Training Dogs And Humans For A More Enjoyable Life Together

By Susan Smith, East Valley Dog Training

Answers to questions are based on the information provided. It’s always a good idea to have your pet thoroughly examined by a veterinarian when having behavior problems. Although I can give general information and management suggestions on serious behavior problems such as aggression, issues such as these can be a very serious problem and a certified dog trainer should be consulted. 

My dog loves to run along the fence with the dog next door. Every time he goes into the yard, he and the neighbor dog run the fence, and I can’t get him to stop.

Professional trainers call this “fence fighting.” Many people see this as playing, but in reality, it’s usually aggression and can be dangerous to the humans involved. There are exceptions, but usually, the dogs are friends in other situations, as well. If the only interaction your dog has with the dog on the other side of the fence is fence fighting, you should assume it’s aggression.

Once the dogs are established fence fighters, don’t try to introduce them without the help of a professional, as they have been developing an antagonistic relationship for some time, and it may come to a head during the introduction. And, again, owners can get hurt trying to break up a fight.

Don’t try to stop your dog when he’s in the middle of fence fighting, as he might redirect onto you. It’s very common for owners to be bitten when trying to stop a dog from fence fighting.

I know this is not what you want to hear, but the most effective way to address this is to not let the dog out when the neighbor dog is out. If you’re on good terms with your neighbor, ask them if they’d be willing to set up some kind of system so you both know when the other dog is out. This can be as simple as sending each other a text, or raising some kind of flag, etc.

Otherwise, just go out into your back yard before letting your dog out, and check to see if the neighbor dog is outside. 

You shouldn’t leave your dog out too long under these circumstances, unless you know the neighbor dog won’t be coming out – i.e., no one’s home to let him out, etc.

Additionally, you should get in the habit of supervising your dog when he’s in the yard – this is the hardest part. We all love to just let our dogs out to the backyard, but think of this like latch-key kids – a great way for them to get into trouble! If you have a good system set up with your neighbor, you won’t have to do this, unless you want to train your dog to do something besides fence fight.

Another solution is to block access. Put a visual barrier (such as a tarp or solid fencing) up between you and your neighbor’s yard. Then erect some type of fencing at least three feet from the original fence. This distance between the dogs, along with the visual barrier, should drastically reduce the behavior. The inner fence needs to be tall enough that the dog can’t jump it, and sturdy enough that he can’t break through it.

Again, this is usually an aggression issue, so if you’d like to train your dog to behave differently, please call a professional trainer for help.

Those are some ideas that should help with this problem. But remember, the dog is excited about getting to go somewhere, so you might think about how you can get her more mental stimulation, as well.

If you have questions for the trainer, please send them to:

Susan Smith, CDBC, CPDT-KA, is a dog trainer in San Tan Valley, AZ, specializing in pet dog training as well as cat and parrot training—from obedience behaviors to serious problems such as aggression. She can be contacted at:

Sue is also the owner of Raising Canine, LLC which provides professional education to animal trainers.