Most Saturday mornings I sit on my couch with a cup of coffee and gaze out the storm door to watch the colorful parade of joggers, bikers, and walkers as they make their way past my little house. This calm reverie is usually accompanied by the high-pitched, incessant yapping of the two terrier mixes that live across the street.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re sweet dogs and I’ve learned to tune them out. What drives me to distraction is that passing dog owners allow their dogs to walk right up to the terriers’ gate and nose them through the bars. Not only does this bring on a crescendo of frenetic barking, but it inevitably ends in yelping as one of the terriers redirects his aggression onto the other. This redirection is common in territorial breeds and can happen in a variety of circumstances. Not only do these little guys get extremely agitated by the perceived threat to their domain, but left uncorrected this behavior will probably get worse. But territorialism is only one reason NOT to let your dog nose other dogs through the fence.
First of all, in dog terms, it’s incredibly rude. If everyone who passed by your home peered through the front window, you’d probably stir up quite the ruckus as well. But in terms of basic health, nose-to-nose encounters are putting your pup at risk. Airborne viruses like kennel cough, canine influenza, and distemper pose the greatest threat. While many dogs receive vaccinations for distemper and kennel cough (this would be your bordetella vaccination), seemingly healthy dogs can still be carriers of the virus and, like the human flu shot, not all strains of the bordetella virus are covered in the vaccine so infection is still a real possibility. While it’s less likely that the parvovirus–an aggressive, potentially fatal, virus that usually manifests as severe diarrhea and is transmitted through fecal matter–could be passed through a fence, it’s still possible when paws, mouths, and fur all come into such close and frenzied contact.
So please, neighbors and pet owners everywhere, it may seem cute to let your dog “say hi” to another through the fence, but is it really worth the agitation you cause the dog on the other side or the health risks for your own best buddy?
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