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Who's on the other side of the fence?

If you have dogs in neighboring yards to yours, your dog might be obsessed with this question! You may see a wide range of behaviors as they try to get this information they so desperately seek, including whining, barking, racing back and forth, jumping at the fence, growling and biting at the fence, and in general losing their heads. 

Why do dogs do this? These displays are one example of a class of behaviors we label “barrier frustration”. Barrier frustration occurs when a dog is unable to get all of the information they want about a given situation, often a social situation, because of a physical barrier stopping them. This can happen behind fences, windows, through doors or gates, or when dogs are on a leash. We typically see this behavior in dogs who have big feelings about the world, particularly dogs and people, but it’s not uncommon when they see prey animals either! 

What can we do about our dogs “fence fighting” with the neighbor dogs? Here are 5 ways to reduce fence fighting in your yard: 

  1. Create more distance between your dog and the fence. This can be accomplished by installing a temporary fence at least 5 feet away from the fence where the dog is fence fighting. Temporary fences can be created with hog-wire or chicken-wire and some T-posts, or using x-pens and ground stakes. This buffer zone often reduces the intensity of fence fighting significantly. 

  2. If you are unable to put up a temporary fence, keep your dog on a long-line in the backyard. By restricting your dog from getting to the fence using a long leash, you can reduce the frustration that builds up at the fence. Using a long-line alone will not be sufficient for many dogs, because being held back on leash can create frustration too, so this method needs to be paired with solid reinforcement based protocols. 

  3. Talk with your neighbor about alternating schedules with your dogs so that they aren’t able to practice the behavior. They are likely not big fans of the behavior either, so they might be happy to discuss ways to reduce these occurrences. 

  4. Build up your recall in the backyard. There are numerous recall games you can play in the yard to increase your dog’s response and enthusiasm when you call them. We love using a variety of Control Unleashed Pattern Games to build up your dog’s engagement and focus on you instead of the neighbor dogs. 

  5. Keep your dog engaged in the yard when the neighbor dogs are out. You can do this by playing your training games mentioned above, or using toy play if your dog likes to play tug, fetch, or find-it with toys. This solution alone can backfire, and get your dog even more amped up about the other dogs over time if you aren’t implementing some of the other methods listed, but it keeps your dog from practicing the behavior in the moment which is key. 

With time, patience, and effort, you can get your dog back to being a polite neighbor! If you are struggling with your dog’s fence fighting behavior, feel free to reach out to us for professional help in solving this problem.


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