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6-1/2 years ago we lost our dog, Blue, to a car accident. He was hit by a speeding car on a road outside of our property and diet in our neighbor's car shortly afterwards. We knew that he could get out of the yard, but we weren't in a hurry to do anything because he never left the property. And then, one day, he did and he never came home. We fixed the fence immediately but it was too late for Blue and it took more than a year before I could think about Blue without crying and blaming myself.
Over the years, our rackety fence around the dog yard did the job of keeping the dogs safely inside. It's not pretty, but it worked and we planned to redo the yard eventually, but there wasn't a hurry. And then we went from a four dog family to a five dog family. Apollo is a Husky/Golden Retriever mix and he's an escape artist. He loves to be with me and he has amazed me with his ability to track me down on the property. We have a doggy door from the house through the garage and another out to the dog yard. He then jumps over the fence (he's made several ways out that we keep patching). And, before you know it, I have a 70 plus pound dog barrelling in my direction with a happy face.
Well, today, he came after me as I was leaving the property, something he's never done, and found himself 1/4 mile away from the house. Thankfully, people quickly saw him and started looking for his home and we were able to get him back. But in the short time that we were searching everywhere for him, screaming “APOLLO” at the top of my lungs, I was scared. I was scared that he'd get hurt. I was scared that someone would take him. I was scared that I'd never see him again.
But he's home safe now. He did escape the yard two more times (but didn't get far).
Why Dogs Escape their Yard
The human in me doesn't understand why my dogs would want to escape. They have a great life here, they have loads of toys, comfortable beds, plus our beds, FIVE ACRES to play on, and I feed them a raw food diet. I mean, COME ON, it's heaven here! Don't they get that?!?!?! But that's the human in me and my dogs are dogs, so I have to get over myself and think like a dog.
Dogs will take a walkabout for a variety of reasons and it doesn't have to be because they're trying to escape their lives with us. Thankfully, we've only had three class 5 bolters – Rodrigo, Blue, and Apollo. My dogs can be lured off our property because a wild animal (coyotes, deer, skunk) catches their attention and sparks their curiosity. They might want to meet a strange dog. Or, a friendly jogger will call to them (I hate when this happens) and off they go. When we're out on the property (outside of their yard), they can catch a scent and take off if I don't keep an eye on them. Basically, our dogs get bored and want a little adventure.
Intact males have a tendency to roam, but all of our boys are neutered.
Rodrigo eventually grew out of this stage around nine years of age. Blue, sadly, passed away on one of his walkabouts. And now we have Apollo; a 16 month old Husky mix.
Dangers of Allowing Dogs to Escape their Yard
When I was a kid, it wasn't a big deal to see dogs roaming about the neighborhood. Today, we look at dogs a lot differently and there are dangers everywhere.
We live in a rural area and loose dogs can encounter coyotes, deer, bears, cougars, raccoons, skunks, and other dogs that don't want to be friends. On top of that, I don't care how friendly a dog is (and Apollo is very friendly), he's huge (our biggest dog) and can knock down a child, jogger, or cyclist leading to a liability issue.
It's always important to remember that our dogs, our babies, are animals. If someone meets our dog with aggression (or their dog does) and our dog bites someone, then our “baby” may pay the ultimate price and be euthanized. A dog that was in our rescue was recently put down for biting a stranger. It's believed that the stranger was trespassing (planning to steal from a house), but it didn't matter. The dog, and she was a sweet girl, is gone.
So, I know that it's my job to keep my dogs in the yard.
Training My Dogs to Stay in the Yard
You might be reading this and thinking, “why don't you train your dogs to stay in the yard?” And, inside, I'm thinking “oh shut up! sorry that I'm not perfect.” But that's because I wish that I would have thought to train our dogs to stay in THEIR yard. Instead, my focus has always been on keeping them on our unfenced property that borders the Centennial Trail. Rodrigo used to race out to the trail whenever he saw someone and it was a nightmare (and a liability). So we worked with all of our dogs on recall and they all understand the commands “stay in the yard” and “back in the yard.” The later one is used when they go into the brush that separates our property form our neighbor's property. They do really well and it's one of my proudest achievements with them – as long as you don't think of the fact that I failed to teach them to stay in THEIR yard.
But, to be honest, before Apollo, this wasn't a concern. Our other four dogs never left their yard.
Keeping Our Dogs from Escaping the Yard
Back to today's events. After my heart slowed down, I grabbed my wallet and went to PetPlaygrounds.com to order a dog fencing system. We wanted a system that would blend in and become part of the nature (trees, plants, bushes) around our home, while also keeping our dogs securely inside its boundaries. Johan found PetPlaygrounds several months ago and suggested it to me because he knows that I don't want a system that shocks our dogs. No shade to folks who use invisible fence style systems, but my concern is that my dogs may tolerate a slight nap if the reward is a deer or a coyote. And these systems won't prevent wild animals from coming on to our property – we had a few adolescent coyotes lurking around the dog yard a couple of years ago and that was kind of scary. Were they trying to lure our dogs away?
PetPlaygrounds offers a fence that can contain +95% of dogs – preventing them from jumping and digging out without using aversive techniques. Plus, when compared to other dog fencing systems on the market, PetPlaygrounds is affordable, even if you are installing it yourself. After +6 years of having janky fencing around our dog yard, we want something nice and effective.
Our plan with the fence is to create a unique shape that incorporates the trees and other foliage around the area. We want it high enough to prevent a dog from jumping over, strong enough to prevent a dog from chewing through, and we want it to have a barrier to prevent a dog from digging under the fence. Another thing that's important for us is that we do the installation ourselves. PetPlaygrounds meets our criteria. This fencing system is so easy to install that we'll be able to have our fencing choice (listed below) up and ready over a weekend.
Planning a Dog Yard with PetPlaygrounds
Planning our yard was easy. We decided to move the yard from the side of the house to the back of the house. It's easier to expand the yard if we move it to the back of the house. We measured the area with a 100 foot measuring tape to figure out how big of a yard we needed and the shape. It's not a square – not even close – and there will be two levels to the yard and the lower level slightly slopes down, and this is fine.
PetPlaygrounds Step 1
There are three heights available – 5 feet, 6 feet, and 7 feet. And there are two strengths – regular and max strength (which is three layers). We chose to go with a six-foot fence at max strength because we think that this will be too high for Apollo to get over and too thick for him to chew threw. Our current yard is about five feet tall and the Apollo can pull it down and crawl over it. With PetPlaygrounds, he won't be able to pull the fencing it down or climb over it.
PetPlaygrounds Step 2
In the second step, we chose the length of the fencing we need; our options start at 100 feet and go up to 2,000 feet. We chose 250 feet because this will give us enough fencing to cover the amount of ground we need while leaving some extra in case we need it or want to expand in the future.
PetPlayground Step 3
We'll have access to the dog's yard through our garage and we want a gate for secondary access. PetPlaygrounds offers three gates: 6′ x 5′, 6′ x 8′, and 6′ x 14′. We chose the smaller gate because the riding lawn mower will fit through it just fine. Initially, we planned to get two gates but decided to stick with one and if we need another, we can order a second gate from PetPlaygrounds and install it easily.
After this step, we're taken to a screen where we can choose if we're going to install the fencing ourselves or if we want to hire someone for an additional fee. We're DIYers so I went to the payment screen and now I'm waiting for our package to arrive. It was an easy process and much less expensive (a few thousand dollars less) than the system I wanted from the local hardware store. The fencing alone (not the pillars or the gate) cost over $3,700 locally.
It takes up to 10 days for the dog fencing system to arrive and I'll write a new post sharing what we receive and our initial thoughts and record an open box video so you can check it out.
Is it Possible to Train a Dog to Stay in the Yard?
Of course, it's possible to train a dog to stay in the yard, but I have no idea how to start this process. There are so many cool things that reward Apollo's escapes (new smells, a random kitty, other dogs) that I don't know how I can compete. So, in the meantime, we're going to patch the area of the current fencing that is allowing the escapes and I'm making a few changes to Apollo's daily activities.
1 – Apollo is On Leash More Often – because he can' be trusted to go outside and do his business or just hang out, I go out with him each time with him on the leash. I carry a bag of training treats with me to reward the calm behavior and we'll have a few times going out without the leash (I'll keep it handy) to reward recalls and decisions NOT to leave the yard. We'll even tempt him with Johan walking around outside the yard, but that'll be in a week.
2 – Stepping Up Recall Training – our dogs' yard is a fenced area on our property. When we're on the property, I practice recall with all of my dogs daily and everyone has it down except Apollo. He's about 75% recall and I need to get him up to 95% with that remaining 5% being my ultimate goal with all of the dogs. I'll be practicing recall daily when we're on the property.
3 – More Walking – I usually walk Apollo with Scout and Zoey four to five times a week, with plenty of games of fetch, swimming, and wandering the property in between walks. I do this because (1) I want my dogs to maintain a healthy weight and (2) a tired dog is a well behaved dog. Something has changed recently where Apollo has a new burst of energy and needs more exercise. Since I can't trust him to “go potty” on his own in the morning, he and I go for a 30 minute walk before he eats breakfast. At noon, we go on a 5 mile (one hour) pack walk. In the afternoon, we play on the property. And after dinner, Apollo and I go on a leisurely 30 minute walk. It's a lot, I know, but this is what it takes to burn off that excess energy and I can lose a few pounds myself.
Wish me luck!
Read More About Raising Dogs
- 10 Tips for Pet Parents Living with a Blind Dog
- Living with a Deaf Dog
- 3 of the Best Beds for Our Five Dogs
- How to Keep My Dog from Escaping the Yard
- Grooming Tools for Raw Fed Dogs
This is a sponsored post. I received a discount off of a 250′ PetPlaygrounds dog fencing system in exchange for sharing my honest thoughts on the system through a series of blog posts and social media updates. All thoughts shared on KeepTheTailWagging.com and related social media channels are true and reflect my experience with my dogs and the PetPlaygrounds system.