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Jack is Nimble, Clever, and Quick
updated: Sep 01, 2012, 2:30 PM
My two-year-old dog, Jack, has an issue with jumping our backyard fence, either to socialize with
neighbors or just run around playing. When he's ready he'll come back and lie down in the front yard,
but when we try to get him back in the house he runs away. We've tried treats, increasing his exercise
routine, and even an electric fence, which only seemed to amuse him. So far nothing has worked.
Luckily, all the neighbors and their dogs love him and he them. But we live near busy streets and are
afraid he will get hit by a car. It is very frustrating. Any ideas?
Dear Miss Dee Ann,
Jack seems to be nimble and quick! The name suits him for sure. I love how he's trained you so well in
the game of chase. Maybe he should consider being a track and field coach. Anyway, to answer your
question, yes, I do have some ideas.
Here are the four tenets of my Mutt Model:
Know Your Animal!
You have a young, energetic dog that enjoys keeping busy. And, if he's not presented with opportunities
that fit his fitness profile, he'll end up developing his own, as you've learned with his self-designed
agility and high-jump courses.
Remember, dogs are scavengers, predators, and omnivores, which equates to being the type of species
that enjoys keeping busy! You and the other humans may be more of the 5K-walk personality, whereas
Jack is the ultra-marathoner. So, understand that this family member enjoys activities that might not
appeal to you.
It's important to first figure out what you want from Jack, and to make sure that it's real-istic and
achievable. You'll then want to match the motivation with the requests. Do you want him to stay put in
the yard all day? Then create the type of environment that moti-vates him to do just that. Are there
other behaviors you'd desire? Then you'll need to figure out what they are, then teach him. My thoughts
on that are below.
Reward. Reward. Reward.
Coming when called and leaving things alone when asked are two behaviors that would come in handy,
should Jack feel the need to make his rounds in the neighborhood. I think you've figured out that what
you've tried so far has been a waste of breath, so you're naturally concerned for Jack's safety, along
with being frustrated. The solution is to teach him and practice to the point that he's so conditioned he
responds automati-cally. And, I highly recommend that you train it before you need it! There's a reason
they don't teach fire drills during the fire!
Consider signing Jack up for a local dog training class, such as a basic manners or a canine-specific
sport. This would provide the opportunity to teach everyone the skills they need to practice with Jack,
both in and out of the classroom, allow for bonding time, keep him physically and mentally fit, and
strengthen your motivation to follow through with the plan.
When it comes to motivation, think about what you're using to get Jack to come to you. Whatever you're
offering has got to be more appealing than what he's involved with at the time. You said you've tried
treats, but I suggest you think outside the biscuit box and experiment with something he'll do backflips
over. My own mom once surprised me with a small piece of leftover grilled ahi tuna. Let's just say that
I'm still drooling--and listening to her-because it's fun, even without the tuna!
Be an Environmental Protection Agent
When you're not training Jack, make sure you're managing his environment. Think about constructing a
higher fence, or planting a hedge that blocks Jack's exit. These sorts of management steps may help
prevent him from independently taking a tour of the neighborhood. Creating a dog run that's large
enough for play, but that keeps the fence out of paws reach is another thing to consider. And when in
doubt, keep him in the house, supplied with fun things to do, of course.
Keeping Jack busy and engaged is important indoors or out, so scavenger hunts, inter-active food toys,
chewies, bones, and even a digging pit can all be placed in your yard as Jack's home entertainment
system. Since he's a social butterfly, think about arrang-ing doggy play-dates at your home so his
friends come to your place instead of him hav-ing to set up his own rendezvous.
While Jack is still learning to stay in the yard, you'll need to keep a watchful eye on him. Left to his own
devices, he may grow bored and decide that the remedy is a round of fence jumping. Setting him up for
success is the best way to help train any animal, and to avoid disappointment.
Paws and Reflect
Your home and neighborhood sound quite appealing, so it's no wonder Jack wants to head out and be
with his friends. However, with a little planning, training, and fore-thought you should be able to
motivate Jack to stay and play in your own home. And who knows, yours might end up being the go-to
venue for all the other neighborhood dogs.
Poncho Mayer is a 10-pound inquisitive canine who knows a lot about human and ca-nine behavior.
He and his mom work together running the family business, providing dog-training services to other
inquisitive canines and their humans. For additional train-ing and behavior tips, subscribe to their blog.
Got a question about behavior, training or daily pup life? Email Poncho directly at
Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)
2012-09-01 02:42 PM
Poor energetic dogs, incarcerated in back yards, usually all day, with nothing to do. This dog could run five miles per day and not turn a hair, I'll bet.
He's not getting enough attention or exercise. There is a mesh topping you can put all along the top of your fence. My friends have it to keep in their cats, and it works great. It hangs over at an angle, into your yard, and so cannot be jumped over. Digging under means chicken wire needed.
My advice is to put that dog into a daily dog camp, where he can interact with other dogs and also not be BORED to death, stuck in a backyard, day after day.
2012-09-01 03:15 PM
Perhaps getting him a live in playmate. I always had better luck with more than one dog. They do like companionship.
2012-09-01 04:08 PM
Our big dogs always did this, the Labby so he could get to the garbage cans, yummy, and the Malamute just 'cos he could. The Chow we don't know why because he was too uppity to tell us what he did on his days off; but he sure came back in a sweat early one morning with a Coyote hot on his tail. He never left again. We built higher fences, safe for the dogs and preserved our good relations with our neighbours. We exercised them too. The dogs, not the neighbours.
2012-09-01 07:06 PM
One good way to train a dog out of wandering off, is to lie in wait, catch the dog walking out of your yard. Let the dog get only a short way from your house, and be ready with the leash.
Snap the lead onto the dog's collar, fast-walk dog home, with an angry attitude. You don't need to say much, just a few words and disapproving demeanor.
Immediately put dog on time-out in small enclosed room. Leave dog for 20 minutes. Bring dog out. No words, no caresses.
Do this at least three times, and lengthen time-out by 10 minutes each incident. The dog will soon get the message.
This may not work with every dog, but I trained two rescue dogs, one a huge Malamute/wolf mix, to stay home, using this method.
2012-09-01 08:22 PM
It is pointless to expect this dog to not leave your yard since he has both ability and motivation. It is a matter of time before he is: hit by a car and injured or killed, injured or injures another animal (cat, other dog, and yes even small children to and from school) and/or ends up impounded. You are being an irresponsible owner. Figure out a way to contain your dog when you are not directly supervising him. And don't whine about being able to afford it/like how it looks, etc.
2012-09-02 07:15 AM
59 Exactly. Any other action would be like pulling an elephant through a mail box. If one loves a pet - secure it. If not, someone or something else will.
2012-09-02 09:52 AM
We had the same problem. We put in an electronic dog fence and the dog wears a sensor on his collar. Works great. Dog learns the area he can go in and not get buzzed. Once we forgot to change the batteries so there was no buzz--and the dog had learned the boundries so well he stayed in anyway!
2012-09-03 12:24 PM
"Electronic fences" work quite well with some dogs, especially in combination with other forms of motivation and training. Higher fences tend to work with small to medium dogs, but beware of digging! Staple chicken wire to the bottom of the fence and deeply bury the bottom edge. Also, there are legal limits on how high a fence can be in most urban residential areas (usually six feet for back yards) and practical limits as well. A dog that can clear an 8 foot fence can jump onto the roof of a single story house and then the game is over. You ain't seen nothing until you've seen a frisky Great Dane vault onto the roof a 3500 sq ft ranch house in a graceful running jump and then casually hop off of the other side and go sauntering away.
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