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What is Dog Eared-Fencing? Advantages? Disadvantages?

What makes dog-eared fencing different than all the rest? Surprisingly, a lot. If you want to find out if it’s right for your yard, read on, we’ve done all the research to give you a complete understanding of its uses.

A Dog Ear is a common colloquial term for a page of a book that is folded over, resembling the floppy folded ears of your favourite beagle or golden retriever. In the form of a fence, it has its advantages and disadvantages, so we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about this special kind of fencing.

If you still don’t know what we’re talking about when we say “dog eared fencing”, simply put, the top edges of the wooden fence boards are shaved off on either edge, creating a hexagonal end. This image is a great example:

Wooden dog-eared fence design

In reality, the shape of the board can be made in any material, and the boards can be spaced apart, or flush together, to create different levels of privacy. This article will cover the materials needed for dog eared fencing, the advantages, disadvantages, and then a complete how-to guide for making one yourself. Finally, we’ll outline some alternatives if after all this, you decide it’s not right for you.

Materials

Cedar, treated lumber and whitewood are woods commonly seen in dog-eared fences. Composites, which are made of both wood and plastic together, are also being used more frequently to manufacture dog-ear and other styles. While maintaining a very close appearance to wood, composite doesn’t require the upkeep that wood does. If you’re looking to build your own fencing, along with the actual boards, you will need stakes, string, a tape measure, ready-mix concrete, screws, and a few other tools for installing. If you want to learn about all the tools needed, head to our article on fence-building tools!

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You could buy the boards dog-eared, which would be a lot easier, or if you really want a DIY project, you could saw the edges yourself. The boards will come at many different heights, from 2 feet to 8 feet regularly, and you can always get them custom. Getting the wood pressure treated will make it more durable and less susceptible to decay, insect infestation, mold, and water damage. Some pressure treatments can even make the wood fire retardant. Pressure-treating is actually a very interesting process!

To make pressure-treated wood, lumber is first placed in a pressure chamber comprised of a horizontal steel cylinder, that resembles a rail car. Once the lumber is secured in the cylinder, a vacuum removes the air from the cylinder and resultantly from the cell structure of the lumber. The chamber is then flooded with treatment chemicals under 160 pounds of pressure. The treatment chemicals are driven into the cell structure of the lumber, making it resistant to decay.

Whether you choose dog-eared or regular boards for your fence, getting pressure-treated wood can be a great way to make them last for many years. The only downside is they tend to be more expensive. Now, let’s get into the pluses and minuses of choosing dog-eared fencing!

Various types and designs of dog-ear fences

As with most fence options, you can build variations of the main concept.  This is definitely the case with dog-ear fences.  Above is an example of a flat.  However, you can create patterns such as the following:

Example of patterned dog-eared fence design

Or something in between the above two examples – a flat top but gaps between the board such as the following:

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Dog eared fence with gaps between the boards

Advantages of Dog-Eared Fencing

If you like to add a little style to everything you do, the dog-eared fence is right for you! The style helps to break up the straight edge of a flat-topped fence and add a little extra depth. It is, however still a simple design so it remains inexpensive in comparison to other decorative fences, which makes it a popular design among home builders, especially those on a budget (which, let’s be honest, is most of us).

1. Inexpensive

There are two fronts that make the dog-eared fence much less expensive than other decorative options. First, the materials themselves are simple, and even compared to the weight of regular panels are less. Compared to all decorative fencing, the cost of the panels will be lower as well. Second, because they are easy to install, hiring a contractor to do the job will be less expensive than any other more elaborate or custom installations. The actual materials you choose will influence the cost, but they always will.

2. Wind Porous

The space between the top of the boards creates a path for wind to pass through, meaning you can get more airflow through your yard, and the fence itself will be less susceptible to strong winds. If a strong wind hits a solid board, with no way to pass through, the force can be enormous. Instead, creating a hole means some of that force gets distributed through the panels and isn’t exerted on the structure of the fence. If you want visual protection, but to still feel the outdoor breeze, this is also a great option. The additional opened up visual space can also be great for curious little ones, who want to see what’s going on outside the fence. There are some dogs that just go wild when another dog passes by that they can’t see, sometimes opening the boards up slightly can help with this too.

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3. Cement-Free

A dog-eared fence can be installed without cement foundations. This is a highly personal decision, but depending on the purpose, you can install the beams directly into the ground. Instead, you can just dig a hole, fill it with gravel, insert the post, and then fill it in and tamp it down. Avoiding using concrete can make the process much less of a pain, so especially if you’re doing it DIY, this could be ideal.

4. Beautiful, Traditional, yet Modern

The dog-eared shape mimics elaborately detailed finishing, like some wrought iron fences, in a simpler form, while also evoking a simple traditional and utilitarian style. Simultaneously, it is timeless. It can be interpreted as traditional, or modern – depending on your hard and home. The versatility makes it available to many people with different aesthetic tastes.

5. Easy to Construct

If you don’t have much experience working with wood, or doing outdoor work, fear not ! This could still be a project for you. There are pre-fabricated boards, panels and posts that make the job an easy step-by-step process. You could also choose to hire someone to do it for you, easy-peasy. These kinds of project, however, can be a wonderful way to get your hands dirty, improve your home, and create something you’re proud of. I would always recommend trying new home-renovation projects yourself, if you have the time!

Disadvantages of Dog-Eared Fencing

I have to say, there aren’t many disadvantages, but for the sake of being thorough, we’ll lay out some possible downsides that you could encounter using dog-eared fencing.

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1. Inward Facing Supports

In order to execute the style of the dog-eared fence, the support panelling needs to go on one side of the fence, and often homeowners choose for it be on the inside. It makes a lot of sense to want the outward facing design to be sleek and put together, but if you really aren’t concerned with that, you could thrown caution to the wind and put the supports on the outside. As far as fence designs go, this idea feels like putting it inside out, but at the end of the day its your fence; your call.

2. Less Sturdy than some options

There are some fences out there that will last almost forever. Wrought iron fences have remained in the ground for centuries, while anything made of a natural material like wood will decay over time. That being said, there are different materials you can use that will stand the test of time. A posted fence like this one though, will not act as a strong barrier like one made of stone or supported metal. For most homeowners’ purposes, however, this shouldn’t be an issue.

3. Simple Design

If you are going for an ornate look in your yard, something that evokes the secret garden, then the dog-eared fence may not be right for you. Aesthetically, it is a step up from a simple squared top fence, but it is still relatively simple. There are so many other options, which you can find in our article on wooden fence ideas.

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How to Make Dog Eared Fencing

Before starting any project, you’ll want to review local building codes, and make sure you don’t need a permit to build. Then, it is also important to consider your property lines: make sure to consider the full width of the fence, and then place the lines accordingly so as to not infringe on neighbours’ property.

1. Build Basics

Mark the layout of your fence using string and stakes. You can place the strings just 6 inches above the ground, and mark where the posts will go with stakes. Measure the sections of dog ear picket fence you will be installing. In most cases, the sections will be 8 feet in length. Therefore, you should space your post holes about 4 feet apart. This will allow you to use three posts for each section of fence. Then, dig your post holes. Place concrete or gravel in the hole before putting in the post. Install corner posts and tap a nail into the top of each. Line up your posts with this string to guarantee an even fence. Stay motivated! These are just the first steps, but soon you’ll have a beautiful fence.

2. Cut Your Own Boards

To cut your own dog-ear boards, cut one board to 4-feet in length, and use this board as a guide for the rest of your boards. Fasten a stop block and a miter saw to the workbench. Carefully lay out cuts at 45-degree angles. Start 1.25 inches from the edges of the board.

4. Install Fence Sections

Once the concrete that supports the posts has dried, or you have sufficiently tampered down the soil and gravel over the hole, you can start installing the dog ear fence sections. To do this, carefully align the first section of fence on the outer corner of the first post. Then use your nail gun or hammer to attach the section to the first post. Continue nailing the first piece of dog fence to the first three posts. Then, continue adding sections of fencing and nailing the fence to the posts.

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Alternatives to a Dog-Eared Fence

1. Wrought Iron Fence

Personally, I think wrought iron fences to be just beautiful, evoking a form of craftsmanship that is severely lacking these days. There are so many historic wrought iron fences that can be seen in cities around the world. If you’re going for an elevated look, this may be your fence!

2. Traditional square-topped fence

This option is so simple, easy to execute, and provides complete coverage. There is no going wrong.

3. Picket Fence

A picket fence is a very similar structure, with a different finishing touch. Instead of the dog eared top, the boards are finished with a pointed edge. This is really up to aesthetic preference.

4. Stone fence

A stone fence is such a sturdy and beautiful option. It is a lot more work, but it may be well worth it if you want to build something that will last a lifetime.

5. No fence at all!

While this may be taboo in your neighbourhood, it is always possible to not install a fence if you don’t need it.

If you want to see all of your fence options, check out our epic backyard fence designs guide here.

Making decisions around your home can be fraught and challenging, but it doesn’t always have to be that way! Getting it right is important, but ultimately it can be just what feels right. This article hopefully informed you on why to choose dog-eared fencing, or potentially why not. A fence is a way to provide your yard with privacy, but it will always be an interplay between protection and openness. You want your outdoor space to feel expansive, yet private; calm, yet vibrant. Striking the right balance can be achieved through the right fencing, along will landscaping and gardening. This cheap, easy option could be a wonderful solution to your needs!

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