Popular options for pet fencing

Common fencing options for backyards often double as usable pet fences. A standard treated wooden fence or chain link, for example, can provide basic protection, but there are several caveats.

If your dog likes to chew or dig, it's possible for them to break through or go under a wooden fence, and potentially hurt themselves if they swallow splinters. Chain link is more resistant to chewing, but most chain fences are low enough that larger dogs can climb or jump over.

Pet-specific mesh fencing is also an option. Many companies offer install kits which include the mesh itself, along with stakes, ties and posts. These fences use a square-pattern mesh which is difficult to chew through, and different types are rating according to how much punishment they will endure.

Mesh is an excellent way to keep pets in, and keep other wildlife out, but you'll need to be diligent and install enough posts that neither your pet - nor a friendly deer - can push their way through the fence.

Why choose an electronic pet fence?

Another choice for pet owners is an electronic fence. This is a good option if you want to establish a perimeter in your front yard, but don't want to do an above-ground installation.

In-ground fence systems are one possibility. These use a set of cables buried around the perimeter of your yard, along with a power box, receiver collar, and set of flags to mark the location of your fence for reference or training. They can be used with dogs or cats, and often include several levels of correction if your pet passes the barrier.

Wireless systems are also available. These do not require wires to be buried, but instead use transmitters plugged into an electrical outlets to create a circular perimeter. This makes them portable, and allows you to set up multiple fences as needed.

All pets on the system only need to wear a rechargeable transmitter collar, and just like their wired counterparts, provide only stimulation, not pain, if your pet crosses the boundary.

Tips to maintain pet fencing

If you're using a wooden fence, make sure it's free of deep cracks and splinters, and don't leave too large a space between the bottom board and the ground - even large dogs can wiggle through small gaps after a little digging.

For electronic fences, meanwhile, it's essential that you train your animals in what to expect before letting them loose in the yard. Start by taking them across the boundary a few times to see their reaction, and lead them back into the "safe zone" to demonstrate how the collar works.

With a few hours worth of work, your pet should get familiar enough with the concept that they don't try to cross the barrier, and should begin to get comfortable in their new space.

How to install a pet fence

Wireless systems are simple to set up and monitor, and a mesh fence can often be installed over the course of a weekend.

If you have a large backyard, however, or a particularly active dog, you may want to consider hiring a professional to make sure the posts are properly sunk and stable, and that no sections of your fence are loose.

Underground systems should be installed by a professional. While the wires do not have to be buried deep, many utilities run underground, and it's important that the trenches dug to accommodate the wires are of a uniform depth.

Professional installers can customize your fence shape and size, and make sure the wires are buried in such a way that your pet doesn't go digging for them.

Servicing is also an issue -- if the system begins to malfunction, it's often more cost-effective to have a contractor on call who can come out and assess the problem, rather than trying to pull up the buried lines yourself.

The right pet fence can keep your dog or cat safe from harm, while still allowing them a measure of freedom to roam. Which type you choose depends on your preference for yard appearance, cost, and how your pet is prevented from crossing the boundary.

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