Tall fences make great neighbors.
I find this saying to be very true, unless there is a barking dog on the other side of the tall fence.
Fences are a necessity for keeping your dog safe. It keeps them out of the street, away from people and dogs walking in the neighborhood, and gives you some peace of mind knowing you can open the back door and they go out to a safe space to play or potty.
Most of us have neighbors that also have dogs and enjoy the same luxury of having a fenced in area to let their dogs have some freedom.
Does your dog get his “exercise” running this tall fence with the neighbor’s dog? Does he whine at the door to go out and bark and run up and down the fence over and over again? Do you think, “Great Fido is getting his exercise for the day!”
What if I told you this creates most of the behavior problems I see?
Running the fence line is not a healthy activity for any dog to be participating in. Why? Lets take a look at it from the dogs perspective! At first your dog goes to the fence to say hello to the neighbor’s dog, then they get excited and start bouncing up and down the fence trying to interact in normal doggy fashion. This would look like some butt sniffing, some play bows, and a rousing game of tag where each dog could chase and be chased alternatively. Now the fence is in the way. Dogs communicate primarily by body language and visual cues, so if they don’t have a clear way to communicate things get very frustrating very quickly.
Take a quick trip back in time with me to the very first cordless phones. (yes, I am old enough to remember corded phones!) They were big and clunky and if the antenna was not all the way out you couldn’t really understand the person on the other end. Imagine if that was every interaction you had with people. Only getting part of the conversation and really struggling with understanding what you could hear. So frustrating!
(skip this if you are not super nerdy like me!) When you are frustrated, your brain releases chemicals that respond to that stress (cortisol). Cortisol puts your body in a fight or flight scenario and it takes a long time to get rid of that chemical. If your dog is frustrated about the dog next door every time he goes outside, he is building up a store of cortisol which is keeping him on edge and amped up. Symptoms of increased cortisol levels can be seen as the inability to settle down, excessive barking, lack of sleep, and my most common scenario, redirected aggression to a housemate or person in the way of the barking and running the fence.
What does this mean for you?
First, don’t let your dog fence fight with the neighbor’s dog. If you do have an issue with your dog fence fighting, then add some management to your routine. Come up with a signal system for your neighbor, letting them know when your dog is out and have them do the same to keep your dog from practicing behaviors that you don’t like. Leash walk your dog outside and reward them for paying attention to you instead of the fence. Work on a really solid recall so you can call your dog away from the fence if the other dog starts barking.
This is not one of those behaviors that will magically disappear overnight. It takes some commitment and training to get your dog to a better mental state in these situations. If you find yourself struggling with what to do next, contact a local professional to help get you on the right track. Of course, if you are in the Hampton Roads area, I am happy to help! Visit my website www.thefreckledpaw.com to schedule a consultation appointment.