Dog Training Tip: Fence Aggression

This is for general information only. Please consult a variety of reputable resources, including a reputable dog behaviour professional. 

Walking past a yard containing a dog aggressively charging the fence is stressful for everyone. Every repetition of the event will increase the likelihood that the aggressive behaviours from the dog in the yard will occur again in the future, and likely more intensely. It’s a situation where the dog does not get used to it but instead becomes sensitized to it.

There are numerous devices and methods that are designed to suppress aggressive behaviours at the fence by delivering a consequence that causes the dog physical discomfort or anxiety. Dog training that tries to suppress the behaviour are more likely to increase the stress of the dog and make the aggressive behaviours worse, cause new unwanted behaviours, and lead to a dog that aggresses without the warning signals that have been punished.

But what’s the owner of such a dog to do?

Firstly, be sure that your fence is secure to keep everyone safe.  You may want to consider installing a second fence along the edges (or just the problem edge) to create a section of empty space several feet wide. This added distance could be helpful for the dog’s stress levels, as well as the ones for those on the other side of property line fence.

Secondly, set up other management and safety strategies to help to promote safety and help to reduce the intensity and frequency of the behaviours. This may mean keeping your dog inside during times of the day when the fence line is “busy” so to speak. It may mean taking your dog outside while on a harness and leash until the dog’s training has improved. Changing the type of fence may be helpful, as well (some dogs do better with fences that prevent the dog from seeing what is going past on the other side).

Thirdly, get help from a reputable professional  sooner rather than later because it’s much easier to change the behaviour when it’s mild than when it’s severe.  Be sure the person you hire understands how to address the underlying emotions that are causing the aggressive behaviours. TIP: “Dominance” is no longer scientifically acceptable and the theory of dominance to explain dog behaviour was disproved several decades ago.  

Here is a video of one way to use positive reinforcement training to reduce fence aggression. Of course, finding a way to reduce the dog’s arousal levels will help make the training much more effective.



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