An unfenced yard and an active pup can spell trouble.
For one, dogs let out in unfenced yards can easily run away, get lost, or stolen. What’s more, unfenced yards are a safety hazard—your pet might get into a fight with another animal, get injured or killed by oncoming traffic, or eat something dangerous on the street leading to serious illness or even death.
Luckily there are two effective ways you can train your dog to stay in the yard, both of which require some simple accessories and a lot of patience.
Check them out here.
1. Boundary Training
This is one of the most common ways to train a dog to stay inside the yard. It takes some time, but it is simple to do and incredibly effective.
Typically boundary training is practiced indoors by simply walking your pup around the restricted area and giving them a treat when they stay within the boundaries. However, since there are many distractions outside, to successfully implement this method you will need some tools, such as:
- A 15 to 20-foot extendable leash
- A clicker
- A couple of flags (depending on the size of the yard, but you should have enough to place on every 8 to 10 feet of the perimeter)
- Dog treats
How does boundary training outdoors work?
1. Recognize flags
Start inside and show your dog a flag, then use the clicker and treats when the pooch shows interest. The aim is for the dog to touch the flag with its nose and then come back to you for a reward.
Try a few times and if your dog responds well, try putting the flag further away from you.
The AKC suggests using the clicker when the dog walks back to you instead of when it targets a flag—this way you are reinforcing the idea that they are rewarded for walking away from the boundary rather than towards it.
2. Try it outside
Place the flags along the boundary line.
Put your dog on a leash and walk it around the yard. If your indoor training was a success, your pup should touch its nose to all the flags in the yard and come back to you for a treat.
Practice for a few weeks or even a few months. Extend the leash as your dog improves, increasing the distance between you and the flag.
3. Try it out for real
As mentioned above there are plenty of distractions outside, so add some dog toys, or other forms of excitement in the yard while still keeping your dog on a leash. Watch his reaction—if your pet chases after toys or gets easily distracted, you might need more training.
Let the dog out in the yard without a leash, but continue to use the flags and the clicker to improve targeting.
If all goes well, you could leave your dog in the yard without a fence, although you should still supervise him and not remove the flags for at least 6 months.
If your pet does cross the boundary, do not punish them as this can be counter-productive. Bring them back home instead and give them a treat for returning.
2. Using commands
This is another effective method to try, however, to be successful your dog needs to know basic commands like ‘stay’, ‘leave it’, and ‘come’. If your dog has not been trained, you should take some time and teach him these commands before starting this method.
How does it work?
1. Walk the dog along the boundaries of the yard
Walk your dog on a leash along the perimeter of your property.
With a sweeping movement of the arm show him that this is a line that he is not supposed to cross. When he goes over the line, pull him back with a gentle tug of the leash.
2. Challenge your pet
There are several ways you can try and distract your dog to stay within the lines, such as
Have a friend run across the yard. If your dog doesn’t chase after him, offer a treat. If he does, try the ‘leave it’ command or shorten the leash.
Throw a dog toy or treat across the boundary line and use the ‘leave it’ common to keep your dog on the correct side. Reward them with a treat if they do not cross the boundary.
What to Remember?
1. Put in the time
Boundary training takes a lot of time and patience. Consistency is one of the basics of dog care and training so you need to practice every day in short sessions. If you don’t have the time, hire a professional trainer.
2. Get the right accessories
You will need a training leash and a harness or collar, depending on which leash accessory is right for your dog.
3. Understand your dog
Training is much easier once you understand why your dog acts in a certain way. For instance, your dog may run away from the yard even with boundary training if it is bored. They could also run off if something in the yard scares them or try to mate (if your pet is not spayed or neutered). Once you know the why you can address the issue and make the entire training process run more smoothly.
4. Keep your pet entrained in the yard
Mix it up with different toys and activities that will keep your pet engaged.
Alternatives to Boundary Training
If you can’t train your dog to stay in the yard, try some of the following alternatives.
Invest in a GPS collar
The best GPS collars track your dog’s movements and let you know where it is in real-time, making it easier to find your pet even if it crosses the boundary.
Try invisible fences
These are electric fences placed underground that connect to a collar. If your dog tries to go over the boundary it will receive a mild stimulation from the collar, although in most cases dogs are trained to retreat when they hear the warning noise. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, invisible fences require additional training and can cause some discomfort for your pet.
Use tie-outs or long lines
Tie-outs are a stake and chain/cable designed to keep dogs in place. However, experts recommend trying other methods first—a tied-up dog can become aggressive, plus even well-designed tie-outs can cause some discomfort for your dog.
A long line, on the other hand, is similar to an extendable leash—it’s basically a long rope with a clip at the end. Long lines can offer more freedom, but they still keep your pooch tied up in the yard.
Can I have a dog without having a fence?
Yes, you can. There are a few ways to train a dog to stay in the yard, but keep in mind that certain dog breeds are keener on exploring, which means they might wander off more easily. So if you have a dachshund, a Dalmatian, a greyhound, a basset hound, a beagle, or a husky, you might want to keep a closer eye on them when they are in the yard alone.
Should I leave my dog alone in my unfenced yard?
No, it is not advisable to leave a dog unattended in the yard. You can try out different training methods or alternatives, but since none of them are 100% effective, you should supervise your pup when they are in the yard. Also, training will not stop other people or animals from coming into the yard.
Can I use shock collars for boundary training?
No, shock or prong collars should not be used on canines as they can make the animal aggressive, scared, and stressed, says the Humane Society. If you want to train your dog to respect boundaries, use a standard, comfortable collar and a clicker.