Good fences make good neighbors, so says Robert Frost in his poem “Mending Wall,” but I doubt our canine friends would agree. If you and your dog have ever shared a fence line with another family with dogs, you’ve probably experienced more than a few fence line wars.

Why do fence line wars occur?

Take two dogs, put a fence between them, and voila! You’ve often got a recipe for disaster. Chain-link fences allow your dog to see, but not get to, the other dog, but wood fences are just as frustrating, as your dog can still hear and smell his neighbors. What at first might seem like harmless play at the fence can easily escalate into ceaseless barking that annoys other neighbors or worse.

Fence line wars occur because the fence acts as a barrier, which causes frustration to the dogs on either side of it. This frustration can lead to aggression toward the dog on the other side of the fence. Unfortunately, it can also lead to aggression toward humans there, too. Fence line wars can get dogs so riled up that even the sweetest family dog can display uncharacteristically unfriendly behaviors.

Why fence line wars are dangerous

Dogs may try anything to get to the other side of the fence, including trying to go over, under or even through a fence. Injuries are easily sustained in these maneuvers, not to mention those that come from interactions that may occur once the other side of the fence is reached. Having dog insurance from Petplan pet insurance can help your family deal with any unexpected injuries that may arise from having a less-than-fearful Fido.

Training tips to stop fence line wars

Fence line wars tend to escalate with time, so it’s best to nip them in the bud as soon as you notice them. Teaching your dog good fence line behavior should start at puppyhood, but this advice doesn’t help the person who is dealing with wars in an adult dog. The most important part of retraining your dog around the fence is by making sure they come when you call them.

“Come” is an extremely important command to teach. It can be lifesaving in the case of a dog who is darting into a busy street, or sanity-saving, as in the case of fence line wars. The main objective in training a dog out of bad fence behaviors is to turn the attention from the other dog to you. Positive reinforcement is the best way to accomplish this, either in the form of a particularly tasty treat, or lots of pets and praise to reward him for listening.

Practice makes perfect

Go outside with your dog and intercept bad fence line behavior. It’s best to catch your dog before he even gets the slightest bit excited about the fence. Stand in the middle of the yard, and if your dog so much as looks at the fence, call him to you and treat him for coming to your call. In the beginning, you may find it helpful to have your dog on a safety line or leash to help him learn what you want, and to avoid access to the fence. Any time your dog acts interested in the fence line, call him to you and reward him. If the neighbor’s dog is already in the back yard, don’t wait for him to lure your dog in. Call your dog to you at the first sign of noise from the other dog. Soon, he will learn that you are FAR more interesting than the fence, or what’s behind it.

Unfortunately, until your dog can curb his enthusiastic fence activity, every visit to the backyard will need to be supervised. Allowing your dog unsupervised access to the fence allows him the chance to backslide, making all of your previous hard work null and void. Getting rid of bad behaviors requires time and patience, but it will all be worth it when the never-ending nightly bark-a-thon at the fence finally quiets down. And your neighbors will thank you, too.

Feb 5, 2013

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