Dogs, Fences, and People: Safety in McCauley

  • Woody is in front. He is a Husky/Lab cross. Izzy is in back. She is a Border Collie/Retriever cross. Both are rescues. Joanne McNeal

McCauley is a neighbourhood where neighbours look out for each other. We love our dogs and they are good company – and they keep us walking. The City has rules for dog owners on its website, such as “dogs must be leashed when outside their own yards.” This sounds simple, but occasionally a dog will get out of its yard, which could cause harm to the dog and others. How high does a fence need to be to contain a dog safely? Several recent incidents in McCauley provide food for thought.

After buying my house in McCauley in 2006, I built a five-foot high wood back fence so my two old gentle dogs would be safe. One day my husky got out the gate and joyfully ran and ran. I ran after her, but she was fast! She ran across 95 Street towards 112 Avenue, and then I heard cars screeching to avoid her. I thought she’d been hit, so I ran home to get the car. But when I got there, she was waiting by our gate like this was a big game! I was glad she was okay, but I worried about the cars that screeched to avoid her – were they and the drivers okay? She could have caused a huge accident, and I would have been liable for injuries and car repairs. Lesson learned.

Another morning, as I walked my dogs on leash, four big dogs jumped a three-foot high wood fence, and attacked my dogs and myself. We tried to defend ourselves, but were overpowered. After very long minutes of dogs snarling and biting, the other dog owners finally came and pulled their dogs away. We had cuts and were bleeding. A neighbour rushed over to see if we were okay, and she called the police, who warned the owners of the four dogs. When an attack occurs, dog owners can be fined and the dogs may be put down. More information is on the City of Edmonton Website under Residential & Neighbourhoods – Pets & Wildlife.

Recently, a neighbour and his family were loading their car, as we approached on our walk. Suddenly, a small dog jumped out their car window and ran towards us, growling and snarling. I was shocked that he attacked two larger dogs, who could easily have killed him. The owners quickly ran over and scooped up the little dog, apologized, and put him back in the car.

I once had a shepherd that jumped/climbed a 10 -foot high chain-link fence when I left him with a local vet. My new front fence is three feet high, with pointed pickets, but my dogs easily jumped over it one day to follow the postal lady with treats. Who knew? Now, they cannot enjoy the front yard. But as I walk around McCauley twice a day, I see many big dogs that are kept behind fences of two to four feet, which they could easily jump over. Please consider the height of your fences, related to the size of your dog.

All these incidents show dog behaviour can be erratic. No matter how domesticated or well-trained they are, they have wild instincts and want to run. Even though a dog may not seem interested in jumping the fence, we never know what will trigger their excitement to jump and run. After all, dogs are descended from wild animals and have many of the same instincts to fight for food, to defend themselves, and to run free. So, please consider the height of your fence before leaving a dog unattended, for the safety of everyone.

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