Fenced yard requirement - reasonable?

K8OrlandoDecember 24, 2011

Hi all,

I'm a regular on a couple other GardenWeb forums but not here so I appreciate any answers I receive!

My husband and I are long-time pet people, both having been raised with animals. We've done our share of rearing them as well over 36 years of marriage. Most of our dogs and cats have come from rescue organizations. We are now ready to adopt another dog and are running into a major problem. The local rescue orgs absolutely refuse to release a dog to a home without a fenced yard. We live on a golf course and homeowners regs prohibit fences so we're stuck!

We have an elderly sheltie and 3 cats. Over the years we've had other shelties and even raised a litter of Norwegian Elkhounds... all without benefit of a fenced yard. We walk our sheltie twice daily, on a leash. Because of her age (14) she also gets to walk around the yard with us and we let her out for quick potty breaks without a leash but I wouldn't do that with a new dog until I was absolutely positive they were not a runner. I'm very frustrated with this and am wondering if it's just our local sheltie/collie folks or if this is a national trend. I've begged them to come out for a home visit and to speak with our vet and neighbors to get testimonials about our 'pet competence'. I'm not sure at this point if I have unreasonable expectations or if the rescue folks do.

So what do you think? Can dogs be properly cared for without a fenced yard?


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Yes, they can be cared for without a fence. My yard doesn't have any fencing and our Humane Society had no problem with it. I've found the local rescues to be the most difficult to deal with and I feel they should be willing to make exceptions based on interviews and home inspections. Have you asked if an Invisible Fence would meet their requirements?

If your local Sheltie rescue won't work with you, then go beyond your county and see what you can find. Also, keep checking with your county pound/shelter, Humane Societies, Petfinder and other local rescue groups who may get the occasional Sheltie/Collie.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2011 at 11:02PM
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Although it shouldn't be necessary to have a fenced yard in order to adopt (this essentially means that they would never adopt to people in condos or apartments!), the reality is that there are too many people who are just not responsible about walking their dogs on lead when they don't have a fenced yard. 'Long time pet people' are no more likely to be responsible than people who have never had a dog before. So that arguement is not compelling. In fact, people who 'have had pets all their lives' tend to be the ones who take risks with their pets because they've 'always done it that way.'

As for electric fences, more civilized humane countries have banned them. Training with pain is archaic and cruel. If you are willing to keep your dog on lead, you will probably find a group or breeder who will work with you. But the idea that your dog can be let off lead without a fence and without supervision is exactly what these groups are rightly concerned about. The rescue groups do a lot of work saving the dogs, and are trying to find safe forever homes for them where they will never again be lost or injured simply because adopters are not willing to keep them safe and like the idea of having a dog but not willing to exercise them safely.

Ask if the group would be willing to allow you to adopt a dog if you agreed in writing to never let the dog off lead. Only do that if you can keep that commitment. Your comment that you would not let the dog off lead until you were 'absolutely positive they were not a runner" is concerning. You can never be positive a dog won't run. A squirrel running, a noise from the golf course or construction or a car backfiring could send the dog running to it's death.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2011 at 7:44AM
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Kate, I think you can properly care for dogs w/out a fence. Many apartment & condo dwellers have dogs. Personally, I disagree w/their rule because it bars potentially great owners. You already have a dog successfully w/out a fence.

We've gotten 3 of our shelties from Mich. Sheltie Rescue, & they require a fenced back yard to adopt, as well as home visit to verify. There's a lively debate on this at sheltienation, I've included a link to it.

Unfortunately, I doubt if they'll bend their rules for you. Annz has good advice, start looking at petfinder, humane societies, etc. One of our shelties is from a different rescue group, I found her thru petfinder online. Right or wrong this is likely a fight you won't win because they hold the power/dogs.

Good luck, I hope you get your sheltie, I'm partial to them myself! (We got all 4 shelties that we've had thru rescue)

Here is a link that might be useful: sheltienation fence discussion

    Bookmark   December 25, 2011 at 9:28AM
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A resposible dog owner is quite capable of looking after a dog with out a fenced yard. What about all the apartment dwellers? I would rather see a dog walked every day than just thrown into the backyard without any human interaction. Sadly that is what happens more often than not.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2011 at 10:25AM
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I expected a variety of opinions and appreciate all the comments. Thanks for the link to Sheltie Nation!


    Bookmark   December 25, 2011 at 11:21AM
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We have a large property and a fenced back yard which is excellent for our two Welsh Corgis. Just returned from a mile walk with both. Always carry bags. However, it is nice to turn them lose in the backyard where they can run free and do their business even though they are house dogs. BTW, our guy is a Pembroke, and our girl is a Cardigan.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2011 at 12:33PM
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I've found the specific breed rescue groups far more insistent on fencing. I live in the country and we have acreage. No, I do not have a fence and don't plan to get one. We have a very active little Italian greyhound mix and he is only outside on a leash. We have either had one of us retired, or one of us working in a home-based business. That means there is a human available at all times to take the dog out.

He gets a decently long walk for exercise at least twice a day. He is taken out to potty or sniff perhaps six more times through the day, whether he asks for out or not. Sometimes in good weather, he'll be put on a tether and have the anchor in the ground so he can just be with us as we work in our gardens, or I'll take him up to the greenhouses, shut the door and let him explore as I work.

I also agree that I'd rather see a dog be by its human side on a leash with attention, than have a door fly open and the dog let out to amuse itself. It's really not about fences, it's about a human's committment and the fence regulation in my estimation is making a lot of assumptions.

In town, the people who live in a house near the one I once owned were some of the most neglectful and inhumane ownes I ever saw. They would get puppies, keep them until the became adult and then they'd mysteriously disappear. The animals lived in plastic domes with no bedding and barked incessantly and had chains around their neck. Yes..........gosh..........they had a fence. And????

    Bookmark   December 25, 2011 at 1:49PM
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Hi Calliope! It's always fun to see an old friend in an unexpected place! Thanks for sharing you story.


    Bookmark   December 25, 2011 at 9:42PM
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Hi, Kate! LOL

I have a dear friend who has wanted a miniature poodle for a long time. They were wanting to give a good home to a rescue, and ran into just the same situation you described. She is a retired professional woman, he a phD. They have a comfortable home and both are now retired and there all the time, and it would be the home of some poor dog's dreams. They were both 'young' sixties, and really weren't that interested in getting a pup. They were fine with an adult dog. The rescue group would not bend one iota about requiring fencing. So, they bought a pup from a responsible breeder and got their poodle, and some poor adult dog missed getting a very good home. A home vist, an interview and references from a vet should bear a lot of weight in those decisions. Pity.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2011 at 10:34PM
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Unfortunately, not all pet owners are responsible ones, that's why there is the need for all these rescue shelters. They see daily the results of negligent dog-owners and I can't really blame them for setting draconian rules so as not to have the dog return to their care again. I think that it's possible to have dogs without fences but it requires constant attention and dedication to the dog's needs. I also think that attention and research to the dog's breed and nature is critical in the decision to restrain it to leash-only outings. Knowing you from your posts on other forums I'm sure you will be diligent, so my suggestion is to look in another area that isn't so restricted in adoptions or to a good breeder for the right dog for your situation.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2011 at 8:13AM
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i'm not sure what cynthia means by "electric" fence but i have an underground fence. i, too, live on acreage and a "physical" fence is not an option because of the layout of the land here.

i have 2 great danes. when training them to the underground fence, i took a LOT of time, every day for 3 weeks. it took only one or two "corrections" with collars set on the lowest setting. i tried them out on my own arm just to see...it was simply a "shock" like you would get if you touched a light switch in your home during winter's dry air.

once the dogs recognized the "beep" and associated it with the "safe" part of the boundary, they never again crossed it. i've had this fence for almost 2 years and my dogs are 100% reliable. i have no qualms whatsoever leaving the dog door open for them when i am home. if i am gone, it is closed off.

once my dogs were reliable, i removed the training flags and now, you would not even know the fence is there.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2011 at 8:39AM
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Today we visited a foster mom and two collies about 2 hours from home. They had spoken with the local woman with the fence requirements and had the report from our vet. After meeting with us, meeting our sheltie Sweet Sarah, speaking with us and watching us interact with the dogs for a while they said we could adopt any of their collies! We hadn't expected to come home with a dog today, but we did! And we could not be happier with him.

This is our beautiful boy, Scout, on the trip home. He's a 6 year old smooth collie with a very playful, loving personality.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2011 at 7:53PM
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Oh what a beautiful boy! Congratulations, Kate.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2011 at 9:06PM
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What a Merry Christmas for your family! Congrats!

    Bookmark   December 26, 2011 at 10:49PM
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Congratulations, he is beautiful. I've never heard of rescue making an exception. Good job.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2011 at 10:58PM
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wow! congrats, he is beautiful!! so glad it turned out well for you.

kim, it does happen occasionally. my rescue made an exception for me because i live in the middle of nowhere, far from any busy roads and they were satisfied that my dogs would be supervised 100% of the time.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 6:48AM
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He's gorgeous! How are he and Sadie getting along?

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 9:56AM
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She's ignoring him and he's already decided she's not much fun. They'll coexist but I don't see them being great buddies for a while.
He LOVES the cats! Focuses on them like he's a border collie, not a smooth collie. He doesn't chase although he will pounce a little. He noses them, stares at them and taps them with the back of his paw like he's saying "Hey! Move over there!". Hysterical herding! They'll work out the dynamics and I'm sure they'll all be fine but right now he has upset their calm little world. I think it's good for them.

Last night was his first night in the house and it was a little rough on all of us, but funny at the same time. Even after 2 walks he wasn't ready to settle down at 10pm and kept pacing around checking things out. We don't know him well enough to be certain we can trust him yet so we were watchful even though we had him confined with us to just a small part of the house. Ticki-ticki toe nails on bamboo floors, followed by cat growls and hisses, followed by him retreating to our bed to get away from angry cats... crazy! We would get up, put him back in his cozy bed and tell him to stay. That would work for about 1/2 hour and we would be right back to ticki-ticki, hiss-hiss again. It was a long night. Today we'll try him out with the crate and see if it makes him nervous; they said he was crate trained and that might be a good solution to his night roaming - at least until he's more used to the house.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 11:04AM
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I was going to say that I also live on a small farm, acreage and do not have a fenced yard.

Scout is just gorgeous! Both of you are very lucky to have found each other!

I have a smooth-coated collie mix, so I was very interested to see Scout's picture. Do you know if he's a pure breed? I can see the differences between my dog Rocky, and Scout.

Hope tonite is better for all of you!

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 4:04PM
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I've heard that collies are worriers and nosy too and will take a while to settle down in a new place. I'm sure he'll be fine after a while, main thing is there's no aggression! Also, you may notice he doesn't "GO" for about a week...HA! This is supposed to be very normal for collies.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 4:25PM
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He's so beautiful. I used to babysit my DD's dogs for an occasional overnight and the breed differences were so apparent. Her ridgeback would crawl in bed with me, and gradually shove me over through the night until I'd awaken to find his head on my pillow and his body where mine was, and I'd be uncovered, hanging on to the mattress edge. Her GSD however, would dutifully climb onto the bottom of the bed and as soon as I would fall asleep, she'd get down, position herself in the doorway facing out into the hall and guard me all night. LOL.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 5:13PM
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Congratulations on your new baby!

I used to volunteer for a rescue and our rules were that a single family home had to have a fenced yard, but not an apartment. The reason was that in a SFH it's likely the door will be opened & a dog will have an opportunity to run, but in an apartment if a dog runs it's most likely he'll just get stuck in the hallway ;) Training a dog to be reliable off-leash is time consuming and most owners don't do it. We're on our 4th dog and to be honest, this is the FIRST dog I ever went through the process with and it wouldn't have been possible with our first 3 dogs (1 was an older beagle, 1 was a deaf terrier, and 1 was a GSD mix who was a little on the independent side sometimes).

Your new collie is GORGEOUS though, and I love that you adopted an adult :) Our current dog is the first time we adopted a young dog (he was 10m at adoption) and getting older dogs was definitely easier on everyone.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2011 at 8:16AM
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What a beautiful dog, congrats, I've never heard of that breed before, but Collies in general are a fabulous breed. It sounds like he's going to make a great addition to your family.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 2:42PM
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