Dog running up and down the fence line may appear like an innocent behavior, but with time, it can progress into a severe problem that can become more difficult to eradicate. Preventing your dogs from engaging in “the fence running exercise” in the first place is a good management strategy that prevents them from rehearsing undesirable behaviors and keeps them out of trouble. Preventive steps entail training, and if feasible, setting up your yard to avoid practicing problematic behaviors.
Stop Dog Fence Running
Here’s What You’ll Need
- Long line
Step 1: Recognize the Problem
Running up and down fence lines is a dog behavior that tends to escalate with time. If your dog is exposed all day to stimuli that excite him, frustrate him, scare him or cause him to stress, the behavior risks becoming habitual and even addictive over time. High arousal levels combined with frustration in dogs can spill into aggressive behaviors, which can be problematic if your dog escapes the yard or a child leans against the fence. Preventing your dog from engaging in this behavior will lower the chances for problems.
Make sure your dog has plenty of opportunities for exercise and mental stimulation during the day. A bored and underexercised dog may be looking for ways to fill his time and get rid of pent-up energy, result in fence running and other undesirable behaviors.
Step 2: Change the Emotions
Because fence running behavior in dogs is often triggered by fear and anxiety, changing the way your dog feels about stimuli on the other side of the fence is helpful. This can be accomplished through the open bar, closed bar technique, a behavior modification method based on classical conditioning. In this case, you would keep your dog on a leash at a distance from the fence. Every time the stimulus that causes the fence running behavior passes by, feed your dog high-value treats exclusively given for these sessions. After some time, your dog should understand that the treats are contingent only in the presence of the trigger. Instead of dreading its existence, he’ll look forward to seeing it.
Step 3: Train Your Dog
Once your dog’s emotions about the trigger on the other side of the fence change, you may find it helpful to train your dog to respond to a command that stops him from engaging in the fence-running behavior. A strong recall command used the moment you notice your dog’s intent of running by the fence line is an excellent way to interrupt an undesirable behavior and encourage a desirable one. Follow these tips:
- To help your dog succeed, use a long line at first.
- Keep him on the line and work on training him to come when called from short distances and low distraction areas at a distance from the fence line where he’s better under control.
- Use high-value treats to reward him.
- Progress by getting gradually closer and closer to the fence line and asking for recalls from longer distances.
Keeping your dog alone in the yard with nobody there to redirect him, will cause your dog to rehearse the problem behavior and undo your training. If you’re having difficulty training your dog, consult a reputable trainer.
Step 4: Accept the Limitations
While changing your dog’s emotions and training is helpful, it’s essential to realize that the fence running behavior may never totally go away. The best course of action for fence runners is not to leave these dogs unattended outside and to install a visual barrier. The barrier should block the dog’s ability to see stimuli, so he has fewer chances of becoming reactive. Albeit expensive, a brick wall or privacy fence works best. If you own a see-through fence such as a chain-link fence, use slats to limit exposure. Tarps or plywood, on the other hand, may offer a temporary solution.