Please fence me in...
February 29, 2016 8:24 AM   Subscribe

One of our rotten dogs (pictured here) escaped our backyard last night, almost certainly by jumping the back fence. Luckily, we were able to find him, but once he finds an escape route, he will try it again & again. To rule out this specific exit, I'm considering the idea of planting bushy shrubs along the fence to break up his running start and act as an extra buffer. I have a bit of a black thumb and need help deciding what to plant!

I am not a gardener so I don't really know what the best plants for our climate would be that would offer sufficient bushiness and height. We live in Austin, TX, in a southeast facing house. The fence in question also faces southeast. We have two very tall pecan trees with fairly high canopies back near the fence that provide some shade when they're leafy, but they don't entirely block out the light. It gets hot as hell here in the summer, so whatever we plant will need to survive long stretches of 100 degree heat. The fence in question can be seen here, behind the hammock.

Specifically, I'm looking for suggestions for flowering shrubs or bushes that can tolerate a little shade, so that we can beautify our yard a little in addition to keeping that little jerk in. Bonus points for plants native to Texas and drought-resistant plants! Milo & I thank you.
posted by marshmallow peep to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Shrubs can just provide a ladder of sorts if they are burly, and if he can just blow through them, it won't stop him. You might consider something like a Coyote Roller or a higher, inward facing bit of fence to keep him in instead.
posted by rockindata at 8:42 AM on February 29, 2016 [14 favorites]

Do you have sprinklers that cover that area or are you going to have to hand-water whatever you put there?

You could probably get away with holly if you have sprinklers, or another one of those standard Texas shrubberies that should be available at full force in your Home Depot parking lot right now. You could look into one of the mounding grasses, but they take a while to fill in and might not create enough impediment.

Again if you have sprinklers or can get drip line over there, roses are higher-maintenance but will still be a deterrent even when pruned. Otherwise I'd suggest maybe hydrangea but I think you're supposed to prune them back real hard which might leave too much free space.

One of mine used to be a jumper and we ended up going with mechanical barriers that eventually scared her off from trying anymore, as plants weren't going to grow fast enough to do anything for several years. I am actually really sorry we didn't know about the Coyote Rollers linked above, as they would have been much less a pain in the ass as what we rigged, but then Sophie got too tubby to try jumping anyway she started breaking fence boards with her head so she could get out. (I'm not joking, she's probably done it a dozen times or more. We now live in a house with a cinderblock fence.)
posted by Lyn Never at 8:49 AM on February 29, 2016

It isn't what you asked for, but I know of two instances where wandering dogs became perfectly happy stay-at-homes thanks to electronic collars.

One person has a wired set-up (strand of wire round the perimeter), the other has a wireless version, and in both cases the dogs learned right away not to to escape, and no longer try even when they're not wearing the devices. Both owners said it was like a magical change in temperament and behaviour.
posted by anadem at 9:18 AM on February 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Just from the picture, I strongly suspect that your dog will likely be unimpressed by vegetation. I second andem's suggestion that you consider an invisible fence. I have one for my stubborn Welsh Terrier. At first I had my doubts but it has worked like a charm.
posted by Carbolic at 11:37 AM on February 29, 2016

Best answer: I don't know how well it would work as a doggie speed bump, but I have had luck with growing plumbago as a medium-sized bush in a dry, partly shady spot. I especially like the blue-flowered variety.

Texas sage (cenizo) tolerates some shade, has nice silvery leaves, and explodes with small purple flowers after a rain. Those can get pretty big as well. Good luck!
posted by Tuba Toothpaste at 12:13 PM on February 29, 2016

A note on invisible fences. Some dogs still get through them, and then they usually are hesitant to come back through because of the shock from the collar.
posted by Hanuman1960 at 12:31 PM on February 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

When we lived in New Mexico, Juniper bushes were everywhere because they're all kinds of drought resistant. Like, everywhere. It's the main reason we left New Mexico because it turns out I'm highly allergic. The reason I bring it up is because we had a ton of them in our back yard, which I never watered and they did great back there. If you just let them grow with a bit a pruning, they're perfect for keeping dogs off of fences IMHO, and they also provide all kinds of shade for dogs in hot yards.
posted by patheral at 12:33 PM on February 29, 2016

What kind of backyard fence do you have? Mine was a "privacy fence," with no way to see through it. My dog, who was an amazing digger rather than a jumper, quit his roaming once I replaced the solid wooden fence with (black powdered 4') chain link. He just wanted to watch.
posted by mmiddle at 1:04 PM on February 29, 2016

Sophie the Karate Dog doesn't care about shocks. A dog that doesn't mind hitting the ground from 5-6 feet up is tough to deter with pain.

They do make portholes you can put in your fence at dog height, if you think being able to see might be enough. I considered trying it with Sophie, but was mostly afraid she'd figure out a way to eat through it.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:32 PM on February 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

What is your dog's motivation for escaping the yard? For our Smokey Rose, her drive to catch rabbits and squirrels is so strong that she just ignores pain, so an invisible fence would totally fail (and would do more harm than good). After trying many simpler systems that she eventually figured out how to breakthrough, the Dog-Proofer Houdini fence extension kit finally truly worked to stop her from escaping. Peace in the backyard kingdom at long last.
posted by apennington at 7:41 PM on February 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

whatever you decide on, (I love nerium), it'll need a protective fence for the first several years while growing, and maybe a double fence system is what you need? Two fences so close that your dog can't get enough distance for a jump.
posted by mumimor at 6:42 AM on March 1, 2016

oh man, your dog is super attitude! cute. (oops sorry i have no suggestion on this one :(
posted by stepup at 3:31 PM on March 1, 2016

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