How to Dog-Proof a Barbed Wire Fence
You might think that having a barbed wire fence is a good barrier for dogs. That's what I thought as well—how wrong I was. I would like to tell you some of the things we have tried and used here on our farm. I will also mention the pros and cons of doing each one. Take a look and see which ones might help you secure your property. These ideas can be used for keeping your own dogs or livestock in or other dogs (coyotes, strays, etc.) out.
It may be that your place already had some barbed wire fencing installed when you moved in, or maybe it is the most cost-effective method of fencing for you. Where we live, our choices were limited to a barbed wire fence or building a wall. The wall and its continued upkeep were way over our budget, so that was a nonstarter for us.
How to Tell If Your Dog Is Getting out of Your Fence
If you aren't sure if your dog is getting out of your wire fence, there are a few indicators to look for. If your dog goes out at night while you're asleep, it may be that the dog will return before you wake up and then it makes it difficult to know if it has been at home or out roaming around your neighborhood. Some dogs are jumpers, some are diggers and others just push their way between the strands of wire. To tell if your dogs are getting out, there are a few different ways to know.
- Check your dog for scratches on the sides, back, or stomach area. These are easier to see if the dog has short hair. On our Doberman, these marks are quite clear. Sometimes these will bleed a little as well.
- Look for well-trodden paths, flatten grass, or digging marks near the wire. Depending on how much land you have and how overgrown it is, this could take some time.
- Another indication is dog hair caught in the wire. If your dog has long hair, this may be caught where the dog has tried to pass through. So although he/she may have escaped the scratches, a mark has been left behind for you to see.
- The next way, is to ask your dog. Huh? Our Doberman isn't the brightest dog so when I said, "Max, show me your hole", she went straight to it. This happened twice. Our other mongrel, was doing a mental eye roll, I'm sure.
Using this as a guide will help you know not just where but also how the dog is getting out and then you can plan how to fix the problem.
Barbed Wire on Wooden Stacks or Posts
Depending on the quality and availability of wood in your area, you may be able to source this for free. Barbed wire on wooden stacks is the most common method we see here. There are many scrub land areas and wood is readily cut by the locals. Depending on where you live, you may have a free source of wood such as this.
The pros are cost, depending on your area, you may be able to cut this for free. The use of a chainsaw would be a benefit depending on the size of stacks you require. If you aren't able to do this, hire someone to cut on your behalf. We had a worker cut for us when we required 6-7' stakes for our young coconut trees. He was able to go to the scrub land adjoining our house and cut 400+ for us. For that purpose, he just used a machete as they only needed to be a couple inches in diameter. Still, all of the wood here is hardwood so they will last a long time.
For using with barbed wire, consider wood that is at least 3” across and as high as you deem necessary. Remember, you will be placing these solidly in the ground, at least 2' deep, so work this into the decision for how high you need them.
We still have some fencing on wooden stacks on our outer perimeter. This is used mainly to keep cattle out and to be used as a property line marker.
The disadvantage is that wood rots and is prone to insects and is less permanent because of this. It also burns, so if you do any land clearance by burning, clear a firebreak near your fence.
Wire and Concrete Stacks
This is how we have the majority of our fencing. When we first moved in we had an uneven land with wooden stacks and we had cows coming under the gap. We hired a digger and a driver to level the land and then workers to put the concrete stacks and barbed wire in. We have wire, spaced about 8" apart and have between 11 and 12 runs. That is a lot of wire and stacks on our 8 acres.
The downside of this method is that it can be expensive. The stacks themselves weren't that expensive but if you have a lot to do, the costs mount up. Plus, with several runs of wire and wages, you can see how the cost can spiral.
The Quality of the Wire
All barbed wire is not created equally. We live in an area with high humidity and a lot of salt air, and metal rusts incredibly fast. We opted for a good quality wire over the less expensive brand as we wanted it to last. We also used some inexpensive wire, which was reused from earlier fencing, and now we are having to replace it. Another thing to consider is the barbs, how close are they? We have just discovered that some of the wire installed by the previous owner has very few barbs.
Whether your dog is a pedigree or a mongrel, you don't want it to get out or others to get in. A good quality wire is essential. Galvanized is best to prevent it from rusting and breaking.
If you are using concrete stacks like we have on our farm, don't forget about the wire you use to tie the barbed wire, it too should be galvanized. Some of our wire wasn't coated or galvanized and now it is breaking off and leaving sections of fencing unsupported. It's a case of the weakest link. If you have good quality barbed wire but poor quality tying wire, your fencing isn't going to be secure or last long.
If you are attaching your wire to wooden posts, you will be using the nails shaped like a U called fence staples. These too, should be galvanized.
Using a Mesh or Netting
For our dogs, the barbed wire wasn't enough. Even with a run at the bottom in the sand. Another option we have used was plastic mesh. This was something we had left over from the time we were doing fish farming. Our fish cages were made from various strengths of these. The advantage for us, we already had it here on our farm. This is usually sold by the meter and the price will depend on the quality of the plastic. Although this did a wonderful job whilst submerged in the water, in the sunlight it became brittle and broke. We have a high UV rating, sometimes up to 11 which falls into the extreme category. It is this that destroys plastic items which are exposed to the light.
This type of mesh may be perfect for where you live. It is black so it is unobtrusive and can be attached with cable ties. Make sure you attach this at the top, middle and bottom. You can judge the spacing that is required. It should be as high as you think your dog can pass through. I would say a meter (39").
We have now erected some shade netting on the wire to use as a barrier. As you can see in the photo. This too we had previously purchased to reduce the sunlight in our garden. It is woven and was relatively easy to hook it on the barbs with two people. One fixing the top and the other at the bottom. This too we have cut to about a meter in height.This should be more robust than the plastic mesh as it is designed to be in the sun.
This is working in most places but you do have to watch for digging. Just this morning my dogs were out playing up on the dunes behind our house. They came back under the mesh. I have since secured this with bricks, and bits of tiles to keep them from digging.
Using Renewable Sources
Palm leaves woven into the wire is one the items we have used as they are plentiful here on our farm. For this, we cut off the large woody end and weave the more flexible part of the leaf through the wire. If you don't have palms, any flexible branches will work. As you continue adding more leaves or branches, the wire becomes more difficult to work with as it becomes tighter.
We have also used sticks such as bamboo. These were hammered into the ground. We left a gap between them but they could sit side by side, creating an impenetrable barrier.
Both the leaves and the sticks look more visually appealing if they are the same level. Leaves can easily be trimmed but sticks will need to be sawn or cut with secateurs.The positive side is this is a renewable source and is often free. However, it can be time-consuming.
How a Dog Gets Through Wire
Remember: a dog can go under, over or through. I have seen my one of my dogs do all three. When my Doberman was younger, she jumped like a gazelle over a lower part of the fencing. Between mine and my neighbor's house, we have a section of fencing that is low, less than a meter. We use this to climb over when we go to visit, instead of walking the long way around. They have wrapped some fabric around the barbs so we don't catch our clothes on it. It was here, Max leaped over.
If the wire isn't pulled tight or the dog is slim, they can pass between the strands of wire. This can also happen if the tying wire has broken or come loose. There are a few things you can do about this. Run an extra strand of wire to make the gap smaller or use a connecting wire in between the strands. This will pull the wires closer together.
Going under the bottom wire is a result of digging or uneven ground. This results in scratches on the animal. In certain places, we have even run a length of wire at ground level. Hammering sticks into the ground or blocking with heavy items seems to be working.
As you can see, we have tried several methods, and some of them work for a time, and some of them don't. If your dog is determined to get out, they will look for the easiest way. Stay vigilant and check your fencing frequently.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Mary Wickison