When you have dogs, you need to think a little more than most people about your fencing. You need to ensure that you have a secure boundary so that your dogs can’t escape.
The first thing is to determine the height you need. I tend to go for 2m to provide a degree of privacy and ensure that my dogs can’t get out. This is the highest fence that is readily available as it is the maximum height that is allowable without planning permission (apart from next to a highway where the maximum is 1m). The Battersea Dog’s Home recommends a fence height of at least 1.5m where you have dogs. The next thing is to decide what you want to surround your garden with. There are a wide variety of options, from wooden through a number of forms of wire to hedging.
In the UK, our first thought is to have wooden fencing. There is no need to stick with the normal horizontal larch lap style, though you will tend to find it cheaper. There is a huge variety of styles available. Other options include featherboard, which is made from vertical slates of wood, chevron which provide an attractive herringbone style of panel, hit & miss where the slats are offset from each other (these can be either vertical or horizontal). Companies such as Jacksons Fencing (Freephone – 0800 414343 or www.jacksons-fencing.co.uk ) can supply some of the more unusual designs and are now coming up with even more effects to make your fencing just that little bit different, including reeded textured panels. You can even find fencing which is designed to reduce noise pollution, though I have no idea if it helps reduce the sound of barking. If your desire for privacy is less and you don’t mind people seeing through your fence, then you could go for a palisade style fence or even a fence which looks like a trellis (but is much stronger). You can also get specifically designated dog fencing which is basically a metal mesh grid which is stabilised by wooden struts with a gravel board.
If you want secure fencing, but want to talk to your neighbours too, you could try using lower fences with trellis on top. This way, you can still achieve the overall height required whilst having the freedom to see through the fence. This can also be a good way to make use of a “borrowed” view. You can even put viewpoints in your boundary. I have seen very good use of circular openings in both hedges and fences to make a feature of something in the distance, be it church spire, oak tree, or even just rolling hills. This way your attention is drawn to a focal point outside the garden and the garden feels much bigger.
My mother’s garden has hedges on two sides. which provides a very good visual barrier, however most of the family dogs have proved that they are very good at getting underneath the hedge and so she has had to have low fences as well. The fences are close to, but behind the hedge and so far none of our dogs has managed to jump them. The bottom of her garden backs on to a wood. In order to make use of the borrowed view, and make it look as it the wood is part of the garden from the house, the fence consists of green plastic covered wire mesh. The only downside is that there are concrete posts to support the mesh and these are a bit unsightly so I am trying to persuade her to paint them green to help them merge in to the wood. You can use paint or wood preservatives to either help your boundary stand out or merge in to the background as you desire. It is not necessary to go to the extremes of colour that the garden make over programs often use, there are some very subtle shades available these days.
Rather than having hedges in my garden, I have a number of shrubs around the perimeter. I prefer having different plants which provide interest at different times of year. Some of them have interesting leaf colour, either in the spring or autumn, others have beautiful flowers, others are scented and some are evergreens to keep my spirits up during the long winter.
As winter approaches, now is the time to think about maintaining your fences. Strong winds are probably on their way, and the last thing you want is to have your garden not secure enough for your dogs if your fences have blown down. Go around your fences and check both the posts and panels. If any need repairing, get it done now whilst the weather is relatively good, don’t wait until it is cold and raining.
If the worst happens and a fence has caught you unaware and blows down, then you will have to get it fixed as soon as possible. I was unlucky enough to get caught one year by waking up on Christmas Eve morning to find a panel down. The first thing that I did was put puppy play pen panels in the gap so that I could let the dogs out. Then I had to get the fence repaired. Luckily I hold a stock of both fence panels and posts. This is a good idea since garden centres never seem to have enough stock to supply demand following strong winds. An added benefit is that I can get my stock painted with wood preservative in the summer, so that it is ready to go straight into use, rather than having to paint it later when it is up and the weather is good again.
Having dogs means that you have to have secure boundaries and they must be maintained well. But fences don’t have to turn your garden into a boring plot of land surrounded by a wall of wood. There are plenty of things that you can do to ensure that you have something a lot more interesting to look at.