Why rescues are hesitant to adopt to families without a PHYSICAL FENCE...

We can't know the entire history of shelter or rescue dogs except that they have been in a shelter or rescue. Sometimes we know some of where they came from and what they have been through, but not always.

What is common, however is that it takes about 2 weeks for a dog to bond to someone. In that two weeks time, a loud noise or some unknown fear can send them running. Rescuers call this "bolting." We have seen many stories of dogs bolting from a new home who have no idea where they are. They are scared and lost.

Electronic fences only work with extensive training and even then, they are not 100% reliable. I got an e-fence when my standard poodle, Magic was a puppy. My backyard is completely fenced in but my front yard is open to the street on one side and wooded acres, on the other side. I liked to be out front with the boys when they were little so we got an e-fence. Magic went through the training with the company that installed in and then I kept up her training and we felt very comfortable with her on it. But every once in awhile, kids in the street or deer in the woods would send her running. With a long gallop, she would go right through the fence. And she was here for years.

A new rescued dog has a different history. You can't know what might set them off. They will run until they can't run anymore. Many rescued dogs have been lost, hit by cars and even some, never found again because they bolted from the people who rescued them.

We get emails all the time about dogs who ran from transports between shelters to homes. Lost Dog ads appear on our Facebook page, almost everyday. Dogs lost due to bolting. Many rescues have made the decision not to adopt to those with no fence or only an e-fence and the reasons are because of what I outlined above.

This is also the policy of many shelters and rescues and we hope other's can understand this. Even with a physical fence, when you adopt a rescue you must be extra careful in those first few weeks until that bonding has taken place.

Lynne Fowler

Oodles of Doodles Rescue Collective

The Views from Around the Internet by Other Rescuers:

Sometimes.  Poodle Rescue of New England prefers that all of our dogs have a securely fenced yard to play and run safely in.  We will require a fenced yard if you live on a busy road or the dog you are interested in is “high energy”.  However, if you do not have a fence but you have a plan for the proper exercise for a dog, we may still consider you for adoption. Poodle Rescue of New England will not place dogs in a home with an electric fence. An electric fence is not a barrier fence

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This is something that varies by the rescue you work with. Not all will require a fenced yard, tho it's true that many do. This isn't so much for exercise as it is for the safety of the dog they will place with someone.

I know specifically of a private rescue that placed a young dog with a vet. That vet had a farm, tons of acres, but no fenced area and the dogs had a doggie door to utilize as they pleased. The problem came when this young rescue dog followed the husband outside, without the husband noticing and he proceeded to his vehicle. He ran over and killed this dog. Less than 3 months of placement, this rescue dog died. A situation that could have been entirely prevented if this owner had simply had an appropriate fenced area for their dogs. It is irresponsibility and people like this which rescue that make it harder on those of us more responsible. These cases are why rescues require a properly fenced yard often. It's simply safer for the dog.

I understand what you are saying and I think that as long as you seek out a rescue that will work with you, you can successfully rescue a dog without a fenced yard. But while you are frustrated by this requirement, it's important to remember this story, and that there are many more like this, which cause rescues to be more rigid with the rules of fencing. This was an entirely preventable situation, either with a proper fenced area, or a more vigilent owner keeping a better watch on their dogs comings and goings (and this was a vet, which one might expect to be better than the average pet owner, but apparently they were not).

Gabbie: Yes, dogs sometimes can and do dig out of their fences. Dogs that behave in this fashion are typically the "toss in the backyard for exercise" types that need a job and don't get one. I am well aware of that. In this case, this dog was NOT a digging type and was also being properly trained in herding, so the dog had a proper mentally stimulating job to do which often deters the urge to "dig in the yard" that some dogs will do out of boredom. It was a large farm in the middle of the country which had housed many loose dogs this way in the past, so the rescue assumed all would be okay. Yes, it was the fault of the owner, but what you need to realize is that in the eyes of most rescues, requiring a fence is a safety net for their dogs they place. It's FAR less likely an accident like this would arise if an adoptive owner actually HAD a proper dog run for the dogs to utilize that didn't allow them full access to open areas, as was the case here.

The problem for rescues is that no application form or even a home visit is going to assure them that someone without a fenced yard is actually going to properly tend to their animals. At least if they can show, on their home visit, that they have a secure area where the dog can be off lead to potty and play with the family, that is a little more than nothing at all. Dogs may dig out of fenced areas, but that is still SOMETHING between that dog and the road and an attentive owner would keep watch and fill holes, or better yet, give the dog a real job so it relieves the urge to dig in the first place.

Requiring a fenced area is a precaution for the safety of the dog and you just can't be assured that an owner without a fence will actually properly watch their dog. Case in point in this incident I sited here. This was a vet, someone with lots of dog experience and many other dogs over the years lived just fine with her this way. So that rescue took a chance based off that history. That was a mistake on their part. But because of this owners credentials and references, they thought it would be "OK" to place without a fence in this case. Had they had a proper dog yard, fenced as usually required, this would not have happened. They would have made use of that yard when the dogs were not out with them to work and train.

I'm not saying families without fences can't properly care for their dogs, but the truth of the matter is that the majority of people out there just simply don't do right by their dogs. For rescues, that's a big risk that at least having a fenced yard will reduce. They have every right to require fencing except in certain cases, but as you see in this incident, this "certain case" still killed a rescue dog.

Why We Require Adopters Have Fenced Yards:

At the risk of stating the obvious -- Bassets are HOUNDS! It's not that they follow their noses . . . all dogs do that to greater or lesser extent. It's that hounds live in an entirely different world, not only from us, but even from other breeds. They use their noses like we -- and other breeds -- use their eyes. They're utterly relentless once they catch a scent. Believe us, we know from experience: you've never seen single-minded determination until you've seen a hound on a trail. That's why the poet, Francis Thompson, used the phrase "The Hound of Heaven" to describe God's love for, and pursuit of, us -- it was the most powerful analogy he could imagine! There's a reason for that . . . 

Hounds catch a scent -- and they live in a world chock-full of them -- they take off after it and are gone. Nothing -- NOTHING -- will deter a hound on a hot trail . . . NOTHING, that is, short of a heavy leash held by a strongarm (or two), a very sturdy fence or, sometimes, only death itself, and we are not exaggerating! Ask any houndsman, they'll tell you the same. That's one reason they keep their hunting hounds in kennels when they're not working. 

Therefore, it is utterly imperative that every potential adopter has a fenced yard! NO EXCEPTIONS! If your yard is not fenced, please do NOT waste your time, or ours, bothering to apply for adoption. Sorry, but that's just the way it has to be for the sake and safety of all our rescued hounds. How do you think so many of them ended up here in the first place? That's right -- they wandered off and couldn't find their way home, or be found by their people. 

Thank you for understanding.

A Safe Environment

People often ask us why Chesapeake Bay Retriever Relief & Rescue requires most adopters to have a fenced yard or area for most of their adoptive dogs. The experiences we gathered from other breed rescues, shelter personnel, animal control officers, and from speaking with many pet owners has impressed upon us that the safest environment for a Rescue CBR includes a fenced yard or area. Generally speaking, second-hand dogs need limitations because they do not have the benefit of having bonded with their new owners since puppyhood. We feel strongly that dogs allowed to wander unsupervised or that are tied out unsupervised are dogs that are at risk of getting lost, stolen, injured, attacked (by another dog, animal or person), poisoned, or struck by a car. Dogs that run loose or are tied out are at risk of exposure to rabid animals, potentially bringing this fatal disease home to the family. Also, over time, being tied out alone can lead to undesirable aggression, as the "fight" portion of the natural "fight or flight" response to perceived threats becomes the only option a tied dog feels he has.

Therefore, it is our policy to place dogs in homes that provide a secure, fenced area.* Appropriate senior Chesapeake Bay Retrievers (eight years and older) may be more readily placed in a home without a fenced area. The fenced area is intended to guarantee a secure outdoor area for the dog. It is not intended as a place for the dog to live or spend its days. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are intelligent, inquisitive dogs who should be with their families, or should be safely inside the house if nobody can supervise them. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers left outside alone even in a fenced area for long periods of time can develop problems such as digging, barking, and fence frustration at not being able to join people or dogs outside.

A satisfactory fenced area may be built of stockade, chain link, heavy wooden posts with heavy gauge wire, or metal posts with wire. No dog should be left unattended for any length of time in general, but especially not in the latter type of enclosure because it is relatively easy for the dog to escape. The enclosure should be four feet high minimum (six feet is preferred) and include a lockable gate. Equal attention should be given to the security of the fence along its bottom in order to prevent dogs from digging out. Invisible fence systems and portable pens are accepted on a case-by-case basis.

Location of the fenced area should also be taken into consideration: it should be installed so it is directly accessible from the house so it will ensure an increased measure of safety for your dog and prove convenient for you. The fenced area must be large enough to provide the dog with a comfortable space in which to get some exercise and fresh air, and to eliminate. Shade and shelter from sun and the elements should also be provided. You do not need to fence in an entire yard - just a portion.

We deeply regret that this policy may eliminate some otherwise fine homes, but our first concern must be for the safety of the dogs with which we have been entrusted. Thank you for your understanding.

* If you are unable to provide a satisfactory fenced area and are not interested in adopting a homeless Senior Chesapeake Bay Retriever then in most cases we cannot proceed with your application. Although CBR Relief & Rescue feels strongly about the need for fencing and will not compromise on its obligation to ensure a safe environment, you may petition for an exception to the fencing requirement if you believe you have extenuating circumstances.

In this case, your application must include a detailed letter describing your circumstances, life-style, previous dog ownership and how you plan on safely exercising and managing a young Chesapeake Bay Retriever safely. A letter of recommendation from your veterinarian regarding the care and well-being of your previously owned dog(s) must accompany your application as well. Without these two letters, your exception request will not be considered. If your exception request is accepted for consideration, a home visit will be conducted. A decision will be made after the home visit is completed.

Thanks go to the German Shepherd Rescue of New England, Inc for permission to reprint this article that they use in their rescue efforts.

Fenced Yard. This is a strict requirement; please do no ask to be the exception. We require a fence in order to allow for safe, off leash playtime the dogs.

We require a fenced yard for all our Pyrs. Please do not ask us to make an exception to this rule. The fence must have a minimum height of 4 feet. Electric fences, as a rule, do not successfully work with Pyrs. Pyrs must always be on a leash when outside a fenced area.

I know that many people out there considering adopting a dog have no fence. You may think:

  • I can train my dog to stay in the yard.
  • My dog will never be out unless I'm with him.
  • My road isn't very busy.
  • Or any number of other reasons.

Please consider the following:

  • Vet bills, which can become astronomical if your dog gets hit by a car (assuming that he lives).
  • The gut-wrenching feeling of seeing your dog get hit by a car.
  • The devastating loss of your dog.
  • Having to bury your best friend.

Furthermore, there are other possible ramifications of not having a fence:

  • Lawsuits, which could amount to many thousands of dollars and the loss of your dog, if your dog chases and bites joggers/cyclists/the UPS delivery person/neighborhood children.

  • Fines and possible loss of your dog if he is a wanderer and is picked up by animal control too many times.

  • Extreme anxiety if your dog leaves your property and disappears, possibly forever.

  • Poor relationships with the neighbors, possible fines, and the specter of loosing your dog if he becomes a nuisance because of wandering.

WE DO *NOT* HAVE A BLANKET POLICY FOR FENCES ON ALL OUR DOGS. Fences are required on a CASE-BY-CASE BASIS, depending on your living situation and most importantly, the individual dog. Those that DO require a fence, will be noted as such in their bios.

If you do not have a fenced yard (and are not willing to install a fence), please do not inquire about these particular dogs. You should also note that not all dogs requiring fences are good candidates for invisible (electronic/radio) fences. Please discuss this with the dog's rescue contact.

If you are planning to fence your yard and are interested in a dog that we have noted requires one, we will not schedule your home visit until your fence is fully installed.


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I have always believed that the TIME spent in the first few days and weeks is the most important time for bonding. The trust has to be there before anything else. Many people may not give those important first days the time it really needs to take and that is why it is hard to trust adopting to those with no fence. I tell people to really spend the time. Do they? Rescuers and shelters cannot know, so it is better to have some rules in place to avoid the dog running away before that bonding has happened. We might take things on a case by case basis but we have to come to it with some guidelines in place to protect the dog.
I can't even tell you how many emails I get a week asking for help finding a dog who got scared and bolted from a new foster, a transporter or a new home. If scared, they will head for the hills. When I had Finnigan here a day or so, I dropped a bag of chicken jerky treats and he ran to the farthest corner of my house. If he had been outside in my yard he would have run to the far back corner, if that fence wasn't there, who knows. After a few more days, I trusted he would never leave my side, but at first it's really a crucial time and the most dangerous time.
This is not directed at anyone in particular but to the people who believe these things. We had our first hate letter a week ago because we denied an application because of the "cheap dog" thing. And the no fence thing comes up time and time again.

And you should not feel that you cannot post your opinion. One of the reasons for our forum is so that people with differing opinions can come, discuss, disagree and learn. There is nothing wrong with that and you are welcome to post your thoughts and your beliefs. We can all learn from each other. This is what The Collective is all about.
Reply from September 6, 2009 at 2:25am

I would like to clear up a few things about our physical fence policy....Please keep in mind that our concern is for the welfare of the dog and what is best for them.....Quite frankly, a home without a physical fence is NOT what's best for these dogs. Invisible fences are simply not acceptable for a number of reasons.....1. these dogs are highly intelligent and they will quickly figure out that a few seconds of pain is what stands between them and the squirrel or dog they are seeking to chase thus they will frequently break through the invisible fence....2.While an invisible fence may deter a dog from leaving it's property, it does NOTHING to prevent other dogs, animals and people that may be a danger to a dog from coming in......Because a rescue dog's history can in many cases be completely unknown to us and their "fight/flight" behavior can be unpredictable, we will generally stick to our policy....Many rescue dogs no matter their breed or mix, do not react well to invisible fence training.

Our rescue insists on a physical fence with adopters who have small children for a few reasons....

It is virtually impossible to monitor the constant whereabouts of an unleashed large sporting dog with high energy levels and retrieving instincts in an unfenced yard when you are simultaneously caring for infants, toddlers or young children under the age of 12.......Our physical fence policy is enforced on a case by case basis..Especially in busy suburban areas such as the northeast (NY,NJ,CT, PA) that surround big cities such as NYC where there is a high volume of automobile traffic on local roads and highways. A dog could easily chase wild animals, other dogs and/or people or simply slip away from you and be lost, stolen or struck by a car in the blink of an eye.........It could happen to anyone but happens more often with first time dog owners.....which brings me to a second consideration.

We generally do not adopt doodles to first time dog owners....(Also on a case by case basis depending on the adopters willingness to educate themselves and their understanding of these dogs and their requirements)...Doodles are highly intelligent, high maintenance dogs in general and if they are rescues or are coming from abuse and/or neglect situations they may come with emotional or behavioral baggage that requires the patience and knowledge of an experienced dog owner. Doodles require a tremendous amount of exercise, grooming, and human interaction....A first time dog owner is more likely to be overwhelmed by this than an experienced dog owner......

Again, our priority is the safety, security, happiness and well being of our dogs......Not to provide "cheap doodles" to people who don't want to pay breeder puppy prices....

I completely understand the commitment to the dogs and their well being. You need to understand, however that in some areas, a physical fence is simply impossible because of the terrain (hills) and prohibitively expensive. For me to install a physical fence would be close to $9,000 and my neighbors would hate me (it would be really ugly). I don't think it's realistic to require this. 

I think a better solution would be to ask new owners with an e-fence to refrain from using it for at least 3 months, and commit to keeping the dog on a leash at all times. Also useful would be to make sure that at least one adult is home with the new dog full time for at least 1 month to allow for bonding. A fence does not take the place of your presence. 


You didn't address the fact that dog is not safe from other roaming dogs some of which would be no match for most dogs, or attacked by bigger or mean dogs.
I did, Patricia in one of the replies. An e-fence does not stop other animals from coming on the property. Actually one of the largest problems is the dog seeing another dog or person and running full tilt through the line. I had a dog trained on the e-fence for years, and every once in awhile, she would see something and go running right out.
Bev, I certainly believe that it should be looked at on a case by case basis. Some rescues or shelters won't do that, but some will and are willing to look at each case individually.

We just got a call yesterday asking for a toy poodle not over 6 months of age and white house broken and loving.  What do they think we have them on the shelf just waiting for a customized dog??  I wish more people knew what rescues really do and just how much hard work we do.  I have been reported for abuse for not adopting a poodle that a person wanted, I have had to take the police to retrieve a dog that the adoptee didn't follow through and gave the dog to their relative instead. I have had to be cursed at and accused of not caring about the dog because I didn't adopt a puppy to their 85 yr old grandmother that couldn't take care of a puppy.  Even threats. You name it I have been through it. 

That is why I try to help people understand why rescue might do certain things like require a fence. The etiquette discussion was begun because people think it's OK to contact shelters and ask questions and the shelter worker got nasty with her. People really need to understand that MOST rescues and shelters have the best interest of the dogs as their top priority. That most are volunteers and don't have time to answer questions. That a dog is not a product to us, that can be bought and sold.
I know that this time of year most wouldn't think of the pool as a problem but I won't adopt to anyone with a pool that is not closed off  or covered, especially since I deal with alot of handicapt dogs.
Sorry didn't read all of the replies, just the initial comment.

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