Prevent Lost Pets

Dog-Proofing Your Backyard

Dog Backyard Fence

"When it comes to dog-proofing your outdoor space, no pet lover can afford to have tunnel vision. It's imperative to know your dog's characteristics and plan your space accordingly."

When Phil Green of Irvine, California, moved to his new home, he was sure the five-foot boundary wall surrounding the property would efficiently contain his Jack Russell Terrier, Jack. But with Jack's inherent digging traits, the dog was one step ahead of the game and simply implemented his escape plan by excavating underneath the wall.

Know your boundaries

When it comes to dog-proofing your outdoor space, no pet lover can afford to have tunnel vision. It's imperative to know your dog's characteristics and plan your space accordingly.

Start by checking with local authorities to find out whether they impose height restrictions on boundary walls. A five-foot fence should efficiently contain small and medium breeds, but may simply provide an agility jump challenge for a Border Collie.

"Even a six-foot fence is not high enough for some dogs," says dog trainer Diane Rich of Kirkland, Washington. "Some dogs, even smaller breeds, can climb over tall fences—especially chain link. An eight-foot wooden fence is a safer bet. It's important to ensure that you don't have any rocks or other objects, like an outdoor dog kennel, close to the boundary that your dog can use as a ladder."

Canine archaeologists

For breeds that love to dig, rolled chicken wire buried below ground will foil your canine archaeologist. Depending on your dog's determination, however, it may be necessary to dig a trench along your boundary and pour in concrete or bury several rows of bricks at least eighteen inches deep.

"Training your dog to understand that the boundary is a no-go zone should be your first line of defense," advises Rich. "However, when it comes to Terriers, all the training in the world is not going to stop them when you're not around."

"Electronic devices that work in conjunction with a collar to give your pet an electric shock should she venture too close to a no-dog zone are a last resort," says Rich. "If your dog is chasing a bird or squirrel, her strong prey drive will activate adrenaline, which may desensitize her to the shock."

However, if your dog's focus is on a specific area along your boundary, a sensor-activated device that works over a three-foot distance and emits a loud horn-type noise may be an efficient deterrent.

Supervised outdoor play

Don't allow your dog access to unsupervised outdoor areas, because a delivery person could easily leave the gate open. Make sure your garden gate is self-closing and working efficiently. Check for holes in the fence. Outdoors, small pets are easy prey for eagles or coyotes, depending where you live. Tethering your pet outside is dangerous for the same reason. Also, the line could get caught and wrap around her neck.

Because dogs love to explore and investigate, provide a distraction away from the boundaries of your property by creating little adventures and secret sniffing zones in the backyard. A section of log that will decompose over time surrounded by non-toxic ornamental grasses creates a wonderful sniff area. For your dog's general well-being always ensure that there's always fresh water available outside, as well as a nice shady spot.

When planting your backyard, stay away from anything thorny, and ensure that other plants and shrubs are non-poisonous. You can also check with your local nursery or check out plant lists provided by the ASPCA.

Sandy Robins is an award-winning pet lifestyle writer. Her work appears regularly in various national and international publications. She is a member of the Dog Writers Association of America and the Cat Writers Association of America.