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Stop Fence Jumping!

Understand Why Your Dog Wants to Jump the Fence,
and Train Him to Stop

Fence-jumping is one of the harder behavior problems to solve. Your dog’s natural instinct is to be free and roam the streets and countryside, and that’s going to work against you. However, it’s far from impossible, because he also has other instincts that work in your favor.

Fence jumping is a problem behavior, and a safety issue for dogs.

The first thing to know is that escaping the yard is its own reward. Once his fence-jumping escape act is complete, your dog is back in his natural element – roaming the wild. As I’ve said so often on this site, getting a reward is the sure-fire way to encourage a behavior, so every time he gets loose, it gets more likely to happen again.

This article will deal with the specific problem of training your dog, and improving your fence, to stop fence-jumping. I’ve written another article on the general problem of dogs who like to run away, so make sure you check that out as well: “Stop running away!”

How to Stop Fence Jumping With Your Dog

I’ll break this down into four steps:

  1. Why is your dog jumping the fence?
  2. Is the fence just not good enough to stop him?
  3. Can you reduce your dog’s temptation for fence-jumping?
  4. How do you train your dog to control himself?

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1. Why is your dog jumping the fence?

You may have already worked this one out for yourself, but here are some suggestions on common reasons dogs get into the fence-jumping habit:

  • Separation anxiety or other stresses like loneliness.
  • Boredom or lack of exercise.
  • Desire to mate or meet other dogs.
  • Being afraid of something in the yard.
  • To make you chase him.
  • Curiosity or some “goal” outside the yard.
  • Not enough socialization with you and your household.
  • Fear of abuse.

2. Is the fence just not good enough to stop him?

Because the natural instinct of any dog is to escape and be free, you want to make sure your fence is simply escape-proof. If there’s a way out, any dog will be tempted.

  • The fence might be the temptation for fence jumping.
  • Make the fence taller. There are kits for this, you don’t have to replace the fence.
  • Repair or block any gaps he can squeeze through, or holes he can see through.
  • Prevent climbing by adding coils of chicken wire or plastic sheeting to the fence’s yard side.
  • Prevent your dog from getting a “running start” to fence-jumping by putting fixtures, such as shrubs, a foot or two away from the fence.
  • Put sheets of mesh wire on the ground around the inside of the fence. Many dogs are confused when their feet are on mesh or grating, and will refuse to jump when they’re on it.
  • Add a deterrent system, aka an “invisible fence” or “wireless fence” in addition to the physical one.

3. Can you reduce your dog’s temptation for fence-jumping?

  • Does your home provide all the essentials for a happy doggie home life? I cover this in detail in the “sister” article to this one, “Stop Running Away!”
  • Find ways to block the view of things he might want to chase. For example, if your dog is after the mailman, block his view of the mailbox or move it out of sight.
  • Build a kennel area that separates your dog from the escape route altogether.
  • Call animal control if there is a pack of stray dogs in your neighborhood.

4. How do you train your dog to control himself?

Keep in mind that any deterrent or training that still leaves your dog an opportunity for fence-jumping, is going to take time to kick-in. Therefore, make sure your dog has an ID tag and a safe collar that can’t accidentally strangle him, so that further incidents will be less risky. Then…

  • Spay or neuter your dog to take mating cycles out of the equation.
  • Giving your dog lots of exercise and play will cure most boredom and loneliness issues.
  • Start, or continue, obedience training. This, too, will go a very long way to stop any problem behaviors such as fence-jumping.
  • Devote time to providing a neutral punishment, such as a scary noise. (This is tricky, because it requires non-stop attention on your part, and the neutral punishment has to be delivered while the dog is in mid-air or while he’s pushing off the ground, or else it won’t work.)
A few “don’ts” about training against fence jumping:

  • Don’t let your dog be outside when you’re away from home.
  • Chaining your dog to stop fence jumping is not very humane.
  • Don’t reward fence jumping by turning it into a game of chase.
  • Don’t punish your dog when you catch him – this will make him fear you, increasing the urge to escape. Do reward your dog when he comes home willingly.

For a lot more detail about the general issue of dogs running away, read this article: “Stop Running Away!”

Lastly: Let me congratulate you and encourage you. Making your dog stop fence-jumping is a challenge. It can be time consuming, it often requires spending some money, but it’s the right thing to do for your dog’s safety.

Return to my responsible dog ownership homepage, or the dog problems section.

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