In this article we are going to look at how to keep your dog safe and out of trouble when he’s in the back yard, by Labrador proofing your garden.
Labradors are of course utterly adorable.
But it has to be said, they can make quite a mess of your garden.
Digging holes in the lawn, and pulling up your vegetables.
Especially when they are young.
And mess, is not the only problem. Your dog’s safety is an issue too.
This article looks at how you can make your garden a safe place for your dog to relax and play, with minimal disruption to your family.
Puppy Proofing Your Garden
Labrador puppies are surprisingly agile. They can wriggle through the smallest of gaps and hedges or dilapidated fences are often insufficient to keep them safe.
Re-fencing a large garden can be a very expensive exercise.
During the first year of your puppy’s life, he is also likely to be quite destructive.
And keeping your garden nice, and your puppy happy can be a bit difficult.
For many new owners, a puppy playpen is a great way of protecting the puppy from his own curiosity, and your plants from his attentions.
An alternative to purchasing a play pen, is to temporarily fence off a small section of the garden with sturdy small gauge wire netting.
Labrador proofing your garden
As you Labrador grows up, he will soon be able to jump out of his puppy pen and escape from any kind of flimsy temporary netted off area.
It is important not to be taken by surprise by this new development, and to plan in advance.
In urban homes most people are very conscientious about dog proofing their garden.
Though some will be unaware of just exactly what will keep an adult Labrador confined.
And we’ll look at that in a moment.
A slightly different problem often arises amongst Labrador owners in more rural areas.
Dog Proofing Rural Homes
I sometimes get requests from people who live in very rural locations.
They often have large, unfenced gardens. Sometimes backing onto farmland or woodland. And they want me to tell them how to ‘teach’ their dog to stay in the garden and not to wander off.
They may have a friend or relative whose labrador lies happily out in the back yard all day. And understandably, they want their dog to do the same.
Sadly, there is a real problem here.
The imaginary boundary
The fact is, I don’t know of a way, and I don’t know of anybody else who knows of a way, to reliably teach a dog to respect an ‘imaginary boundary’, during the extended absence of supervision.
Some dogs, usually older female dogs, will lie out in an unfenced garden and not stray far from their house. But let’s be honest. These are the exception and NOT the rule.
There is no way of predicting if your dog will do this. In fact the chances are that he or she won’t.
What about a stay?
You can teach your to lie down outside, and stay in a specific place, for a specific length of time.
Building up the length of such an out of sight stay takes time and a lot of trouble. A dog that has been left ‘on a stay’ is ‘under instructions’ rather than relaxing.
And so this is not really a long term solution for the problem of how to contain your dog when he is not being supervised.
The fact is, many dogs will wander off eventually if left alone for too long. Female dogs on heat, and entire male dogs are particularly likely to roam. And you simply cannot take the risk.
What about remote collar fences?
You have probably heard of a system whereby the dog is fitted with an electric collar, and the collar is activated if the dog goes close to one of a number of special ‘posts’.
These posts are inserted into the ground at intervals around the owner’s property. They give off a signal that triggers the collar. The dog is given a shock if it goes near the post, and avoids the post in the future.
The Danger of Remote Collar Fences
Unfortunately these posts have one huge flaw. If a dog is highly distracted or aroused he will not notice even quite high levels of pain.
This is part of a dog’s normal biology. Like humans, dogs are social predators and need to be able to suppress pain awareness when hunting or fighting. So if your dog heads towards the post in hot pursuit of your neighbour’s cat, he probably won’t feel a thing.
He will then be on the outside of your property, and unable to get back in!
The truth is, the only way to keep your dog safe when you are not with him, is for him to be inside a secure area. And that means behind a fence he cannot get through, over, or under.
Secure garden area
If fencing off the perimeter of your property is not practical, you will need to fence off a secure area outside where your Labrador can relax when he is outdoors.
Building a fence that is not Labrador proof is a waste of time and money, so it is worth getting it right first time.
To be certain of containing an adult Labrador you will need a sturdy fence.
Strong wooden panels or chain link fencing will suffice, but it does need to be high enough.
Most Labradors will not scale a six foot fence. But for a kennel run, where a dog may be left unsupervised for long periods of time, eight foot is better.
Make sure that the dog can’t dig under the fence, and that there are no items left against the fence for the dog to use as a climbing aid.
Don’t forget the gate!
It is surprising how many people spend a fortune on fencing their garden securely, but forget about the gate.
If you are going to leave your dog unsupervised in a large garden, and don’t want to risk your mailman and other callers letting him out, then double gates are ideal as they enable vehicles to enter and leave without giving your dog access to his ‘freedom’.
Another option is to fence your property so that callers have access to the front door without breaching the fenced area.
Failing that, you need a gate that is every bit as secure as the fence, and that cannot be opened without your permission.
Better safe than sorry
There is no doubt that fencing is expensive.
And whilst we have all seen movies with the happy dog sleeping peacefully in the back yard, whilst the family goes about their daily business.
But real life just isn’t like that.
Most Labradors are active, lively, curious dogs with strong hunting instincts.
The chances of your Labrador just ‘hanging around’ on your unfenced property for any length of time is remote.
Secure an area that he can relax and be safe in.
And you will be able to relax too, in the knowledge that he can come to no harm.
More information on puppies
For a complete guide to raising a healthy and happy puppy don’t miss The Happy Puppy Handbook.
The Happy Puppy Handbook covers every aspect of life with a small puppy.
The book will help you prepare your home for the new arrival, and get your puppy off to a great start with potty training, socialisation and early obedience.
The Happy Puppy Handbook is available worldwide.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website