Can a person be a responsible dog owner without a fenced backyard?

by Megan
(Meridian, MS)

My fiance and I are moving to Mississippi where he is training to be a pilot for the Navy. We'll be there for a year and a half and we've decided that it's time for us to get a dog. His family has always rescued pits, so naturally we're pretty set on adopting a pit bull.

However, here in the south it is very common to have a house without a fenced yard, front or back. And for some reason, most home owners that are renting houses with fences don't seem to want dogs in them.

Being from California and growing up in houses with fenced yards, we've never had to deal with this problem before.

So I guess my question is, would getting a dog without having a fenced yard make us irresponsible pet owners? And how would we go about training a dog not to run away without the natural boundaries of a fence?

Gale's Reply:

Hi Megan:

Thanks for your question. While I know some rescues will not adopt out a dog to a home that doesn't have a fence, I believe it is possible to be a responsible owner without one.

To my mind, a fenced yard is a convenience that allows you to go about your business while you are home. But, you are still there should a situation arise that requires your attention. When you are not home
or are sleeping, I believe dogs should be indoors.

So, in that scenario, the absence of a fence would mean that when the dogs are outdoors, you are there with them. And, you would need to be willing to spend enough time outdoors with them to make sure they are getting sufficient exercise.

As far as training a dog to respect boundaries outdoors when you are not present, the only thing I'm aware of is an "invisible fence". But, I'm not a fan of anything that involves a shock collar. And, I've heard of situations where dogs have died from too much voltage and the owner not being present to intervene.

You might want to consider a getting a pen or dog run that you can put up and take down yourself and take with you when you move. You would still need your landlord's permission to put it up while living there. And again, I would not rely on it for containment when you are not present.

Running off isn't the only danger dogs face when left outdoors when owners aren't home. They can be teased, stolen or worse. So, with or without a fence, I would advise you to make your dogs indoor companions who go outside for exercise, play and "to do their business".

I hope this helps. Good luck and feel free to post back here if you have further questions.

Comments for Can a person be a responsible dog owner without a fenced backyard?

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Mar 16, 2011
no fences?
by: Katy

We just recently moved to the south as well, and houses with fences are few and far between. Finding a house that allows dogs especially Pits is best impossible. We bought our house so we are lucky enough not to have to deal with a Landlord. But we do not have a fence yet. We take her out on a leash to do het business and a walk in the evenings. I would never trust my Pit to be outside by herself without a fence, its not that I don't trust my dog, I don't trust other peoples dogs and other people. It's just asking for trouble! And I could never use a shock collar on her.

Mar 16, 2011
Responsible Ownership
by: Anonymous

I live in Alabama and want to begin by mentioning that most rental homes and apartments don't allow Pit Bulls, so if you are renting, please check with the landlord before adopting.

I agree with everything in Gale's reply. To add...When I first got my Pit Bull, Xena, we lived in an apartment, so no fenced yard. Of course you can be a responsible owner without fences, you just have to put in a little more effort. For example, Xena was ALWAYS on a leash outside, even just to go to the bathroom. And walks are a must. As Gale mentioned, when your dog is outside, you will be outside, which I think is responsible owner behavior, fence or not. We now live in a home with a fenced yard and that rule still applies, she is never outside without me.

Pit Bull owners tend to have mixed emotions about taking their dogs to dog parks, but that is an option if you need an open, fenced area, to play. But beware, just because your dog is well behaved doesn't mean everyone else's dog is, which is how problems arise. I would recommend researching this further and forming your own opinion.

Thank You for wanting to help Pit Bulls.

Mar 16, 2011
no fences
by: Terri

I absolutely agree with the others who basically think that a fence is convenience only; it should never be used as a baby-sitter". I live in a townhouse so obviously there is no fenced yard. When the guys got out to do their business, they get let out one at a time on a rope and one of us is either out in the yard or watching from the patio door. They are NEVER left unattended. They're walked several times a week, when weather permits and the snow isn't piled 8 feet deep lol. I'm not a fan of do parks either unless you can find a bully friendly one. It's not my dogs I don't trust, it's everybody elses', and keep in mind that even if your dog doesn't start the fight, they will be blamed for it. It's a risk I'm not willing to take with my boys. But in answer to your question, yes, you don't need a fence to be a responsible dog owner!

Mar 16, 2011
Fences are not always the best way to contain a bully breed
by: Deb A

I don't think having a fenced yard makes you a better owner. Since most of the APBT and other bully breeds are very athletic a standard 6ft fence is not going to keep them in. Most people I know that have bully breeds never trust them alone in a fence - they are always supervised, leashed or put on a secure chain away from the fence/edge of the yard.

You can never trust a dog to not take off to investigate something. With this in mind, letting your pit bull out into a non secured area is irresponsible. For you, I'd suggest either always taking the dog out on a leash or creating a nice, secure, safe chain spot for the dog to hang out on. If I had the space at my house I would LOVE to have my boy outside during the day instead of in his crate in the house.

You also might want to reconsider getting a bully breed until you're settled into a home you own. Having a family member in the service, it's possible you will have to move again and unless you're able to buy a place it could be hard to rent with any of the bully breeds. Just something to consider.

Mar 16, 2011
It depends...
by: Jill R.

I had to surrender one of my dogs to a shelter many, many years ago because I worked too many long hours and lived by myself with my dog in an apartment. So not only was she by herself WAY too many hours in the day, I was often too tired to give her the exercise she needed. I was young and in over my head.

As I was walking away from the shelter after dropping her off, I vowed that I would never get a dog again until I could provide the life that dog deserved... and to me, that included having a fenced in yard (among other things).

When I got married, my husband & I decided to reserve the spots in our home for four-legged children who desperately needed homes instead of human children. We were also (and still are) apartment dwellers and made the decision not to add any dogs to our family until we had a home with a fenced in yard.

But then suddenly there was a pit bull desperately in need of a home and we were his very last hope. And so we had a serious talk about our lifestyle and our living arrangements and then added Gunner to our family... in an apartment with no fenced in yard.

But because of my past mistakes and because of our sincere desire to be the best parents we could be, we've done whatever we need to make sure that Gunner's life is perfect even without a yard.

That means that he goes to daycare during the day and gets lots of exercise with his best doggy friend. He also goes to work with me on the weekends (I work part-time at a Kennel) and he gets to run and play with LOTS of doggies.

That also means that we had to get all bundled up and go out at 11pm when the temperature was -7 degrees and the ground was covered with 8 inches of snow with a half inch layer of ice underneath and walked 2 blocks to his potty spot because Gunner needed to go to the bathroom.

That stuff isn't fun, but we do whatever it takes because we are responsible pet owners.

So where I once believed that it was a very bad idea to keep a dog in a home without a fenced in yard, I now know that it's not always necessary. It just takes more work... but to save Gunner's life... it's totally worth it!

Jill R.

Mar 16, 2011
no fence? no problem..
by: Corinna

I'm from Germany and I always had dogs since I was 2 years old. Therefore I was raised to be a responsible pet owner and walk my dogs 3-4 times a day.
I was working full time and had 2 Bully mixes. So I just walked them for a short walk in the morning so they can do their business, when I came home I took them out to the country for a good 2 hr run and play time, and walked them again for about 20-30min before bed time. No matter if it was raining, snowing or iced over. So when I moved here, the fence was just a convenience. I still walk my dogs because I'm used to nothing else. And I never tied my dogs up anywhere. Dogs are work, but it's worth the time and effort because they give so much back.
As long as you can make sure that your dog gets the proper exercise without being tied up outside, it doesn't matter if you have a fence or not. Just be very aware that you can't just say "it's cold outside" or "it's raining" or any other excuses not to go out there and walk your dog.

Mar 16, 2011
Dogs safety
by: Anonymous

For the dogs safety and piece of mind a fenced yard is necessary. Additionally, with locked gates for the absent minded that might visit your property. (i.e. the gardeners).

I would not have it any other way. I have seen too many of the results that happen to dogs that do not have a proper fenced yard.

Please do not tether your dog, it is cruel and dangerous to the animal.

Yours truly,
Dog lover

Mar 16, 2011
by: Anonymous

Yes you can. You just have to make sure that you make time each day, as other have noted, to be there for them and exercise them. They have so much energy, as you know, and just letting them out into a fenced yard is not enough. You must interact with them, and if available, bring them to a town run dog park. We just came back from spending a month in Florida and I walked our Pit every day and night around the neighborhood. But the most fun she had (and it was the most fun for me too watching her) was when we would go to the town owned dog park. She had a blast. Running, wrestling, and just being the official greeter whenever someone new showed up. She was a very happy pit bull. :)

May 01, 2011
my feeling and missing by baby .
by: Anonymous

we have 7.5 acres of ground . we do not allow our babies to be outside without one of us with them . they are trained by hubby to stay within the yard part of our ground . He takes them on walked around the place . our last baby died . we are missing her so badly . want to get another but hubby says no . no more .. he doesnt want to lose another baby . so i guess its being without for every .

May 02, 2011
responsibility is more than a fence!
by: housewife

I live in Louisiana. Currently renting a home with an unsecured yard. It's not impossible to find a rental allowing pit bulls. You can forget about going through a rental company or leasing agency however! You will have to find a private owner leasing out their own property. Most of what's been said I agree with entirely. I am a stay at home mom and wife. I have ample time to invest in my pit and his outdoor routines, so not having a secured yard is no issue. responsibility for any dog goes beyond having a fenced yard to put it in. I am also against chaining or tying a dog up. we live in a busy upscale county club neighborhood without incident with only a picket fence between our back yard and club tennis courts. my dog loves all the free balls! lol. you just have to be more dedicated and responsible... but the world for this breed would be better if more people took that approach and mentality with or without fenced yards! sadly many don't care so much. good luck, and I think you will make great owners since you are already taking the time to invest in your decision by gaining knowledge on the matter.

May 02, 2011
over the fence
by: Diane

I agree with Deb when she says that pits can jump most fences. My girl was going over a 10 foot fence until I also got an invisable fence. She would not stay in the yard and I was getting complaints from the neighbors. Even so, I only let her out when I am home. She has a doggie door that I block off when I'm at work. To me the fence is "peace of mind". She is safe and gets her exercise.

May 02, 2011
Lessons the hard way...
by: Kristen

Please never NEVER leave your dog home alone in the yard when you are not home regardless of a fence or not.

I hate to even retell this story but people need to be aware and keep their animals safe. I live in a quiet subdivision in a Phoenix suburb...most of the time, not much happens. We came home last week on Easter to a fire truck, police cars, and neighbors standing around a couple houses away from ours. The police had shot a dog that was running around. A pit bull. A beautiful pit bull. (thank god I didn't see him that way tho I wish to God I had been home and maybe could have prevented this tragedy...)

One of my neighbors has a little I don't know what he is dog and had 2 beautiful pittie brothers...only 2 yrs old. I've met them. They were not mean or aggressive dogs. Trained perfectly. But they used to leave them in the backyard sometimes when they weren't home. We are on a quiet street, only reason to be on it is if you live right there. We have cement block fences here. No way in or out except thru the iron & wood gate. They were at her dad's for Easter. Apparantly all 3 dogs had gotten out of yard somehow. Only way could have been if someone opened the gate. There were no holes and they were not jumpers. No way the little one could get over esp. Police were called. No idea where animal control was...The dogs ran back to their yard. One of the pit bulls didn't go in and was running around still. They said he ran toward the cop. I highly doubt it was aggressively tho if there was any it was because he was scared. So the cop shot him. Twice. And still didn't kill him. They took him away still alive. Who knows how long he suffered.

The owners weren't even home. Had no idea. I didn't know that at the time...I thought they had to go to station or animal control. A neighbor had said one of their dogs was still running around. Just in case, I left a note on their step saying how sorry I was about their loss and that I didn't agree w/ what happened and if there was anything I could do to help with anything or finding their missing dog. They called me about an hour later confused about my note. The only thing they knew was animal control left a note saying they had their dog. Nothing else. I had the unfortunate (and unplaned) job of telling them what happened. It was heartbreaking for me...and them. And they couldn't find out if he was still alive until the next day. He was not.

I wish I had been home just a an hour earlier. I could have gotten them back in the yard...I think it's horrendous how the cops handled things. Use tranquilizers or tazers when you know you are going to an animal related call if you have to. This poor dog's family is devasted and his brother is lost.

This is a very hard lesson to learn. Don't leave your dog outside when you are not home. Fence or not.

Aug 02, 2011
Fences aren't the only component
by: Anonymous

I think you can definitely be a responsbile owner without a fence. We have three dogs. We walk them every single say a very long way and they get frisbee time in the yard as well. Our yard is not fenced but they are trained to stay in the backyard. Our yard backs up to a woods, so there are trees/bushes as a natural border. They listen extremely well but we area also very diligent in watching to see any distractions. Strollers, dogs, bikes all ride by in the front street without them doing anything but watching them from the back. We are always out with them for every moment. A person down the way puts their dog out in the fenced yard and the poor thing crys and crys in the heat and cold to come in. We provide so much love, great food and spend 'lots of money to keep them healthy. Unfortunately dog shelters only see that we don't have a fence so they won't let us adopt another dog. Our dogs hunt with my husband, so they are off leash then too. A fenced yard doesn't mean your dog is trained or your dog is treated good, but there are dogs being euthanized because people without fences aren't able to adopt. Ignorance.

Mar 06, 2012
My dog won't ''do her business'' on her chain or leash
by: Jessica

I have a pit as well. We just moved from a home where she had a fenced in back yard, so I was able to just let her out and roam free to do her business. But we recently just moved into an apt building, where there is no fenced in yard. So in order for her to go potty, she needs to be on a leash, or on a chain. The problem is, she's not used to that. She seems to think when I put her leash on her, we're going for a walk, and just play and sniffs around. So I tried the chain, but when I put her on it, she gets confused and will just sit on the porch steps and not do anything. How do I get her to realize that she can't just roam free to go potty anymore and that she needs to do it whether she's on her leash, or on her chain? I don't want her to sit in the house all day while I'm gone having to go potty because she wouldn't go before I left???

Mar 14, 2012
to margret
by: Anonymous

i don't know if they have to but if you got you your was a puppy but you got from a shelter you should of trained it

from infinity ellis

Mar 15, 2012
by: Anonymous

No, she's only been mine for a year, she's at least 3. I haven't known her all her life, she was given to me by a friend who didn't want her anymore.

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