The Puzzle Week, Part 25: Roof dogs, fence dogs, and the tranquility of free-roamers

Mexican puppies learn to ignore dogs on roofs and behind fences

Puzzle calmly walks past the two fence-barking Akitas and Skye, the white mix. Free-roamers and dogs who grow up here tend to learn that the dogs barking behind fences and on roofs can’t get to them – and they learn to ignore them.

Initially, Puzzle asked to be carried past these dogs. Even when Game and I passed calmly, she couldn’t do it. Soon, she learned to follow Game’s lead and walk past them confidently. I’d venture this is an example of social learning: Puzzle observed Game, and then learned to walk past barky fence dogs even when Game wasn’t around.

Cultural differences

I find this to be really interesting as I compare it to the typical behavior of Western-style pet dogs passing fence-barkers in their neighborhood. I get the impression that in Western countries, everyone – the human, the pet dog, and the dog behind the fence – has a tendency to get upset. In our part of the world, on the other hand, it is the rule (rather than the exception) to not care about dogs who are yelling at you across a barrier as long as you’re on the outside.

Watch the video, and put on your ethologist’s hat!

Why do YOU think dogs like Puzzle, Game, and free-roaming dogs don’t care about fence- or roof-barkers? And why do you think dogs on roofs and behind fences tend to go berserk when other dogs walk past? Share your thoughts in the comments!


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4 thoughts on “The Puzzle Week, Part 25: Roof dogs, fence dogs, and the tranquility of free-roamers

  1. Theo Jak e/o Zimet says:

    Thanks for your reply: much appreciated.
    I saw it many a time: dogs barking because one of the others has turned them on (social facilitation)
    I like your interpretation of why dogs behind fences are barking. They cannot go where they wanna go.
    I have always thought it was something territorial (home defense).

    • Chrissi Schranz says:

      It can certainly be territorial as well! It depends on the dog. For some reason, that’s not the first thought that comes to my mind though. Isn’t it interesting? We all have assumptions we default to!

  2. Theo Jak e/o Zimet says:

    Puzzle getting more confident while passing dogs behind fences:
    I would just call it social learning.
    The barking dogs are imitating the dog with the most garding genes.

    I don’t think the barking dogs behind the fences have a good time.
    That’s why I will do my at most to prevent barking from our dogs to other dogs passing by our house.

    • Chrissi Schranz says:

      I agree with your social learning definition in puzzle, and your Akita interpretation.

      The barking of the younger Akita might be imitation (she’s imitating the bigger Akita’s behavior). On the other hand, if it younger Akita only barked when the older one was present (we don’t know that – it’s always both of them, and the older one, Fenry, already used to bark when he was an only dog), it might be social facilitation (rather than social learning on the younger one’s part.)

      Skye, the white dog, is also barking, but in their case, it’s social facilitation: Skye doesn’t usually bark at other dogs. I’d venture that in this video, Skye is only barking because the Akitas are.

      I also agree that dogs barking behind fences (or on roofs, or on chains) probably don’t have a great time. I imagine that seeing the world go by without being able to participate in it is a frustrating experience.

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