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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ask the Dog Trainer:
My Dog Climbs the Fence!

by Michael Baugh, CPDT-KA, CDBC
© redjar via
Dear Trainer:

Our dog, Zora, keeps climbing the fence! We live in a rented house so we don't really have the option of changing or upgrading the fencing. We've lived here for over a year and she has just recently started doing this, since mid July. How can I prevent or change this behavior?

Cynthia D.
Dear Cynthia,

Don’t fence me in!  The old Cole Porter song is a bit dated now, but your dog obviously has a case of old fashioned wander lust.

The good news is, this falls squarely into to the category of “dogs will be dogs.”  Left to their own devices dogs will do doggie things, and that includes busting out of this place (wherever this place may be) to do a little exploring.  Here are some things to consider.

Manage the behavior.  If you’re not already, you really need to closely supervise Zora in the back yard. That means that you never leave her out there unattended.  You have to be there with her to make sure she’s not up to no good, or up and over the fence.   If she’s hopping the fence right before your unbelieving eyes, take the extra measure and put a leash on her for potty breaks out back.  We don’t want to leave anything to chance here. 

If Zora is an “outside dog,” might I suggest you make her an “indoor dog” in a hurry?  It’s not as hard as you might think.  Most of the time, it’s just a matter of teaching potty training and some basic doggie manners.  The effort is well worth it.  Backyard dogs get in trouble; they get out, and sometimes they get hurt (or worse).  Don’t take that risk. 

Then, teach Zora to stick to you like glue.  Let her know you are the center of her world.  Teach Zora to come to you and stay close no matter what.  The real trick here is to show her that you are a better bet than anything else beyond your home that she could possibly discover.  Good dog training is all about a relationship, the powerful bond you have with your dog.  Start by teaching her that it’s good news when you call her name.  For a week, every time you say “Zora” follow up right away with tasty bits of cooked chicken.  Watch what happens.  You’ll transfer the value of chicken to her name!  Zora equals chicken.  Wow.  She’ll come running just as sure as if you’d yelled “treat.”  It’s funny how that works.

Bing Crosby made “Don’t Fence Me In” a hit.  It was good in its day, but you don’t want Zora singing that song anymore.  It’s much too maudlin for her anyway.  How about a little something that says “stay put,” perhaps a love song?  Better yet, how about hanging out in the living room and singing it together?  Send me the video.

Robyn Arouty
Michael with Stella
Houston Dog Trainer Michael Baugh is the director of training and behavior at Rover Oaks Pet Resorts.  He lives with Stewie and Stella, two rescue dogs who have trained him to live indoors with them.  

You may reach Michael at his link for a personal consultation, or write to him at our Ask the Dog Trainer Column @ Michael's advice here on the blog does not replace an actual consultation with a qualified trainer.


Doglover said...

Zora seems to be playful dogs. I see you consider all the possibilities of keeping your dog in the fence area. I also live in apartment too and my son has been asking for a dog lately and I believe all the tips you provided will give me security for considering getting a dog for my son. Thanks!

Helping Hounds Training said...

Great tips on keeping dogs safely in a fence! I love that you focus on supervision and management (leash) as well as suggesting that if the dog is an "outdoor" dog that the family bring him/her inside to a real part of the family!

Unknown said...

The effort is well worth it. Backyard dogs get in trouble; they get out, and sometimes they get hurt (or worse).

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