A dog running loose is a dog in danger. Dogs running the neighborhood can cause dissension among the neighbors, and the dog is often the one who suffers the consequences. Loose dogs can quickly become a nuisance, especially if they team up with other dogs and form packs. A pack of dogs can be a serious threat to livestock, pets, and even people, especially children. Dogs in packs are like people in mobs—they lose their individual inhibitions and do things they wouldn't normally do, things you might never expect. With or without a pack, a loose dog may be hit by a car, stolen, poisoned, shot, or worse. Your dog isn't a wild creature who needs his freedom. He's a domestic dog, and he needs the safety of home.
Your leash attached to a properly fitted collar on your dog is almost a miracle, it's so simple and effective. It keeps your dog safe from cars, from running away and getting lost, from other animals that aren't so friendly, and even from people who don't like dogs. Your leash also keeps other people's lawns, shrubs, gardens, pets, and children safe from your dog. You may love dogs and welcome their attention, but not everyone feels that way. Many people are afraid of dogs, so even if your pooch wouldn't hurt the flea that bit her, she shouldn't be the one who decides where she goes and whom she greets. Even those of us who do love dogs don't necessarily want your dog digging up our zinnias! So take your dog for lots of outings, but take her on leash.
Most states and local jurisdictions have laws against letting dogs run loose. But dogs don't stay home just because they're supposed to. They stay home because they have no choice or because nothing has been inviting enough to make them take off—yet. Whenever temptation beckons, most dogs will leave if given half a chance. If you think your dog knows the limits of his yard and will never cross them, you're kidding yourself and risking your dog's life.
Chew on This
If your dog gets lost, you can increase your chances of finding him by following a few simple steps:
- Have your dog wear a name tag, registration tag, and rabies tag attached to his collar so that anyone who finds him can also find you. Collars and tags can get lost, though, so a form of permanent identification (a tattoo or microchip) is a good idea, too.
- Act fast. The longer your dog is lost, the less chance you have of finding him.
- Run a lost ad in your local newspaper with a brief description of your dog. Consider running ads in newspapers from neighboring towns as well—you'd be surprised at how far a dog can wander in a short time.
- Call all shelters and veterinarians in your own county and adjacent counties. Some areas have multiple shelters, so call them all. Visit the shelters as often as possible and check for yourself. Shelter staff could overlook your dog among the many they take in. Don't assume they will recognize him by breed, even if his breed is common.
- Make up posters with a color photo of your dog, where and when he was lost, and your telephone number. Post them around the area where he was lost, at grocery stores and convenience stores, near schools, and in other well-traveled spots.
- Children often know more about what's happening at the “street level” in their neighborhoods than adults do. Call neighborhood schools and ask if you can hang your poster somewhere in the school.
The best way to contain most dogs is with a secure fence. Fencing is expensive, but if necessary you can fence just a portion of your yard for the dog. If you're putting in a new fence, make it high enough that your dog can't jump out of it. If you already have a fence, and your dog is able to get out of it, supports angled inward from the fence posts and strung with plain wire (not barbed) or with fence fabric will keep him from jumping or climbing out. You could also try a special harness made to keep the dog from jumping. If your dog is a digger, bury several inches of metal fence fabric or chicken wire underground, or set concrete footers around the edge of the fence. If your dog digs a hole, fill it with rocks or concrete.
Here are some of the common types of conventional fences used for dogs:
- Chain link is relatively expensive, but it's strong, especially if it's secured along the bottom with a tension line. Chain link comes in different heights and tends to hold up well. Most dogs can't get through chain link, although you need to be sure there are no gaps at gates or along the bottom that a puppy or small dog can slip through. One drawback is that kids (and adults) can poke fingers, sticks, and other things through chain link, so if your fence will border a sidewalk or street, you may want to block access with shrubbery or vinyl strips made to slide into the chain link mesh.
- Woven or welded wire farm fence is cheap and will hold large dogs, although smaller dogs can get at least their heads through and in some cases can get out. It comes in different heights and is relatively easy to install.
- Picket fences work well for most dogs, but very small puppies or dogs can sometimes slip their heads between the slats and get stuck. Picket fences are sometimes installed with a gap along the bottom because the rigid fence sections don't match the contours of the ground, so you may need to install wire fence fabric along the bottom to prevent a small dog from going under the fence. As with chain link, pickets are easy to breach with fingers and other objects.
- Privacy fences of wood or vinyl are expensive, block the view, and aren't allowed in some neighborhoods. On the plus side, they're high enough to hold most dogs, and the solid wall keeps your dog out of reach of fingers, sticks, and other dogs' noses.
- Split-rail fences are relatively inexpensive, and they don't block your view. You'll need to fasten fence fabric along the inside of the fence to keep your dog from going between the rails or climbing the rails to get out.