Fence fighting between dogs is one of the most common nuisance behaviors that I talk to dog owners about. A lot of owners will shrug it off, insisting that “they just want to play”. Sometimes, that is true. We see it out here sometimes:
Dogs will engage in fence fighting ferociously along the fence. One of our staff members sees this happening, and they open a gate. Suddenly, the dogs relax and greet each other.
The instances of this scenario playing out are somewhat rare though. Fence fighting leads to a very high arousal level in dogs. Many times this can lead to actual fights between dogs if they break through the fence, injury to your dog, or even a redirected bite onto their human.
Fence fighting encourages behaviors that could lead to trouble in other areas:
- Increases the possible aggressive reactions and conflicts that can occur with your dog.
- Dogs who fence fight frequently can develop reactivity on leash.
- The barrier issues they are having with other dogs could start translating to humans as well.
- Dogs can start experiencing socialization issues, if their main source of canine interaction is fence fighting with the neighbor dog.
How Do We Stop Our Dogs From Fence Fighting?
Clearly, we should discourage this behavior as much as possible, but how do we go about doing that? There are a few things dog owners can do to train this behavior. The most effective method of stopping fence fighting is management. Management combined with training is even more effective. But where to start.
With most training that involves undesirable behaviors, management is your first step. The more your dog gets to practice a behavior, the more difficult it will be to stop. Making it as difficult as possible for your dog to practice the behavior will make the training go faster and more smoothly. So what management can we do?
If you have a chain link, or see through fence, consider changing to a privacy fence. You can also get vinyl strips that lace into the chain link and block vision. You could also consider a fabric cover, or something similar to make it more difficult to see through. There are several options for vision blocking through chain link fence.
You can also consider building a second fence line a few feet away from your current one to create an airlock, if the above options don’t work for your situation. Creating distance between the dogs can make the fence fighting less intense and deescalate the situation. It may stop the fence fighting entirely depending on how big the airlock is. Even something as simple as a pallet fence could achieve this for some dogs.
If fencing improvements are not an option, the next step would be not letting your dog outside without you. For a dog that is a particularly intense fence fighter, you can try keeping them on a leash in the back yard if your neighbor dogs are out. This is not always the most ideal situation for us humans. But, it’s more ideal than dealing with the fallout of continued fence fighting.
If you get along with your neighbors, you can always try making a back yard schedule. Talk with them and find out how they feel about the situation. If they aren’t thrilled either, then you can try scheduling whose dog gets the yard at what time.
Training your dog to stop fence fighting
Now that we have managed the behavior, how do we train it? I always recommend consulting with a professional certified trainer. Even one lesson to show you the ropes can result in drastic improvement. However, here are some skills that can come in handy when working through fence fighting.
Recall/Coming When Called
Getting your recall as solid as possible is a great way to work through fence fighting. Being able to call your dog away from the fence line can cut things short very easily. Working on recall with fence fighting can be difficult though. The fence fighting itself can be much more rewarding for the dog than coming to a person.
The key to working on recall in these situations is to practice, practice, practice. Call your dog when you don’t need him, and then release him back to what he was doing (not fence fighting though). Start by practicing in low distraction environments. Treats or other rewards can go a long way here. Practice inside your house until your recall is bullet proof inside. Then take it outside when the yard is quiet. Practice outside until it is bullet proof.
When your recall is top notch outside under low distraction, begin to practice when the neighbor dog is out, but practice on a long line (very long leash) and inhibit your dog’s ability to get to the fence. Continue to practice until your dog easily turns away from the fence line.
Working on teaching your dog to relax in the backyard can also help with fence fighting behaviors. Go outside with your dog on leash and reward any relaxing behaviors. Sit on a blanket and enjoy the day, occasionally treating your dog for relaxing with you. You can also do this when your neighbor dog is out. Reward any volunteered eye contact, sits, or downs. If you are consistent with this, your dog will default to offering these behaviors instead of fence fighting.
Work hard with your dogs
The key to fixing any problem behavior is hard work, routine, and remembering changes don’t happen overnight. If you find yourself frustrated with the situation, and you just don’t know where to start, let us know. Our certified trainers are always happy to help you get off on the right foot.
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