Q: What's the best way to deal with dogs who are jumpers?
By Deborah Schildkraut, Ph.D.
A. A jumper is difficult to train to stop jumping.
There are several issues involved, and several things to try. They are not always successful. The better course of action is to take great care in choosing the dog whom you bring into your family.
Some breeds are more likely to be jumpers than others. It probably has to do with the jobs for which they were bred. Some dogs have high prey drives. They want to chase—rabbits, squirrels, cats or any fast moving small animal. They will scale fences to go after their quarry. Some dogs may have separation anxiety and will scale a fence in the hopes of finding their human companion who has left the home. Dogs are social animals, and some may jump to join up with other feral or AWOL canines.
There are a few methods you can try to keep your dog from jumping. First, you can provide a physically secure area for your dog—an adequate-sized run with fencing over the top. Second, do not leave your dog unattended in your yard. Walk your dog instead of relying on your yard. Third, some pet catalogs advertise anti-jumping harnesses. I have no direct experience with them, so cannot comment on their effectiveness.
Some people may consider electronic fencing. This poses its own problems. While it may work with some dogs, those who have high prey drives will risk the shock and go after a rabbit or cat—right through the electronic shock barrier. Once out, the dog may be reluctant to get shocked to go back into the yard.
Jumping can be a temporary thing. If a female dog in the neighborhood comes into heat, your male Romeo may decide he needs to visit the alluring Juliet. Or vice versa. Making sure your dog is spayed or neutered will help to curb this amorous wanderlust and temporary desire to scale your fence.
The best advice is to do your homework before selecting a canine companion. If you will rely on a fenced yard for exercise and bathroom relief for your dog, make sure you ask whether the dog you are considering adopting is a jumper. I work for a greyhound rescue. Greyhounds are generally not jumpers. But occasionally we do get one. The last time we had a jumper, we successfully placed her with city dwellers. These folks take the dog out for walks, and do not have a yard. Crisis averted.
In the situation where you have a dog you adore, but it continues to jump over your fence, I would strongly suggest the services of a professional dog trainer. A trainer can come to your home, see the environment, and talk with you about the details of your situation. With this specific information, the trainer may be able to help you put together a training protocol which will help you keep the dog you love safe and content at home.
Deborah Schildkraut, Ph.D. is an animal behaviorist and educator who worked at the Boston Zoos for 15 years. She lives in Cerrillos with her husband, five rescued dogs (four greyhounds, one terrier) and two horses.
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