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How to Dog-Proof a Barbed-Wire Fence

Living on a farm in Brazil, I've gained local in-depth knowledge of food, plants, and traditions, which I share through my articles.

netting on wire fence

netting on wire fence

Keep Dogs Behind the Wire

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. If your dog goes out at night while you're asleep, it may be that they'll 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 push their way between the wire strands. Check for these telltale signs.

  • 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, flattened 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 have caught where the dog gets out. So although your dog 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. As odd as this sounds, this happened twice! Our mongrel was doing a mental eye roll, I'm sure, as she seems to be the more intelligent of the two.

Using this as a guide will help you know where and 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 scrubland areas, and the locals readily cut wood.

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 the 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 scrubland adjoining our house and cut 400+ for us. For that purpose, he just used a machete as they only needed to be a couple of inches in diameter. Still, all of the wood here is hardwood; therefore, they will last a long time.

Consider wood that is at least 3" across and as high as you deem necessary for use with barbed wire. 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. These are mainly to keep cattle out and 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

The majority of the fencing on our farm is concrete stacks and barbed wire. When we first moved in we had 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 eight 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. If you are capable of doing the work yourself, I'd suggest this is your best option.

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 should be galvanized as well.

blocking barbed wire fencing

blocking barbed wire fencing

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 that 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 old tiles to keep them from digging.

Bamboo sticks and wire fence

Bamboo sticks and wire fence

leaves woven in barbed wire fence

leaves woven in barbed wire fence

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 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.

Final Thoughts

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.

© 2018 Mary Wickison


Mary Wickison (author) from USA on May 18, 2020:

You're absolutely right. A determined dog will find a way. The owners need to become a detective and watch for signs. Dogs can be sneaky when they want to be.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 18, 2020:

Your first-hand tips to dog-proof a fence are useful. It must a constant effort to prevents the dogs from sneaking out and some others getting in. That dogs are smart makes it all the more difficult.

RobWVJr on August 23, 2019:

Farmers should do this in Europe to keep wolves out. I mean they started reintroducing them because they killed them all practically. However now the governments want the wolves to be protected, so why don't farmers just do this in Europe. I mean the livestock owners can't shoot the wolves so why not do this? See I see wolves as untamed pets, but they are not pets but they are just wild dogs to me.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on December 03, 2018:

We started with 13 puppies and now have 9. Although I called them Dobermans, my dog is a doberman cross and she ran up on to the dunes (through my fencing) and found herself a friend.

They look like a rotweiller cross, the muzzle is wide. The coloring is also, Doberman or Rotweiller.

However, this is my first time with puppies so maybe they all look like that.

I am giving them the replacement milk 2 or 3 times a day. I hope to start them on some solids, next week. I read on the internet, at 4 weeks I can start on solids. Hopefully at 6 weeks, they will be weaned.

They took to the replacement milk, very well.

Mark dos Anjos DVM from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on December 03, 2018:

Hi Mary it is a rainy day down here in Bahia so I am mostly inside. I was thinking about your Dobie puppies and wondering how things are going up there. Did the milk replacer work out? Do you still have all of the puppies?

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on June 23, 2018:

I think you must be a mind reader. Last week my husband planted some chillies in our raised beds and I wondered if the plant or the peppers themselves could act as a dog deterrent.

I didn't trust my dogs to stay out of the beds, so I put plastic fencing around them.

Even today, we were renewing some fencing where the dogs have pushed through our perimiter fence. I will put cayenne pepper on my shopping list next week. Thanks for the idea.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 23, 2018:

It sounds as if you have tried all different types of methods to keep your dogs contained. Using natural materials on your farm is not only good economically but also attractive as in the case of weaving those palm leaves through the wire.

We once had a dog who liked digging. Once we determined that he often dug in the same spot we put some cayenne pepper in it. Once he got his nose in that he never went back to the same spot. Eventually he stopped his digging.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on April 05, 2018:

Hi Tim,

I think you've hit on a critical point, it is about making their own area, their territory. Ours stay put during the night, and the middle of the day because of the heat. The most tempting times are early morning and early evening.when they're perky.

I hope your terriers stay put after your modifications.

Thanks for your comment.

Tim Truzy on April 05, 2018:

Hi, Mary,

Great article. We have a small pack of terriers, notorious diggers, who used to escape from our fenced in yard. We added chicken wire to the fence, placed bricks and filled in their favorite digging places, and encouraged them to love their yard by helping them identify spots in the area that belonged to them. It's funny: they each have a place now they go to for their "bathroom" moments. We tapped into their territorial behavior. It seems to have worked, until it gets cold, then all bets are off.

But they have not gotten away in a good while, that's comforting.

Thanks for an interesting and informative article.



Mary Wickison (author) from USA on March 22, 2018:

Hi Jo,

You're right, it isn't a good deterrent unless a lot of extra work goes into it. I can't even imagine what it would cost to have chainlink fencing installed here. I can see how that would be a better option for dog control.

I'm glad you're enjoying our adventures. If you'd like to read more, I have a site on Patreon, the link is in my profile. That is more like a blog of short posts.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on March 22, 2018:

Hi Christine,

Isn't it amazing that we can stand there and tell the dog they were wrong, and they just don't care! Although we were sick with worry, they don't seem to care about that.

Being frugal and resourceful is what small time farming is all about. For example, we have a trailer made out of fish cages, a wheelchair, and a chicken shed door. It is great to have a neighbor who is a welder. No idea is too crazy for him.

Thanks for reading, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Jo Miller from Tennessee on March 22, 2018:

We don't have dogs so this is not a problem for us but I have never thought barb wire fences I have seen in this area would be much of a deterrent for dogs. Most people here use chain link fences.

I enjoy reading about your farming experiences in Brazil.

Christine Mulberry on March 20, 2018:

These sound like great tips. I've lived in rural areas for many years (urban ones as well) and although I've never been a farmer, I've known many. They tend to be very resourceful and inventive people in my experience. This is an example of that! Dogs are smart and determined. Even my little long haired dachshund surprises me. She climbs fences and she is oh so proud when she does :)

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on March 19, 2018:

Hi Mark,

I don't think our Fila felt pain with all that loose skin. He had his own agenda but was so quiet when he wanted to sneak out.

I never knew I would spend so much looking for holes in fencing, or a palm leaf pushed aside.

I think I am much more aware of our surroundings and notice if something isn't as it should be. Just this evening when I went to lock the gate, there was a vine snake in one of the coconut trees heading for a dove's nest. Although my husband took it out of the tree, I suspect those baby doves will be gone tomorrow.

My neighbors have a blind cat that comes through our fence, how she has avoided being chomped by our dogs, I don't know.

Most of the dogs here are free to roam the neighborhood.

I guess fence repairs have always been a necessary part of farming.

Great to hear from you.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on March 19, 2018:

Hi Brian,

After I read your comment, I had a look on YouTube about them. I think it is a good idea but not sure how it would work with our set up here, we have long runs of fencing.

We have a 'fairly reliable' electricity supplier (Spanish/Chinese owned).

It is something I will keep in mind if our other methods let me down. Buying anything that needs to be imported costs a lot of money with taxes, import duties etc,

In addition to the the ways I've mentioned above, we are also going to be planting more cactus by the fence. That is also a security measure, as we have had incidents where our wire has been cut.

Plus since our coconut farm will be producing in the near future, theft is a possibility. I'd like to see someone attempt to jump a wall of cactus whilst carrying a bag of coconuts with a Doberman snapping at their heels.

Life in the tropics is always an adventure.

Thanks for your suggestion.

Mark dos Anjos DVM from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 19, 2018:

I just read your comments on your Fila and had to smile. My Fila never squeezes out, she just goes through. She has snapped the barbed wire and ripped up my web fencing; almost every day I have to go out and find the holes to fix. Arent dogs great?

Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on March 18, 2018:

How about an invisible electric fence? Lots of dog owners here in Michigan use those. The dogs learn not to go off the property if they don't want to get shocked. They wear special collars. Of course a steady supply of electricity is needed.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on March 16, 2018:

Hi Dora,

Yes, it is a shame that you have to protect your property from canine invaders when really it is the responsibility of the owners.

You are right, dogs can get through incredibly small gaps. When we had our Brazilian mastiff, he would squeeze between a wall and a fence post erected right beside it.

Sometimes, it is enough to test the patience of ourselves and the neighbors.

Great to hear from you, have a wonderful weekend.

CaribTales on March 16, 2018:

Thanks for sharing from your experience. Excellent comprehensive coverage of the topic. My challenge is keeping dogs out. It's amazing how they get through small spaces.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on March 15, 2018:

Flourish, we too have had some dogs push through our fence. One was killed by our Brazilian Mastiff. My neighbor's mongrel dog grabbed one of my guinea fowl, and others come to visit, like your neighbor's dog.

We seem to spend more time controlling dogs than we do farming!

At least your neighbor's dog meant no malice.

For some reason, the mongrels here just love to wander. I think it is the Brazilian way, they just love to be sociable.

Thanks for your comment.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on March 15, 2018:

Hi Mary,

It can be a worry and dogs can be so determined. Keeping the dogs tethered, isn't kind but sometimes is the better option. It is an ongoing problem, as our dogs are part of our security here, not pets. A tied dog is no security.

Good fencing and frequent checks are needed.

Two days ago, I woke to find our Doberman chewing on a bone which I can only assume was a pig's leg. I have no idea where she found that.

It's good to know I am not the only one who has this ongoing problem.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 15, 2018:

You gotta love dogs and their determination. I'm convinced that any barrier is seen as a challenge rather than a deterrent. We used to have a neighbor with a digger dog, an energetic teenage puppy, who would escape his yard no matter what they'd do so he could come visit me. I'd look out my living room window at several points throughout the day and there he was looking back at me. sometimes he'd just sit under my trees and watch the squirrels play. My indoor and outdoor cats didn't appreciate his antics but he was a sweetie.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 15, 2018:

Our dogs do the same. They go out when the gate is left open. They have serious cuts or sometimes, we have serious complaints from the local authorities as they run after people passing by. We have barbed wire, too, and they have their own way of getting out when they like. We don't want people to get hurt as well as the dogs so we keep the fence in order.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on March 15, 2018:

So true Bill. I often wonder who is running the show around here.

Here, many dogs are left to roam and often visit several neighbors. The country dogs also have better 'road sense' than city dogs. We seem to be the only ones concerned with keeping our dogs within our land.

I hope your weather is warming up for you, enjoy the weekend.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2018:

The longer I am involved in urban farming and farming in general, the more I'm convinced that the animals are smarter than their owners. They always, and I mean always, find an escape route. Put them in Alcatraz and they could find their way out of that maximum security prison as well. :) Good suggestions, Mary....have a great weekend!