Finding a Truly Dog Friendly Home in a Non-Dog Friendly World

I have seen a very disturbing trend in the past 20 years of subdivisions utilizing covenants regarding fencing that are clearly “un-dog-friendly”. The fences must not be over 36″ high and require field fencing wire mesh that never blocks the view. The situation is intensified when the yard backs up to an open space walking path. There is a second and equally critical situation with these low, see through fences: the fence doesn’t keep predators out of the yard.

I’m usually at the home to “train” the dog not to bark at people walking by the backyard. Every day neighbors, with or without dogs walk within a few feet of the dog’s yard. Not surprisingly, the dog barks at them. The owners are desperate to find a way to stop the dog from barking.

The owners thought they found nirvana when they bought the home, an unobstructed view from their backyard. Instead they live in a dog-owner’s nightmare.

Dog owners need to understand that the fence means nothing to the dog. Dogs are naturally territorial. When “intruders” come within a few feet of their territory, they bark at them to send them away. And from the dog’s perspective, it works.

I always ask the owners the same question: “If a stranger were walking right outside of your living room window, would you want your dog to bark?” The answer is “yes” 100% of the time.

They don’t realize they have an unrealistic expectation of the dog to know who to bark at and at what specific distance from the home. 

Many owners just slap a shock bark collar on the dog and think they’ve solved the problem. To me, that’s like crippling a herding dog because they round up the children or taping shut the nose of bloodhound so they won’t have their nose to the ground. Using a more human equivalent, it’s like putting a shock collar on a human that is programmed to shock the wearer every time they use the word, “um…” or every time they cough or clear their throat. It’s abusive because the behavior is normal. There are a host of anxiety issues that are created when we punish normal, almost involuntary behavior.

Here are some pointers for dog owners about finding a home that doesn’t create problems and some ideas to prevent barking if you already live in a house with an “un-dog-friendly” yard.

If you’re in the market for a home:

  • Don’t buy a house adjacent to a walking path or a golf course. You will have a daily responsibility to keep your dog from barking at neighbors as they walk by.
  • Don’t buy a house in a subdivision that outlaws privacy fences. Dogs also bark at the people next door that are clearly visible.
  • Don’t buy a house that requires fencing that is easily climbed by predators. It takes less than a minute for a coyote to grab your small breed dog and kill them.
  • If you’re looking for acreage, it’s best to find property where the house sits in the middle of the lot, not along the street. This creates a buffer of distance. The closer the foot traffic, the more intense the dog’s territorial response.
  • If you live in a house that isn’t dog friendly and you are about to add a dog to your family, do your homework. Some breeds are far more territorial than others. (Guarding Breeds) Some breeds are very aroused by movement (Terriers and Herding Breeds and any of their derivatives).

If you already own a home that is adjacent to foot traffic with no barrier to visibility:

  • Never leave your dog outside for long periods of time unsupervised. It isn’t difficult to learn to call the dog to you or to come inside if they start barking. It is nearly impossible to train a territorial dog not to bark at strangers.
  • Create a large dog run inside your yard, as far away from the fence as possible and landscape around it to block the dog’s view. Don’t leave the dog in the run all day, either. Boredom is also a motivator for barking.
  • The dog yard should not include access to the front of the house.
  • If the dog is barking from inside the home, take away access to windows. Many owners allow their dogs to practice barking at strangers by giving them a couch to perch on right in front of a window.

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Positively Expert: Laura Brody

Laura Brody is the owner of Denver's Good Family Dog, Kind, Purposeful, Force-Free Dog Training and Behavior.


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