5 Ways to Stop Dog Fence Fighting
Having a fenced backyard for your dog to run and play in is the dream of many pet parents, but that dream can quickly become trouble if you share a fence with another dog. Fence fighting can often be mistaken for playing, but it’s aggressive behavior that needs to be resolved quickly.
Read on to learn more about what fence fighting is, what causes it, and how you can stop fence aggression in your dog.
What is Dog Fence Fighting?
Dog fence fighting happens when there are two dogs on opposite sides of a barrier, typically a fence between two adjacent properties. Dogs experiencing fence aggression typically bark, lunge, and may even attempt to climb the fence.
Even dogs that show no signs of reactivity toward dogs in a different setting may suddenly show these symptoms when a barrier is put between them and another dog.
There are two common causes of dog fence fighting: barrier frustration and territorial instincts.
Barrier frustration is a phenomenon that happens when a dog is presented with a stimulus but the access to that stimulus is blocked.
Your dog is shown another dog on the other side of the fence, but they have no way of actually interacting with that dog. Because of this, your dog gets frustrated and that can quickly snowball into aggression.
The trigger for your dog’s fence aggression also doesn’t have to be visual—it can be triggered by the sound of another dog as well.
Many dogs feel an instinctual need to protect and defend what they feel is their territory.
When your dog sees or hears another dog through the fence, they don’t understand that the barrier is dividing two different properties. Instead, they feel like the strange dog is invading their home, and they turn to aggressive behaviors as a means of self-defense.
The fence acts as a barrier between the two dogs which only amplifies your dog’s anxiety and frustration.
How to Stop Fence Fighting Behavior in Dogs
If your dog is currently engaged in a fence fight with your neighbor’s dog, it’s important to take steps to correct the behavior as quickly as possible. Here are five ways to help stop your dog’s fence-fighting behavior.
- Work on Obedience Training
The first step towards curbing any unwanted behavior in your dog is to establish a solid foundation of training.
When dogs are engaged in fence fighting, they’re likely well over their threshold for learning and listening, so it can be tough to get their attention.
Working with your dog on basic commands, especially in a distracting environment, can help you get your dog’s attention faster or even prevent the fence fighting in the first place with a preemptive command.
Important obedience commands to work with your dog on include sit, stay, and a reliable recall.
Once your dog has a solid understanding of basic commands, you can move on to another important training skill: impulse control.
Impulse control is your dog’s ability to stop and think about a behavior rather than acting on their first instinct. Typical impulse control training involves teaching a “leave it” command that you can use to keep your pup from picking up potentially toxic items off the ground.
The same concept of “leave it” can be applied to other situations where you want your dog to practice control, like not reacting to your neighbor’s dog when they hear them in the backyard.
To initially train the command, you’ll need some high-value treats. Place a treat in the open palm of your hand and wait for your dog to go after it. Immediately close your hand to keep the treat from your dog.
Open your hand again, and watch your dog’s reaction. If they hesitate to reach for it, reward your dog with the treat. Reward them for short hesitations at first, then slowly build the duration.
When your dog understands “leave it,” you can work on translating the command into other situations. For example, tell your dog to “leave it” if they start to bark at your neighbor’s dog. If the barking stops, even for a small moment, reward them.
- Keep Your Dog Leashed in the Backyard at First
While it’s tempting to let your dog run free in the backyard, it’s hard to work on training new behaviors without also controlling your dog’s environment.
Stopping fence fighting behaviors requires consistent positive reinforcement and counter-conditioning training. If your dog can run out into the backyard, they can easily run up to the fence, start barking, and undo the progress you’ve made with their training up to that point.
Instead, take your dog out on a leash when the other dog is in the backyard. Start at a large distance away from the fence and reward your dog for calm, quiet behavior. Over time, with your dog still on a leash, you can shorten the distance between your dog and the fence, rewarding each step of the way for calm behavior.
Once you’ve worked with your dog for long enough on the leash, you can start to work with your pup off-leash. This is where the obedience fundamentals come in because your dog will need a reliable recall.
If you have a chain link fence or a fence where your dog can easily see into your neighbor’s yard, it’s a good idea to build a better visual barrier. For many dogs, out of sight is really out of mind, and if they can no longer see the neighbor’s dog, their hostility and anxiety may go away.
If building a taller, more solid fence isn’t an option, consider planting a garden of dog-friendly plants that can act as a visual buffer.
Sometimes the best way to tackle an issue is to talk directly to your neighbors. While they won’t be able to completely solve your dog’s fence reactivity, you can help them understand the issue and create a plan of action with them.
You may schedule a walk or a playdate with your neighbor’s dog to help your dogs become better acquainted. You can also learn your neighbor’s schedule, so you can stagger when your dogs are outside to prevent possible fence fighting.
Is Your Dog Struggling with Fence Aggression?
Dog fence fighting is a common struggle for many dog parents, but there are ways that you can help your dog feel less anxious and hostile toward your neighbor’s dog.
With a better understanding of what’s triggering your dog’s reactivity and consistent training sessions, you can help make the backyard a fun, happy place for your pup again.