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Playgroups

Fence Introduction SOP

INTRODUCING DOGS THROUGH A FENCE

Introducing dogs through a fence can allow them to sniff, look at and play chase games next to each other with a reduced risk of injury if there is a fight. Dogs can injure both others and themselves through fences, but not as badly as is possible with full contact. While introductions through a barrier have less potential risk of physical injury, there is an added risk of increasing barrier frustration and fighting through the fence. This type of behavior may result in misinformation about a dog’s potential to play off-leash. 

This method can be used for first-time introductions, and/or for bringing dogs into an ongoing playgroup.  See Dog-Dog Introductions for an overview of options.

The goal is for this to go as quickly as possible to remove the barriers of possible frustration if relaxed or friendly body language and normal play (What is Normal Play?) is observed through the fence.

EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES NEEDED

  • Fight kit

  • Two fully enclosed play yards

  • Treats

  • Toys

  • Known dog-friendly dog if possible for first-time two dog introduction or an ongoing play group with no known fence fighters for multi-dog intro with rotation into the ongoing group.

PROCEDURE

  • Bring dogs to the adjacent fenced play area: 

    • Start with known dog-friendly dog(s) (if any are available) already in one yard.

    • To prevent barrier frustration or crowding at the entrance, dogs in the 2 yards should be kept out of sight of each other for long as possible before they meet;

    • The dog(s) already in the play area:

      • If the dog(s) in the play area might be able to see or hear the new dog approaching, distract them with treats or toys at least 10’ from the fence if possible, but not so far away they can gain a lot of momentum if inclined to charge the other dog at the fence;

      • If the dog(s) is difficult to distract from fence, they can wear a dragging leash. Pick up their leash and remove the dog from fence. Alternately, temporarily place slip leads on dogs you need to move.

    • Dog entering the second, adjacent yard:

      • If the dog entering the second play area can see or hear the other dog as they approach the yard,  distract with treats and/or enter the play area as quickly as possible to minimize barrier frustration. 

  • Release dogs to meet at fence: 

    • Once the new dog is in the adjacent yard, stop distracting all dogs and allow them to approach the fence.  

      • If a leash is used, keep it as loose as possible, or drop the leash.

      • To reduce the amount of barrier frustration that dogs might experience, release them off their leashes as quickly as possible. Ideally all dogs are off-leash (or dragging leashes) inside their respective yards as soon as they see each other.

  • Monitor the interaction closely (see When to Intervene), intervene as needed.

    • If the dogs are relaxed and friendly, the dogs can be allowed to play along the fence.

    • If either dog behaves aggressively or shows tense, anxious or fearful body language, call away or gently restrain one or both dogs (see How to Intervene). Give both dogs treats when separated. You can release the dogs to interact through the fence again if:  

      • The aggression/fear was very mild, & is improving if you have tried this multiple times;

      • You need to determine whether one or more of the dogs are dog-friendly, and you feel this is the best option available to do so.

  • If the dogs exhibit relaxed and/or playful body language during the fence introduction, allow the dogs to interact in the same yard:

    • After the dogs have played well through the fence (What is Normal Play?), encourage the group of dogs away from the entrance gate to reduce crowding and allow the new dog to enter the group.  

    • You can bring the new dog into an ongoing playgroup (Rotating Dogs into Playgroups), OR;

    • If preferred, you can move to pair-wise on-leash introductions, or dragging leash or off-leash introduction without a barrier with all dogs in a playgroup or a subset. 

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