Thursday, January 11, 2018
Late into my college life I met a young lady with a tiny Maltese dog. The Maltese is a small breed with silky white hair which by all accounts is a good companion animal. This particular dog looked like a plush toy, had the ferocious heart of a U.S. Navy Seal, and answered to Snuggles.
I came to think of Snuggles as the ‘leg anchor’ for the way he would savage the cuff of my pant leg every time I walked through the door. Many evening were ruined because Snuggles’ adventurous heart would not be contained by closed doors, and he would slip out into the world at any opportunity to wander the neighborhood, drink from puddles, and make the acquaintance of new pants–and I had to assist the search. It was an issue that could have been corrected by a fence. But my friend didn’t have one, and it wasn’t because of the ultra-strict homeowner’s association fence rules. Since Snuggles was such a small dog, the young lady and her family felt that none of the HOA-approved fence types would have stopped him. The dilemma of Snuggles made it clear to me that the challenge of finding the best fencing for small dogs is very different from the challenge of finding the best fencing for dogs that climb or the best fencing for dogs that jump. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find an attractive, sturdy fence that can contain your tiny dog’s roaming instincts. There are several types of fences that would have kept Snuggles safe in his yard and allowed me to get on with my dinner plans.
The two most obvious fence options for very small dogs are chain link fences and wooden privacy fences. Wooden privacy fences have the benefit of being solid, with no gaps for a small dog to get through. Chain link fences, on the other hand, have spaces that are too small for a toy dog to do anything besides stare through with a steely gaze while plotting to nip its owner’s date for the evening. Containing small dogs may be the one thing chain-link actually does well since it doesn’t do much to secure a home or commercial site. Unfortunately, both these types of fences were banned by my friend’s neighborhood association. Chain link fences were banned–as they often are by homeowners’ associations because they looked ugly, and wooden privacy fences because they blocked views and didn’t match the style of the housing development.
But there are some fences that most persnickety neighborhood and homeowners’ associations allow that will still keep small dogs fenced in. Some of the most common options are:
This type of fencing can be hard to describe. Picture an average fence and a dog with his paws on the top rail, greeting his master. Now, scale that down to about two feet in height with a Maltese or Yorkie instead. These miniature fences will keep a small dog in the yard, and their advantages are that they’re cheap, install quickly, and don’t require a gate because they can simply be stepped over. Most neighborhoods will allow them because technically they’re not fences at all, but fall into the category of garden and flower bed edging. They have a few big disadvantages in that they don’t keep anything out, such as people or larger dogs, and can be a tripping hazard.
This type of fencing comes in a number of varieties that will keep small dogs contained. The most small dog-friendly type of vinyl fence is a solid privacy fence about four feet or so in height. These have the benefit of being inexpensive fences without gaps for a small dog to squeeze through. The biggest drawback with vinyl fencing is that it isn’t very durable, and can be broken fairly easily by accident or bad weather. Another drawback is that not all HOAs allow vinyl fencing, and depending on the bylaws governing the placement of privacy fences, a solid vinyl fence might not be permissible in a front or backyard.
These are a popular option for small dog owners. They combine two types of fencing: a main fence that’s four to six feet high and a low wire fence along the bottom of the main fence that blocks gaps between the fence pickets at tiny dog level. The drawback is that this is plainly a make-do solution. It is visibly, and literally, trying to fill in a hole, and, like small fencing, might not be high enough for jumping breeds, which may still be able to leap the low fence and slip between the bars of the tall fence.
While these options work for some people, none of them are ideal choices. Even the smallest dog may pull a tiny equivalent of Air Bud to clear a small fence. And while some forms of vinyl fencing are effective, not everyone likes how it looks and holds up, even if the neighborhood association doesn’t object. The ideal solution? In my opinion, it’s a beautiful picket fence that looks like wrought iron but is carefully designed to keep small animals inside.
Simple black steel fences are allowed by nearly every HOA. When it comes to small dogs, though, most people don’t consider these fences as options. That’s because building codes mandate a maximum of four inches between the pickets, which is enough space for a small dog to wiggle through and escape. Typically, manufacturers don’t make these types of fences with less ‘air space’ (space between pickets). This is because of material costs; it just costs more to use more pickets. Lower-quality manufacturers have been known to find loopholes in the codes in order to space the pickets wider and save money on materials. Frequently, these types of manufacturers will also cut the pickets off at the bottom rail, leaving a space where a dog could potentially crawl under the fence. A higher-quality manufacturer will offer the option of pickets that extend through the rail to the ground, making it harder for Snuggles to escape beneath the fence.
While the majority of fences still have four inches between pickets, high-quality manufacturers have realized that there is a need for fences with a narrower air space, and some fences are now available with only three inches of air space. This is narrow enough that most adult dogs of toy breeds cannot wiggle through, although puppies and some Chihuahuas (which vary a lot in size) are exceptions.
Still, for most small dog owners, a wrought iron-look fence with a three-inch air space is an excellent solution to the problem of escapee toy dogs. This a fully functional fence that looks good enough for HOAs, doesn’t require awkward and ineffective workarounds like dual fencing, and will contain most tiny dog breeds. These types of fences are still new, though, and not all fence manufacturers offer them. One that does is Fortress Fence Products. Their Versai fence has a three-inch air space option, and, like all their fences, it’s pre-galvanized, e-coated, and powder-coated for excellent protection from UV rays and moisture. A quality, multi-layered defense against the elements is part of all Fortress Building Products, from decking to railing.