Have you ever left your dog for a moment only to see him bolting into the neighborhood? Fenced or unfenced, some doggos are master escapists. Their urge to hunt and chase things can bring them to places they aren’t supposed to be visiting. Aside from their safety, knowing how to train your dog to stay in the yard is also a matter of guarding your property.
The likes of Beagles, Bassets, and Saint Bernards are natural wanderers. The first two breeds have powerful noses that will take over once they get hooked to a smell. This makes them look a bit stubborn and a pain to train for obedience.
So how you can you encourage your adventure-seeking doggo to stay within your territory? Here’s what you need to know:
Why boundary training matters
Getting that doggo stay within your yard is important for a variety of reasons. First, your neighbors aren’t apt to have a stranger pooch on their property. There could be kids or other pets that will be exposed to potential harm. It’s not that your dog is savage. But you’ll never know when their territorial and hunting instincts will kick in.
Second, and it’s probably the most important, your dog can get hit by passing vehicles.
Every year, thousands of dogs die due to car-related accidents. These pooches may run obliviously and not notice a speeding car. The last thing you’d want to happen is driving a bleeding doggo into the vet.
Aside from keeping your furry buddy – and yourself – out of trouble in the neighborhood, training them to stay in the yard will ensure that your property is guarded. Yes, there are dogs that will be friendly even to strangers, but the presence of a canine is somewhat an effective deterrent to burglars. Listen and obey for dogs are important, as you see.
Lastly, as far as the basics are concerned, training them to stay is a matter of discipline. Your dog, regardless if young or old, can learn new tricks. They can be taught restraint toward their urges, say fighting the itch to chase that rabbit across the street.
The boundary protocol
Knowing how to train your dog to stay in the yard starts by setting the boundaries. Start indoors by asking him to touch his snoot on white boundary flags. After that, ask him to go back to you for his reward – it could be treats or affection.
You can increase the distance of the flags by 8-10 feet as the doggo learns the concept. Make sure that he does the boundary training in as much distance as the flag can go.
Next time, go outdoors and put him on a long leash. Set up your flags within the fence or the boundaries you plan to set. Make sure that he touches the flag and returns to you for the treat.
Repeating this process will help your dog associate returning from the boundary with the reward. Since canines are naturally territorial, this will also help recognize their own territory as a domesticated pet.
The key here is to practice as often as you can. If your dog went beyond the boundary, don’t give a treat when he comes back.
Try letting him off the leash sometimes to perform the same flag drill. If he does it without being distracted or running beyond the boundary, give him a jackpot reward – probably chicken jerky instead of the small kibble.
Clicker training method
Clicker training is exactly what its name suggests. When your dog comes back from a boundary, pair a treat with a click. Click first, then the treat. Do this all the time. The clicker alone is nothing for your pet until it comes with the treat. Always give in pairs to achieve positive results on listen and obey for dogs
Food is your dog’s weakness. Only through food-reward based training that a clicker will work. If you keep clicking achievements without a treat, the essence of the clicker as a marker weakens.
Remember that dogs thrive in predictability and reliability. If you suddenly ditched the treat and clicker, they will be confused and flustered. The last thing you’ll know is they are stepping away from the boundary you just set.
However, the problem here is when the treats become bribes. To fix this, carry treats around, but don’t train. Let your dog get used to it but never let a piece slip for nothing. Soon enough, your dog will realize that the presence of treats isn’t always about having them. That’s how to train your dog to stay in the yard.
When training, don’t carry your stash of treats. Instead, store it somewhere in your house near you. When your dog does well with a boundary task, retrieve a piece and give it to the pooch. This way, your dog will realize that just because his human doesn’t carry treats doesn’t mean he can’t get any of it.
The bottom line? The doggo will know that the access point to a yummy treat is doing what his human wants. What’s important here is that you vary the scenario. You can skip the treats randomly but don’t let your dog get bored. Bring it back again so he knows he still got the chance to get some chewy.
To succeed on the Clicker method, here’s Zak George discussing how to do it the right way:
The perimeter method
Another option you have is the perimeter method. This works by walking your dog along the boundary line of your property. This works for unfenced yards that the dog is supposed to guard.
Start by walking the pooch along the border while pointing your finger on his supposed boundary. If you want, you can use flags to mark the territory. Do this pointing and walking thing for a few weeks until your dog get used to it.
After that, walk but stop pointing. Instead, use a sweeping gesture with your hand to indicate the boundary line your dog should follow. It’s best to do this at least four times a day for a couple of weeks. By then, your dog should have established the boundary limit.
Patience and consistency. Those are the key to succeed on perimeter training.
You can now start giving simple commands. You can ask the dog to sit on different spots within the boundary line. If he tries to go beyond, let out a firm “leave it” or “no” depending on which one your dog is familiar with.
To up the game, toss a treat outside the boundary line and say “leave it”. At this point, you’re teaching your dog to fight the urge of pursuing a distraction. If he succeeded on walking without gnawing the treat, give him a better snack. Practice this over and over again until it becomes effortless for your dog.
Before finishing the drill, walk back with you on the other side of the property. Ask your dog to “stay” as you pick up the treats you threw earlier. Give it to him as a reward for keeping within the boundary. If he strays, skip the treat.
Extension leash method
If your dog keeps on chasing every single moving thing, it’s better to train him with the extension leash method. Put him on a long leash while walking him along the boundary lines. It’s the same setup as perimeter method but with the leash on. If your dog tries to jump out of the line, pull the leash gently until his attention is back to the task at hand. Listen and obey for dogs will test your patience, but you have to bear with it.
Once your dog gets distracted, pull him and walk away. If he follows your direction, praise him or give a small treat. Keep on walking him along the perimeter and pull whenever he strays.
When the doggo seems to get the idea, ask a family member to run along the perimeter. If the dog tries to chase, tug the leash and let out a firm “come” or “leave it”. Whenever he heeds your command, give him a treat. Do this repeatedly until the dog pays no attention to the other person.
Note: There’s a big difference between tugging and dragging the leash. You should stick to the former to prevent the risk of aggression.
But to make sure that he is to be trusted, toss his favorite toy on the opposite side of the boundary. If he tries to get it, do the same tugging and rewarding process. This will teach him restraint and instill the value of the boundary. Continue doing this every day until you’re confident with the results.
One way to test the result is to let the doggo on the yard without the leash. You can install a CCTV camera to see if he’s going beyond. You can also play with him to see if he has the discipline despite the excitement. Throw a toy out of your yard and see if he’s going to chase it. If he stayed within the limit, you’ve succeeded on training. That’s one way to know how to train your dog to stay in the yard.
Electric obstacles are no-gos
I’m not a fan of electric shock obstacles. First, it will hurt my doggo and lastly, my pet is smart enough to get past it. Electric obstacles can also develop unnecessary aggression toward things and people. If the canine is chasing a neighbor when he got electrocuted, he will associate that person with the pain.
For me, those who use electronic obstacles are either cruel or too lazy for training. Sometimes, the dogs will develop fear and they would no longer want to go to the yard. Listen and obey for dogs should not, in any way, be brutal.
And for master escapists, they can past the obstacle without being electrocuted. Even if it’s accompanied with loud beeping, the doggo will soon learn that it’s not really harmful. They will just stop which allows the electronic collar to reset. Just in time, they will advance beyond the boundary even before the shock happens.
Also, dogs that are in full speed can cover enough ground to dodge the delivery of the shock. Dogs are smart pets. They will learn that running fast will save them from electrocution.
Above all these, there’s one bigger problem. Sure, the dog will get through the electronic obstacle without a shock, but there’s no guarantee that they still wouldn’t when they get back.
The pooch may not use the same strategy and experience multiple shocks in the effort to get inside. This is one reason why some dogs never come home at all.
Positive reinforcement is the way to go
All dogs are born with the territorial instinct. What you need to do is teach them where their territory is. But that gets tricky when their stubbornness takes over. With that, the quick fix for all training problems arrives in the picture: positive reinforcement.
Believe me when I tell you that negative punishment only worsens the problem. It will just make your dog more aggressive. This will kill your chance of succeeding to teach obedience drills to your pet.
What I do, instead, is to exploit the reward system. If my doggo stayed within the flagged boundary, he gets a chewy, if he strays, he gets nothing. Simple, though it gets tricky when it’s time to ditch the treats.
The goal here is to make your dog feel that your yard is the better option. It’s like demonizing what’s beyond by depriving him of something when he slips. You can do listen and obey for dogs without using electronic containments or electronic collars.
Still, timing and recall are important here. Make sure that you avoid the pitfalls usually associated with treat-based training like turning it into a bribe. Also, prepare a lot of patience because it wouldn’t be that easy. Try boundary training a Beagle and you’ll know what I mean.
It may take weeks or months before your dog can finally stay without being restrained. Still, don’t ever leave Fido on his own for a long time. They may start to develop rude behaviors like showing aggressiveness to anyone who will step within your yard. That includes your kids and visitors.
Overall, be consistent with recall words, establish the boundary, give out treats, and be patient. That’s way difficult than how I put it, but it will happen. Knowing how to train your dog to stay in the yard will pay off both for his safety and your personal benefit.