How can two angry neighbors stop barking at each other through the fence?

By Helin Jung
Updated April 13, 2010 10:55 PM
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Dear Ethel,

I adopted a pit bull mix named Malcolm four years ago, and another dog, Casey, three years ago. They get along perfectly.

But Malcolm seems to have a problem with the next door neighbor’s dog–they fight through the fence! I don’t know which dog starts it, but our neighbor’s dog always barks when I am outside playing with my dogs. Malcolm, being part pit bull, doesn’t back down.

I’m afraid that we will get the cops called on us for dog fighting. Still, it doesn’t look like the dogs can reach each other, and the neighbors have their dog on a lead. If I am out there I can stop Malcolm, but I’m not always with him. What can we do to stop Malcolm from not liking other dogs?

–On the Fence (and Worried)

Dear OTF,

Do you ever sit in bad traffic and get mad at it? That car is cutting into your lane, that truck doesn’t know how to use a blinker. But you can’t go anywhere, you’re just stuck, and the anger keeps building and building until you think you’re going to honk indiscriminately like a crazy person?

But the moment you pull out of that traffic and you’re on an open road or just pulling into your quiet driveway, it’s as if none of that anger was even there.

Malcolm needs help getting out of traffic. He’s standing on the other side of a dog that’s barking at him – I certainly can’t blame him for getting upset.

Pat Miller, trainer and behavior consultant (CPDT-KA and CDBC) behind Peaceable Paws, says you need to manage that situation, stat. One idea is to install a second fence and create an airlock between Malcolm and the barky dog next door, that will make their interactions less intense.

If that isn’t going to work for you financially, only let Malcolm out when you can directly supervise him. Here’s some of Pat’s real talk: “I am not a huge fan of leaving dogs in backyards to their own devices for extended periods of time.” So if that can be avoided, avoid it. And when he is outside under your watch, as soon as things start to get inappropriate, pull him back inside.

Or, just talk to your neighbor. Is there any way the two of you can work out a schedule so that the other dog is in the backyard when Malcolm isn’t, and vice versa?

“If she leaves the dog alone and unattended and the other dog appears, the behavior is likely to recur,” Miller says.

Hopefully this will help – we wouldn’t want anybody thinking you’re running a dog fighting ring out of your yard, so we hope Malcolm can feel some calm on the other side of the fence, and soon.

–Ethel

Got a thorny pet (any pet!) problem that you can’t figure out? Try Ethel – she’ll do her best to help. Send your questions to helin@peoplepets.com or send us a message on Twitter or Facebook.