In an effort to be a good dog owner, you fence in your backyard so your furry friend can have a place to run and play as well as an out when he needs to ‘go’ but you can not take him for a walk. And then one day you get a call from the neighbor that they have your dog and you think ‘but he was in the backyard, how did he get out?’ You have a jumper. It is not uncommon for dogs to jump fences. There are several reasons why your dog jumps fences but take heart, as there are just as many solutions. Once you figure out why he is jumping you can work to stop the behavior immediately with just a few changes to routine and environment.
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The Root of the Behavior
If your dog is jumping the fence, first take a look at the fenced in area. Is there a chance he is bored? Dogs need plenty of stimulation, and if you simply put him in the yard without any toys he will quickly tire of those surroundings and begin looking for other sources of stimulation. Hunting and sporting dogs in particular need a lot of exercise and stimulation that a barren yard cannot satisfy. Dogs are adventure seekers and the yard can quickly lose its appeal when he can see the other part of the world and all that it has to offer. Can he see what is outside of the fence? Often dogs will see other dogs, people or fun things to chase such as cats, rabbits and squirrels. Staying in the yard is no longer an option when there is excitement just on the other side. Your dog may also be jumping for a territory war. If you have let your dog outside of the fence and he has marked his territory outside of the fence, it will draw in other dogs. Those dogs will then mark the spot as theirs. Your dog can smell that and will feel compelled to remark his territory, which requires him to hop the fence. Is your dog spayed or neutered? A dog looking to procreate will stop at nothing to do so, and a fence is no obstacle to his or her desire. A lot of dogs do not like to be left alone, especially outside in a yard, for long periods of time. They can become anxious in the surroundings and feel the need to escape. Storms, fireworks, screaming children and strangers walking by could all spook your pooch and make him feel he must flee. He may begin to see the yard as a type of prison and cannot help but escape over the fence. Fence jumping is in itself a rewarding behavior. They want out, so they jump and their freedom immediately reinforces the behavior. Often dogs end up with strangers who give them treats, they get a new sense of adventure and exposure to all sorts of new sights, sounds and smells. They get exercise and an escape all at the same time. Jumping the fence is a win-win in his world.
Encouraging the Behavior
Your first step in preventing your dog from jumping is to not leave him alone in the yard for long periods of time. For his first few visits in the yard, stay with him and discourage him from nearing the fence line. Use the commands ‘stay’ as he approaches the perimeter and ‘come’ to bring him back to you, rewarding him with praise and treats. If he approaches the fence you can also say “Ah-Ah-Ahhhh” and reward him again for coming to you instead. You need to also make sure he is well exercised, has gone on long walks to get his curiosity out and has not visited the outside of the perimeter. When he is left outside alone, remain home and provide plenty of toys for him such as a Kong, ball and squeaky toys that are indestructible. If you know your dog suffers from anxiety from separation, sounds or other issues do not leave him in the yard when you leave the home. If it is external excitement luring him to the other side, you can cover the slats in your fence to limit his visibility. Having your dog spayed or neutered if you do not plan to breed them is also a must and will limit his or her desire to jump the fence. There are plenty of ways to extend the height of the fence as well as make the top of the fence slippery so that your fleeing pooch cannot get a good hold on the fence. Other ways to keep your pooch confined are to build shrubs inside the perimeter or a shorter fence inside the fence to limit his jumping range. Chicken wire can be put on the inside perimeter too as dogs do not want to stand on it while jumping. Finally, you can install an electric fence inside of your erected one that will keep him from getting close enough to the wall to jump. Hiring a dog trainer when you first erect the fence and introduce it to your dog can alleviate a lot of potential problems. A trainer can also help you if your dog has already started to jump.
Other Solutions and Considerations
When your dog returns, do not punish him for jumping. He has already forgotten how he obtained his freedom and he will not understand what he has done wrong. Punishment will do nothing to deter him from jumping again and may just make him afraid of you and lead him to jump again or more often. Some owners use deterrents such as spraying water at their dog when they try to jump or startling them with a noise. While this may work short term, it can be detrimental to your relationship overall and again may cause him to jump out of fear. Tying your dog up is also not recommended as he will still have all of those same desires to jump and could hurt himself.
Dogs love to be outside, but not confined when they can see, hear and smell a whole other world just beyond their fence. If they have not been given enough toys or exercise, are left alone for too long, suffer from anxiety or are looking to mate they will undoubtedly jump a fence in search of those freedoms. Because it is a self-rewarding behavior, once your dog jumps it is likely he will jump again. Do not leave your dog alone in the yard for long periods of time, give him plenty of stimulation, and train him from the beginning that it is in his best interests to stay in the yard at all times.