Many dog owners know the problem: the dog barks at the garden fence. Triggers for the tumult can be people, other dogs, or vehicles. Out of nowhere, the dog suddenly races towards the fence and barks like crazy. He often runs back and forth along the fence with great perseverance and barks until the trigger is really gone. Most owners have already started trying to get the behavior under control. You have tried scolding or trying to catch the dog on the fence as quickly as possible or tried to distract it with food or its favorite toy. However, to really get to the bottom of the problem, it’s worth taking a closer look.
Why is the Dog Barking at the Fence?
The fact is, dogs never do anything for no reason. In order to stop problematic or undesirable behavior, it makes sense to first answer one question: Why is this dog behaving the way it is in this situation? The answer to this can vary from dog to dog. Let’s take a look at the most common causes and possible solutions for barking at the garden fence.
Reason 1: Barking Because Genetics Dictate It
There are dogs that are inherently much more willing to bark than their peers. It may be due to their genetics. Dogs that have been bred to bark to warn people that something is out of order, or even to repel intruders, tend to bark more intensely. They strike much more frequently and are also more persistent than other dogs. Breeds that love to bark include Spitz, Samoyeds, many herding dogs, and livestock guardian dogs.
What used to be very useful in rural areas, namely barking when strangers approached or predators stalked the herd of cattle, is now problematic in densely populated areas. While in the past someone only occasionally passed a farmstead, the garden in the housing estate is passed by someone every now and then – a full-time job for a watchdog, so to speak.
What can you do?
Of course, we cannot influence the genetic component. If a dog is “programmed” to bark a lot, this is a basic need that cannot be permanently suppressed. If you still try, other problems can arise. It is, therefore, best to collect information about barking and to check whether this fits in with your own ideas and the environment before you get the dog.
Of course, we can also make a difference in barking breeds with good training. The earlier this is started, the better. One way is to put barking under signal control. So you teach your dog to bark at a specific signal, such as “yell out.” In this way, your dog can act out its need to bark in a controlled manner at times and places that you determine. Once your dog has had enough opportunities to bark, it becomes much easier to train him to stop barking where it’s inappropriate and let him do something else instead.
Reason 2 – Barking Out of Uncertainty or Fear of a Threat
Many dogs bark at the fence because they are worried. From their point of view, the approach of strangers, dogs, or vehicles is threatening. They are worried about their territory – the garden – or about themselves. Therefore, they react according to the motto “attack is the best defense”: they run and bark to drive off the threat as impressively as possible. And who would have thought it: time and time again they experience that it works really well and the troublemakers actually disappear. A strategy develops very quickly and is implemented with increasing enthusiasm. Scolding doesn’t help here either. Either the dog interprets it as participation of its human, i.e. a common excitement and expulsion. Or it will become even more unsettled because of this since, in addition to the threat from outside, it will also get into trouble from its owner.
What can you do?
Since the cause of the barking, in this case, is an uneasy feeling in the face of certain stimuli, it makes the most sense to change this feeling first. In the first step, you need something that your dog thinks is really, really great. It should be something that makes your dog feel extremely good. This can be very special and tasty food such as cooked chicken hearts, liver sausage, or small dried fish. Or even a really great toy. Use what is really sharp for your dog.
Then you start the training. It is best to secure your dog on a leash. This way you can prevent him from running to the fence if the worst comes to the worst. In the beginning, keep as far away as possible from the fence or from the threatening stimuli. Your dog should be able to hear them, but not bark. From the moment the threatening stimulus appears to the moment it disappears again, your dog is now constantly getting the really good food or is busy with the great toy. If the trigger is gone, the food or toy also disappears. The aim is that the appearance of the “threat” no longer arouses concern later on, but rather the feeling that something really great is about to happen. Once your dog’s feelings have changed for the better, you can start working on an alternative behavior. This could consist of coming to you or walking onto a blanket as well. Choose the alternative behavior that best suits you and your situation.
Reason 3 – Barking for Boredom and Fun
Some dogs bark at the fence because they just don’t have anything better to do. We humans often have the idea that it is nice for the dog to be outside in the garden and have fun. We’ll open the patio door and send the dog out. “Have fun, go play nice!”. As a rule, everything that dogs really enjoys being in the garden alone is not welcome: digging up the lawn, unpotting plants, or chewing on the garden hose. They then seek out other creative behavioral alternatives that are fun, counteract boredom, and get their human to pay them more attention. Barking at the fence is often at the top of the list.
What can you do?
If your dog is barking at the fence because he’s bored, offer him better alternative activities. Above all, of course, there are things that he can do together with you because that is the greatest thing for most dogs: quality time with their human. Play with your dog, practice tricks, let him find food or toys, or just relax with him. But be with him in the garden and show him that you can have fun at the fence without barking.
Of course, your dog should also learn to be alone in the garden for a certain amount of time without immediately reverting to the old behavior. Again, you need an alternative behavior for this. What do you want your dog to do instead of barking at the fence? Do you want him to come up to you and nudge you to say someone just walked past the property outside? Should he go to his seat? Should he bring a toy? Choose an alternative behavior that suits both of you and train it first without distractions so that you can then safely call it up for situations at the fence.
Outside of Training – Good Management
Good management is important so that your dog can no longer practice the unwanted behavior until the training takes effect and it thus becomes more and more entrenched. This includes the fact that your dog should no longer be alone in the garden. It also makes sense to have a leash that your dog drags along when you are outside, as this allows you to catch and interrupt him more quickly. For some dogs, it is enough if they are busy with something more important, for example, a great chew bone or looking for crumbs on the lawn. Which management measures are suitable for you depends very much on your individual situation.
Often it is not so easy to see why a dog is behaving in a certain way. The various causes can mix and make it difficult to find the right approach in training or management. Therefore, it makes sense to consult a positive working dog trainer for support, who can support you in recognizing the cause of the barking precisely and individually.