garden and hardware stores, as well as the internet, for material designed for this purpose.

* Invisible and electric fences are too risky on their own, and many dog people do not want to use shocking devices to control their dogs. These fencing alternatives can be useful, however, if paired with a physical fence. By planting the electric fence a couple of feet within the physical fenceline, the device can be use to warn a determined jumper away from the fenceline. On a related note, some folks have run a farm-wire type shock device along the top of their fences to help deter jumpers, but again, this probably wouldn't deter a dog with a substantial prey or play drive.

* In addition, keep in mind that shock devices and other such deterrents do not address the underlying cause of the behavior. Such deterrents are not a replacement for training. The best approach is to use positive reinforcement and help the dog learn that staying in the yard and near his people is a good thing.

* When in an escapable yard, keep the dog on a long line. This will allow you to exercise him quite well. But don't be tempted to leave the dog tied out, since he could chew through the long leash, get his leg caught, get hurt, get strangled ... besides, he probably won't get the intended exercise if left outside alone. A trolley-cable run (located far enough from the fence to prevent possibility of injury) can be a good solution, but not if it's used as an inanimate petsitter. Dogs need interaction with humans. Plus without supervision, the dog could get caught up or even strangled.

Choosing and Erecting a Secure Fence:

Giving your dog a securely, fully fenced play and exercise area is important for safety, practicality and liability reasons. After all, dogs allowed to roam are subjected to risks such as being hit by cars, attacked by other animals, abused or stolen by troubled humans, poisoned from drinking from toxic puddles or choking on discarded bones and garbage, and getting lost. Loose dogs also can get frightened, bite or knock over people, attack other animals and cause damage.

There are many types of fencing; choose the option that works best for your dog and your home. Remember, you also can choose to fence either the whole perimeter or your yard, or create a smaller area outside your back or side door that's at least 10 feet wide and as long as practical to allow room to exercise.

* Fencing materials include vinyl, wood, chain link, iron, wire and more. Factors to consider include along with your budget, yard size, community conventions or requirements, whether the fence needs to serve some other purpose such as a backdrop for a garden or barrier to roaming wildlife - plus your dog's needs and jumping ability. Many dog owners choose a 6 foot privacy fence for safety.

* Chain link. It costs less than wooden fences. Chain link offers long durability, but downsides such as allowing the dog to view temptations and aggravators on the other side of the fence ... and footholds enjoyed by dogs with climbing ability.

* Wooden fences. They offer ease of installment, provide a sight barrier and typically last 15 years, depending on quality and climate factors. But they must be checked from time to time for loose pickets. And standard wood fences are not adequate for strong and determined dogs who can dislodge pickets. Cedar is more costly than conventional wooden stockade fencing, but it's usually more attractive and durable. A tip: if possible, when using standard wood privacy fences, install the sections with the 'inside' facing outward - which will thwart canine attempts to push out pickets. Alternately, board-on-board and other reinforced wood fences offer greater security and durability.

* Vinyl fences. These popular, modern fences cost more than their wood counterparts, but are usually worth it because they tend to look better longer, last longer and provide greater security than standard wood privacy fences. Choose the solid panels to provide a sight barrier.

* Split rail. Alone, such a fence works only in Lassie reruns. But when lined with sturdy chicken wire or fencing fabric, and of adequate height, it offers an affordable, scenic while secure fence alternative. Add the wire or mesh fabric inside of the fence or else the dog could press his way up through the enclosure.

* Concrete or masonry walls. They offer immense security as long as they are tall enough and are free of gaps.

* Snow fencing. This low-gauge wire, when attached to posts, offers a cost-saving alternative. If you use it, make sure to stretch the fabric so to optimize its strength. Disadvantages: the dog can view temptations and aggravators outside the fence; passersby can see into your yard and stick fingers through the fence; the wire is prone to rusting, coming loose and tearing. Even cheaper is farm or sheep fence, which is a loose weave, narrow gauge wire attached to posts. However, it has the same disadvantages as snow fencing, and since most dogs can work their heads through and many will eventually shove through this kind of fence, it's a poor choice.

* Purr...fect Fence: This new alternative fencing for dog and cat enclosures is constructed of high-strength and UV light resistant polypropylene plastic (black - the least visible color outdoors). The manufacturer indicates it is cost effective, easy to set up, and designed to last for many years. The material is shipped in rolls of varying heights and lengths, and support posts, access gates and ground stakes are also available. Find details at http://www.purrfectfence.com

* Important: Pay attention to the bottom of any fence, since many dogs will try to dig out of a yard. When erecting a fence, try to sink the bottom into the ground ... however, this can lead to early rotting of the base of a wood fence. If gaps are left under the fence, here are some tips. Chain link fencing often needs to be secured with stakes at the bottom. You can also bury chicken wire at the base of the fence, making sure you roll the sharp edges away from the yard for safety. Another technique: make it uncomfortable for dogs to walk near the fence by laying chain link fencing on the ground, anchoring it to the bottom of the fence. Vinyl and wood fences might require installation of some type of wire or other material to close up gaps at the fence bottom. You can also sink bricks or large stones in a tight line along the fenceline to keep diggers from tunneling under the fence. Or fill a trench a few inches deep beneath the fenceline with concrete.

* Latches and gates. Make sure they are secure and lockable, since some dogs can learn to open latches. Plus you don't want anyone to be able to open your gate from the outside. Make sure to leave no gaps; dogs can make themselves very skinny in order to squeeze through an opening.

* Portable fencing. You can create a non-permanent fence by attaching chain link panels to one another. While a flexible solution, it does not withstand wind or rambunctious, strong dogs.

* Steer clear of fence styles with substantial and/or expandable gaps, such as iron grate and open picket varieties. The gaps might seem too narrow for a dog to squeeze through, but a determined dog, anxious to chase something or someone seen through the fence, can compress his body or push hard enough to shift a picket for allow escape. Even if the dog can't squeeze through, the gaps in decorative fences allow canine jaws to protrude, human hands to intrude ... and should the twain meet, you may end up with injuries and a lawsuit that costs you much, much more than the most expensive, secure privacy fence.

* Privacy hedges: while visually pleasing, even a large dog can push through and escape.

* Bamboo can be used as a safe, nontoxic way to disguise other less attractive fencing.

* Invisible and electric fences: these 'hidden fences' may sound convenient, but are fraught with danger. A dog with a moderate or high prey or play drive will eventually cross the invisible fenceline and realize the excitement of escaping is worth the brief pain of the collar shock. Afterwards, the dog probably won't want to cross back into his yard. Another big drawback: there's no containment and no deterrent during power interruptions and outages, or when the collar batteries wear out. Plus, the invisible or electric fence provides no barrier to intruders, so a child can wander into your yard, and bigger folks or wild animals can get in, and your dog, the intruders, or both will get hurt. And as a number of such fence users painfully discovered, they were legally liable when children and adults wandered into the yard and got bitten.

* As an alternative to a fence, you could construct a safe, sturdy trolley cable-run. But avoid leaving any dog on such a run without adult supervision.

* Dog runs, when large and long enough for the individual dog, are an option. Most are usually strong enough for even big dogs. But a fenced area is better for reasons that include giving you the ability to play with your dog in your yard. Some folks use low-cost dog enclosures such as outdoor kennels, but they generally do not allow adequate space for dogs to exercise. Better to walk the dog on leash if your finances or neighborhood regulations prohibit a physical fence. People who do use these enclosures should not use them as metal petsitters; human attention and interaction is essential for socializing canines of all ages and for teaching them good behavior.

* Of course, you know it's wrong to keep a dog chained in a yard. Dogs are companion animals, and develop behavioral problems and increased aggression when living life on a chain or tether. In addition, chained dogs are prone to illness and injury.

* Note: Are you subject to homeowner and community associations fence restrictions? Many associations will grant permission for some less prominent physical fences that do not block views, such as split rail lined with chicken wire. Make a written request in line with your association procedures, and you'll probably be granted permission.

Final Thoughts:

'Securing our pets and children comes down to being consistent and extremely conscientious,' says a volunteer who learned this lesson the hard way, through personal experience. By following these tips, you can protect your companion animals and save yourself time, stress and heartache.

* Remember the risks to the dog and the public of leaving a dog unattended in yards. A fence does not substitute owner attention, training and responsibility. The problems of leaving dogs unsupervised in yards range from barking complaints to injuries, tussles with wild animals to teenagers' taunts to pet theft ... and escapes that can lead to the dog getting lost or biting someone, leaving you liable.

* Just in case Rover does escape, always keep an i.d. tag with current information on his collar, and check for collar fit and presence of the tag regularly.

* Make sure your dog is not wearing a chain or loose collar, which can get caught on a fence or something else in a yard, leading to distress, injury and strangulation.

* And if you know someone who keeps a dog outside because the dog is not housetrained, remind the person that dogs aren't born housetrained. It is up to the owners to socialize the dog and teach him good house manners. There are wonderful new books on these topics, as well as free articles on the internet, including several listed on the Dog Tips index at: http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/dog_tips.html

Related Links

The Importance of Fences

How to Prevent Escapes...and What To Do If Your Dog Gets Away

Teaching Dogs Not to Run Out the Door

Finding a Lost Dog

Why Dogs Should Be Indoor Pets

Helpful Books on Dog Behavior, Training and Health

How to Add a Welded Wire Leaner to Your Fence

For more free tipsheets about canine issues, see the Dog Tips index at

For more Dog Tips and other information about pet care, adoption and the work PAW does,
visit our website at: www.paw-rescue.org

Partnership for Animal Welfare, Inc.
P.O. Box 1074
Greenbelt, MD 20768

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Last Updated: May 02, 2018 (LET) PawSupport