If you have ever let your dog out into your backyard on a beautiful day, only to have him run over to the fence separating him from your neighbor’s yard, growling and snarling at his canine neighbor, you know exactly what we mean by “fence fighting.”
Not only is this behavior embarrassing, it’s very disruptive and can also be dangerous for the dogs involved. Many dog owners are also quite dismayed to see their dogs doing this, as the dog is likely usually quite well behaved and non-aggressive.
Before we get into how to discourage or stop this behavior, animal behaviorists are not surprised, as dogs who display a tendency to fence fight are just protecting what they naturally regard as their territory. And as much as you might now like this behavior, they are also protecting you and your family.
Here are some ways to discourage or entirely stop fence fighting behavior:
Go Back To The Basics – Work on the basic, fundamental training commands every dog needs to have mastered, such as sit, stay, come, and settle down or down. Of course if your dog has not mastered these, you need to work on them out of sight of your neighbor’s dog. These commands can be invoked at the first sign of your dog heading for the fence.
Distract and Redirect – This needs to be done quickly before your dog is fully engaged in a fence fight. Quickly engage your dog in a game such as fetching a ball or playing with a toy. This works especially well with dogs who have already mastered recall training.
Leave It! – Your dog may already know this command as many owners use it when they want to get their dog away from something in the house that shouldn’t be touched. You can teach this command as a way for your dog to leave the neighbor’s dog alone. Say “leave it!” in a firm voice, bring your dog inside and then reward him immediately. Also reward your dog when they leave the neighbor’s dog alone.
Better Together – If you get along with your neighbor, ask him or her if they would like to join you when you take your dog for a walk. This will take both dogs out of their respective territories and they are likely to become friendly and less likely to engage in fence wars in the future.
Fence Fix – If all these methods fail, you can try covering the fence or building a barrier so the dogs can’t see one another. This will likely cut down on the behavior but may not stop it altogether, as the dogs can still smell one another.