Training a Trio of Dogs to Come When Called to Stop Their Fence Fighting

By: David Codr

Published Date: February 19, 2017

Petey is a three-year-old Boxer who lives in Bennington with German Shepherd Guenter and the newest addition to the family, Buck a Bernese Mountain dog mix. The guardians set up a dog behavior training session with me to get the dogs to come when called and stop fence fighting with the neighbor’s dogs.

When I arrived for the session, the dogs were all restrained or blocked to stop them from rushing the door. While this option keeps the dogs from jumping up on the guests, running out the door and other problems, it does not give the dogs the opportunity to learn a new more desirable behavior.

Holding a dog back physically can often increase their reaction as the effort they put into breaking free often transfers into their initial outburst towards the guest. Later in the session I would show the humans how to claim the area around the door to train the dogs to respect an invisible boundary ten feet from the door on their own.

After letting Guenter get a good sniff of me, he settled down enough for me to go and introduce myself to the other two dogs. Dogs should meet through scent, so I opened the sliding door just enough to let them stick their noses through the gap to give me a good sniffing. Giving them this opportunity to meet me with their noses helped them calm down.

Once all the dogs were inside I chatted with the guardians about the dog’s day to day activities. In the course of this discussion I learned that the dogs didn’t really have any rules or boundaries. This is a common mistake many dog guardians make.

Dogs go through life probing to identify boundaries and limits. If we don’t have any, it is not unusual for a dog to think that it has the same authority as the humans. If a dog thinks of itself as your peer, then listening to you becomes an optional activity.

When you adding multiple dogs who are all likely to jockey for the top dog spot, you have a recipe for unruly behavior.

I suggested some rules and boundaries that the humans can put into place to help the dogs start to see and identify the humans as being leaders instead of peers. I also recommended that the humans add structure to petting the dogs and shared some non verbal ways to disagree with unwanted behaviors.

Fence fighting is related to the dogs defending their territory which is a job handled by an authority figure in a dog pack. So helping the dogs transition into a follower’s mindset will go a long ways towards stopping the fence fighting. But until the dogs listen to the guardians consistently inside the house, asking them to behave a different way in a much more challenging situation isn’t fair to the dogs.

Once the humans have assumed the leadership role inside by enforcing the new rules and structure, then the next step is practicing having the dogs come on command. I spent several minutes going over dog training tips and secrets to getting a dog to come in the following video.

Training your dog to come consistently takes practice. First in an easy situation and setting, but eventually amongst distractions. The easiest place to practice is inside your house where you can control the environment.

But when you have multiple dogs living with you, sometimes its necessary to separate them and practice with one dog at a time until it understands what you want. Once all three dogs can behave as desired separately, then you can start practicing with them together.

Changing the leader follower dynamic should reduce the dog’s desire to defend the fence. Training them to come will give the humans the ability to stop the unwanted behaviors.

The humans may also need to practice having the dogs outside separately while the neighbor brings out one dog so they can use counter conditioning to create a positive association with the other dogs, practice coming when called with another dog present or disagree with good timing before they have a chance to start fence fighting. Once each dog practices being in the yard without barking at the neighbor’s dogs, then the fence fighting habit will be much easier to stop.

ROADMAP to SUCCESS

  • Introduce rules and boundaries and consistently disagree when the dog breaks a rule or boundary within 3 seconds.
  • Use the Escalating Consequences to disagree with the dogs non verbally.
  • Use Passive training to reward the dogs for any desired actions or behaviors.
  • Avoid using the expression “good dog” and instead say the command word only three seconds after the dog does any markable action.
  • Avoid saying “its ok Guenter” when he is worked up, anxious or nervous as this can actually turn that expression into a command word to get anxious.
  • Do not pet the dogs when over excited such as when coming home, etc.
  • Get into a habit of petting the dogs with a purpose to help change the leader follower dynamic.
  • Practice claiming the area around the door to help the dogs see the humans as assuming leadership roles.
  • If Petey keels jumping up on guests, have the guest turn their back to him while crossing their arms. If that does work, apply a leash before the gust arrives and have them step on it two feet from Petey’s head to prevent him from jumping up.
  • If petting one dog and another dog approaches, keep the second dog at arms length and continue petting the first dog. Only pet the second dog after if it does protest when blocked.
  • Use treats to train the dogs to use the dog bed via positive reinforcement.
  • Get into a habit of claiming personal space instead of letting the dogs jump up on, paw at or nudge the humans to demand attention.
  • Practice training the dogs to come multiple times a day in short 1-3 minute training sessions. Always end on a good repetition.
  • Play with each dog for a minute or two after any training exercise or practice.
  • Practice calling the dogs to come multiple times a day, but only reward the first dog to come and sit in front of you to create competition for obedience.
  • Any time one of the dogs has difficulty behaving in a situation, recreate it later in a less intense way and break the activity down into individual steps and rep each step by itself until the dog performs as you want before moving onto the next step.
  • Once the dog can perform each step independently, then start combining them together. Keep additions small, only combine a few at a time to keep the dog from feeling overwhelmed.
  • Add structure to feeding time and feed the dogs one at a time, but only after the human eats first.
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