Gracie, our three-year-old Border Collie/Labrador, loves her back yard. She lies on the patio and looks over the yard as if surveying all she owns.
When she was a puppy, she dug holes in the flowerbeds and torn up the landscape fabric from under the mulch. Being a type-A personality, I guess she thought that was her job. It was a relief when her focus turned from the flowerbeds to a new game.
There is a paved walking trail on the other side of our back yard privacy fence. Many people use it to walk their dogs, run, or bike. As they go by, neighborhood dogs bark. Alerted, Gracie sights the people between the fence slats. Game on! She runs along the fence, around the pool, behind holly bushes, around the shed, springs off of the side fence, spins in several circles, and repeats the dance again.
As long as she’s having fun… That was our reasoning until three months ago when she started holding up her back leg. The vet indicted rest for several weeks should heal the probable hairline fracture.
Fearing another injury, we tried to slow her speedy laps. As she ran toward us, we tried to capture her, but she darted around us. We called her, but she ignored us. To get her attention, we splashed water on her. She stopped dead in her tracks and looked at us as if to say, “What do you need?” It was then we realized she becomes laser focused—almost as if in a trance.
The following month, Gracie began to limp again. This time she had completely torn her toenail off with the flesh exposed. Ugh!!! After a 4-week recovery, a new nail appeared and she was back to routine. Yes… well… it was short-lived.
Gracie is currently recovering from a broken toe. Four to six weeks of weekly splint changes by the vet. No walks, no swimming, no dog-friend play dates—just chilling on a leash. She’s really bummed out.
After three injuries and lots of vet bills, something needed to change. Research revealed she is not actually playing a game. She is stressed. Fence aggression is the term for her behavior. She defies the limits of the fence to try to get to the stimuli on the other side.
I also said to myself, as for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. (Ecclesiastes 3:18 NIV)
As if awakened from my own daze, I began to draw correlations between Gracie and me. I want something on the greener side of the fence, but God has limited me for my own good. I don’t understand. Feeling constricted, I stress and mentally ram into the fence. Many times I get hurt because my trust in the Master is weak.
When the Master calls, the day’s distractions drown out His voice. Calamity strikes. My trance is broken. I fall on my knees and seek His help.
Yahweh your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will bring you quietness with His love. He will delight in you with shouts of joy. (Zephaniah 3:17 HCSB)
They say in research that to break fence aggression, an owner needs to practice recalls with the dog:
- Tie a leash or rope to the dog’s collar. Call them and gently pull them toward you.
- Give praise with a happy and excited voice when they get to your side. Pet them and demonstrate your great love for them. This will quiet their stress.
- Offer a high-value treat like chicken or cheese.
Of course, we are not dogs, but if you will indulge me, here is the correlation:
- God gives us enough rope, but only to go so far. When we have hit the end, He gently tugs and says come to Me.
- God rejoices over us, brings quietness with His love, and delights in us with shouts of joy. Our stress melts away.
- He offers us a high-value reward—peace and joy through trust in the Master.