A requirement before getting a dog is secure fencing. Fences make having a dog much easier, but you also have a happier dog. Being tied is a pain. And if a wild creature enters your yard, your tied dog has no defense and no escape. Fences are not only for keeping the dog(s) in but for keeping unwanted wildlife and four-legged neighbors out.
Fences come in many styles and prices. Some are quite pretty and some are pretty ugly. A chain link fence will last forever. Dogs like to see what is going on in the world around them. If you have a wooden or block fence, make sure there are a couple of lookout points so they can do their job of protecting you and their property. Life can be boring if one cannot see out.
An inexpensive and easy-to-put-up fencing is welded wire. It comes in various heights and is secured by wiring it to steel posts every eight to 10 feet.
If possible, leave your driveway and garage outside of the fence so that you do not have to get in and out of the car several times to open and close gates. You do not want to worry about your dog escaping every time you come and go.
Some dogs are escape artists and others are content staying within the boundaries. Escape artists will try going over, under, around or through until they fail consistently.
Then they will be content until another possible escape route presents itself.
Having dealt with a professional escape artist, the one solution is an electric wire. I fought it for ages, but, in desperation, finally agreed and it was a lifesaver. It was easy and inexpensive to put up and once it was up and running, just one touch to the nose eliminated the need to escape.
The wire ran just inside the wire fence and was held up by two-foot pieces of PVC with a hole drilled through about an inch from the top for the wire to run through.
After the initial training, you can generally turn off the electricity, but I leave the wire in place as a reminder.
Ideally, one would have a secure kennel or run inside the fenced area where the dogs can stay safely while you are away or have guests in and out. Kennel panels come in a variety of heights and are normally 6 feet long. Six-foot high panels should keep out unwanted prey.
If the budget is tight, start with three panels and a panel gate section. If you can attach it to the side of a building or existing fence, you only need two sections and the gate section.
These sections are portable. You can always add more panels and, if you move, take them along. The sections clamp together and are very secure.
Both in the kennel and in the yard, you will need shelter and a place off the ground for your dog. In the kennel, a doghouse is great, while in the yard, a covered porch might be sufficient. Doghouses were once made of wood, but now you can buy molded plastic ones, which are fairly reasonable and lightweight. The doghouse should be big enough that the dog can stand and turn around, but not too large so that he can stay warm on colder days.
For most of us, budget is an issue when putting up fencing or designing a kennel. Start with 50 feet of welded wire and the required posts for a nice size play yard. In time, fence in more sections until your whole yard is enclosed. Gates, welded wire, kennel panels and accessories are available at building supply stores.
Incidentally, for those of you who happen to have a dog or two and also would like to have a beautiful garden, Cheryl S. Smith has a book "Dog Friendly Gardens, Garden Friendly Dogs." Visit her Web site at www.writedog.com.
There are a number of reasons to have a fenced yard for your dog. But the primary one, beyond safety, is for exercise. Young dogs and certain breeds have lots of energy. They will be much happier and less destructive if they have an area to run and play and where you can safely throw a ball for them.
A fence does not eliminate the need for a walk, but the walk will be far more enjoyable if the dog has run off a little of his energy first.
Dogs can spend hours sniffing all the smells around the yard. When they have sniffed all the old ones, some new ones blow in. Life is always interesting if you have a fenced yard.
-- Christy Powers can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.