Thank you for being a respectful neighbor and responsible dog owner! And walking your dog a safe, polite distance away from fence lines.
Nose-to-nose greetings through a fence are much riskier than you might assume.
- The dog on the other side of the fence may be friendly with dogs, but not being able to really meet and play can cause barrier frustration, upsetting them and changing their behavior over time. Soon they may bark at other dogs, sometimes even when they’re outside their yard.
- The dog on the other side of the fence may be shy or fearful of other dogs, so dogs approaching the fence and/or lingering there can make them feel unsafe in their own yard, leaving them anxious and potentially causing them to act out in self-defense towards other dogs.
- The dog on the other side of the fence may not like other dogs very much, or maybe doesn’t appreciate strangers approaching their property. Your dog could be very frightened by their response. One severely inappropriate encounter can leave puppies especially traumatized, but adult dogs too may become less outgoing after an upsetting interaction which could have easily been prevented.
It’s best to avoid direct contact with dogs through fences, practice your “heel” cue or shorten your leash as you pass by. You can cross the road if you know a certain yard contains barking dogs, so as not to scare your dog. Or bring a few treats on your walk if you’ve worked up to passing by without paying attention to other dogs. If you come around a corner or you didn’t see the dog in their yard and they accidentally sniff through the fence – be quick and upbeat, redirect your dog, lead them away, carry on with your walk. Don’t wait for things to go sour.
Some people allow their dog to greet another dog through a fence because they thought the situation appeared friendly. So what would a friendly fence greeting look like, in a perfect world? Ideally, the dogs on either side of the fence would be relaxed and quiet. Their bodies might be described as loose or wiggly. They might sniff briefly, pant slowly, wag their tail gently. They’re only there for three seconds or less, then move on. That’s it! They’re not running up to the fence, not running up and down the fence line, not jumping on the fence, not barking at each other. They don’t have their hackles raised, they don’t have their tail held straight up or tucked under, they are not growling or baring their teeth, nor are they rigid like a statue. And, very important, they’re not hanging out too long. If your dog is interacting with other dogs inappropriately, please contact a dog trainer.
As a professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, I’ve worked with dogs who were bitten by another dog through chain-link fencing, and dogs who were lead up to a fence to “say hi” to another dog – but when they were barked at they redirected their frustration to the other end of the leash, biting their owner. You don’t want or need for anything like that to happen to you and your dog. It’s so much better safe than sorry!
Want to help your dog make dog friends? Go to a group dog training class, a playgroup, take them to dog daycare, visit a dog park, or simply make playdates with your neighbor’s or friends’ dogs. These are much better options than trying to make friends with unfamiliar, unsupervised dogs through their fence.
Be safe. Be respectful. Please keep your dog on the sidewalk or at least a few feet away from fence lines. Thank you!
For more information:
“Redirected Aggression and Barrier Frustration” by The Dog Trainer at Quick& Dirty Tips
“How Do I Manage My Dog’s Barrier Frustration?” by Mikkel Becker at Vetstreet
“Better Designed Dog Fences Make For Better Dogs” by Pat Miller at Whole Dog Journal