Forget the Fence
I hate yards, fenced yards in particular, and yet, I have always dreamed of owning fenced yard. That seems completely contrary, right? You would think having a fenced yard is the epitome of responsible dog ownership. Yet to me, a fenced yard could lead to lazy dog ownership. As with anything ever written or said, there is an exception to the rule. However, in my experience, I've found that dog owners who have fenced yards have under stimulated and less happy dogs. You see, people equate putting their dog in their yard with putting their dog on a treadmill. They think their dog is getting adequate exercise just by being in the yard instead of being in the house. They imagine their dog is outside running laps, jumping on the trampoline and entertaining the heck out of himself the way a child would. This could not be further from the truth. Unless your yard is acres and acres (remember I'm talking about the average suburban back yard, not the Taj Mahal yard of doggie dreams) then the back yard is just a glorified doggie toilet.
Snoozeville. Population: Your Dog.
It's boring. Your yard is boring because it's the same thing everyday. There aren't any new sights or smells to stimulate your dog! There certainly isn't any new peemail to read because no strange dogs have been in your yard. Enrichment is half the battle of keeping a happy, healthy dog and your yard is likely not enriching unless you've taken the extra steps to make it fun.
Need a Treadmill?
Your yard IS NOT a replacement for exercise. Contrary to popular belief, your yard is not going to exercise your dog for you. Unless you've installed a giant hamster wheel built for your Lab mix, your dog is very likely to beg to be let back in the house within moments of relieving himself. Why is that?
1) Your dog doesn't have the imagination of a child who can be entertained by the smallest elements. Your dog sees the world for what it is. He's not going to run laps around the yard, though he is likely to dig or chew if left to his own devices. Devices humans think are inappropriate.
2) Your dog likely doesn't want to be left out of familial activities. Dogs want to be with their humans as much as possible! So why leave them alone in the back yard? Go outside and do things with your dog, he's not a yard ornament.
How Would You Feel?
Have you ever been stir crazy? This feeling of desperation and insanity happens to dogs who never get to leave the house or yard because their owner thinks they're getting enough exercise within those boundaries. The dog will find fun things to do to pass the time, like digging, barking excessively, and destroying things. Because he's bored, not because he's exercising himself. This may wear him out day-to-day, but it's not good for him mentally or physically. So do me and your dog a favor and stop relying on your yard to do the work for you. Take your dog out for a walk, hike, jog, romp in the park, whatever, just get your dog and yourself out of the house and have some fun.
Your dog will thank you.
They're Not All Bad
When used correctly, a fenced yard can be a huge asset for a family and a safe haven for a dog. A fenced yard gives an owner peace of mind because their dog is within a safe boundary. A dog without a fenced yard could wander from home if left unsupervised or be tied outside for long periods of time. There are some awesome organizations, such as Fences For Fido, who build fenced yards for people in need and help free dogs from being chained or tethered. Click the link to donate!
I wish I had a fenced yard so I could let my dogs outside to go potty and know they are in a safe enclosure. Since I don't, I have to take extra time to escort them on their potty breaks and it usually turns into a potty walk! They have me trained!
Do you have a fenced yard? If so, do you still take your dog out on regular adventures? Let me know in the comments or on my Facebook page @ Sierra Likes Dogs!