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How to Train Your Dog to Stay in an Unfenced Yard

How to Train Your Dog to Stay in an Unfenced Yard
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Time icon2-4 Months
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

Keeping your dog safe while in your unfenced yard is imperative to owning a dog on a large property or having a dog in a home without fencing. Your neighbors may not want your dog on their property and many homes in rural areas have a lot of yard space but no fences to mark these boundaries. There are dangers in having a dog in an unfenced yard as well. Numerous dogs are hit by cars every day because they are allowed to roam freely near roads or driveways. Keep your dog safe and protected by keeping him on your property. 

Respecting your neighbors’ property as well as their pets or livestock is simple with training your dog to stay in your yard, even if it does not have a fence. Teaching your dog his boundaries will keep him home, or at least in your yard and out of harm’s way, as well as out of trouble.

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Defining Tasks

Training your dog to stay in an unfenced yard is basic boundary training. You will be showing your dog his boundaries, where he can go, how far away he can be from your or your home, and where he is not allowed to go. Boundary training takes time and repetition. To teach your dog his boundaries, you will need time and patience. Be sure to practice this training every day. You will start by showing him the far boundaries of your unfenced yard and then work up to challenging him not to cross that invisible line as he gets used to your expectations. This might be a difficult task at first, but remember to repeat this training each day, several times a day, in short sessions to get your dog to understand and remember the rules around the border. 

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Getting Started

Be sure to use some high-value tasty treats for rewards and to entice your dog when necessary. You will need a leash for early training. Be sure to have the proper collar and/or harness as well, depending on your dog’s size. At least one method uses marker flags. These can be found at your neighborhood hardware store. Temporary flags can mark the border line so your dog can see the visual line and begin to make a connection to your expectations with the border. Have patience and dedicate time for this training. It may take several weeks to be able to leave your dog unattended in your unfenced yard. 

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The Perimeter Method

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Walk the border

Walk with your dog on a leash along the perimeter of your yard several times a day for a few days. While walking the perimeter, point toward the ground on your way around so your dog can visually see his boundary. You can also mark this area with flags, but it’s not necessary.

2

Boundary

After a few days, stop pointing to the perimeter and begin a sweeping motion with your arm so your dog can see the perimeter of his boundary line. Do this walk with your dog at least four times a day for a few days. Your dog should begin to stop at the boundary line and not cross.

3

Commands

Once you have spent about a week showing your dog his boundary line, begin to go to the line with your dog and start commands. Beginning with sit, have your dog sit in various places at the border line on your property.

4

Stay

After practicing sitting on the line, start using the stay command while at the border of your property. To challenge your pup, you can cross the line yourself while having the dog stay on his side.

5

Leave it

Back on your property, take your dog on the same daily walks and use ‘leave it’ as you get to the line. If your dog is not familiar with the leave it command, it may take another week or so using this command for your dog to connect and understand he is to leave anything on the other side of the line alone.

6

Treat challenge

Once your dog understands the 'leave it' command as it relates to the the property line, begin tossing treats onto the opposite side of the property line and use the leave it command. Your dog should refrain from going after the treats. Once he is successful, you can offer him a different treat. On the other hand, on your way back around your property line walk, you can cross the line using the ‘stay’ command and get the treats for your dog from the other side.

The Help from Friends Method

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1

Commands

Train your dog basic commands such as ‘stay,’ ‘come,’ and leave it.’

2

Walk

Once he knows those commands, begin to take him for a leash walk along your property line. If your dog tries to cross over the line, gently tug the leash or stop walking so he is stopped in her tracks.

3

Treat

Once he responds and comes back to you, offer him a treat.

4

Recruit a friend

Ask a friend to run quickly across your yard crossing the property line. If your dog doesn’t chase, offer him a treat. If he does try to follow, stop or shorten the leash to keep him on the correct side. You can also use the ‘leave it’ command.

5

Toys

Continue to use a friend to help you by tossing a ball or toy over the boundary line. Use the ‘leave it’ command to keep your dog on the line, not crossing over. Give him a treat once you realize he is not interested in crossing the line.

6

Play

Once your dog is used to this imaginary line, try having your dog outside off leash. Play with him and toss toys on the other side of the line every so often as you play.

7

Reward

Be sure to reward your dog as he learns where his boundaries are.

The Boundary Training Method

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Clicker

Using a clicker, teach your dog to recognize flags and then place them along the boundary line.

2

Flag line

Buy utility marking flags from your local hardware store and place them along the invisible boundary line where you would like your dog to stay. Consider placing these inside your property line if possible so if your dog crosses, he has room for safety while staying off someone else’s property.

3

Indoor flags

Using two flags indoors, teach your dog to recognize a flag by exploring and clicking when your dog acknowledges the flags. Show your dog a flag, let her sniff and touch her nose to it. Click and treat when she touches the flag.

4

Separate flags

Put two flags apart from one another a few feet apart. Walk your dog to the flags and let her touch them with her nose. Each time she touches the flags, click and treat.

5

Further

Keep moving the flags further apart and continue to practice getting your dog to recognize and touch her nose to the flags. As you move them further, you may need to walk with her to each flag for her to notice it.

6

Name it

You can give the flags or the border a name such as ‘border’ so she recognizes the flags’ name and will connect that with her boundaries later. Practice inside with the flags in different areas for about a week before moving outside.

7

Border line

Outside, place your flags about ten feet apart along the border you’d like your dog to respect. Walk the property line with your dog using the name you’ve given the flags. Be sure to click and treat each time she touches her nose to the flags. She should recognize and touch each flag as you pass. If she is distracted, you may need to use a leash for the first few weeks.

8

Off-leash

Continue to practice taking your dog off-leash once she’s used to recognizing the flags and touching them. As she does better, spread the flags out more and walk with her off-leash. Click and treat each time she touches the flags.

9

Practice

Continue to practice with your dog taking flags away as she trains. Over time, you will be able to take the border flags away and your dog should know her boundaries.

By Stephanie Plummer

Published: 10/26/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Neo

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Labrador Retriever

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18 Months

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I want to teach my dog not to run from the house but to stay in the yard and maybe intreduce clicker training

May 13, 2022

Neo's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Niko, I suggest following the "Recruit Help from Friends method" from the article linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/stay-in-an-unfenced-yard I would start with just the above method. If pup is super motivated to leave by interesting things nextdoor, I would also do some remote collar training in addition to the above method. Whether that's needed or not depends a lot on the specific dog. Many dogs can be taught this with only positive reinforcement training, but others find distractions more rewarding that anything you can offer, and need additional consistency in the training for safety. First, learn how to fit the collars correctly by watching the video below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLxB6gYsliI Figure out pup's "working level" on your e-collar, which is the lowest level that dog responds to at all - indicating they can feel the collar at all. Check out the video linked below on how to find this level and go through this protocol for each dog. Finding their Working Level - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cl3V8vYobM Next, walk pup, one dog at a time around your perimeter. Each time they approach the boundary line (which I would use property flags to mark well so pup's can visually remember and you will be consistent), use your leash to reel them back toward you, back inside the property line while at the same time pushing the stimulation button on the remote collar while pup is on the wrong side of the boundary line - as soon as pup gets back on the correct side of the boundary line, the correct stops and pup is praised. When pup begins to avoid going over the boundary line, you can also give treats for staying on the correct side. This will involve a lot of walking. Pup's will need to do this a lot, each dog separately, one at a time at first around the entire property line. Once pup's have learned the lesson well. You can go for a walk near the boundary line with the dogs off-leash and correct with the remote training collar if they cross the boundary during the walk - showing them that they still can't cross while off leash either. While you are still training the dogs you will need to physically keep them on your property using leashes and such so that they aren't running across the boundary line when you aren't ready - that will ruin your training. They need to be corrected consistently for crossing the boundary lines while you show them what they are supposed to be doing using the long leash (if you just correct and skip the long leash part they will likely run away and not toward you because they won't understand at first why they are being corrected - reeling them in with the leash and stopping the correction as soon as they are on the correct side of the boundary helps them learn to come back over to your side of the line). Another, easier option that will likely be even more effective if it's an option financially will be installing an electric fence around your property. You will still need to walk them around the boundary using a long leash and reel them back to your side of the boundary line when they cross to show them how to stop the correction - but the collars from the electric fence will enforce the correction for you and will be very consistent in correcting pups for crossing the boundary when you aren't around - making the training more effective and probably quicker for you. With electric fences, use flags to mark the boundary also and because your property is large, don't remove the flags later - keep them in place a s a reminder since you don't have a physical fence to remind pups. Don't skip walking the boundary with pups and teaching pup to avoid the electric fence - many people skip that part and it can ruin training for electric fences because dogs cross, then run and don't know how to stop the correction by returning - pups need to learn to return to make the correction stop so that they understand how to avoid the correction by not crossing the boundary. Reward pups with treats for not crossing. Clicker training: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPDOrEEsAJ8 Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 16, 2022

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Reggie

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Great Pyrenees

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3 Years

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Reggie is a rescue. We've had him for a month and he is very attached to me. We have a large fenced yard. However he has recently began getting out of the fence at night and sometime during the day despite me being home. How can I keep him in?

Nov. 2, 2021

Reggie's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Julie, First, I recommend teaching a reliable Come command. Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Come: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Second, assuming pup is staying outside in a physical fence - like a wooden fence, that he is escaping out of through things like digging or fence climbing, I recommend installing an invisible fence two feet inside of your physical fence around the yard. You can also use something like Halo for a similar effect. The invisible fence/collar should help pup not to even approach the physical fence so that he won't have opportunity to dig or climb it. The invisible in-ground electric fence should only be paired with the real fence and not in place of it, or it will not be effective. There still needs to be a physical barrier so that pup can't just bolt through the electric fence quickly. If you know for sure pup is climbing the fence opposed to digging or going through somewhere, you could also install something like this. Something like an invisible fence or Halo will be better about teaching pup to respect fence boundaries in general though. When you are present with pup after installing the containment device like halo or invisible fence, then I would walk around the property with pup on a long training leash. Whenever pup goes close to the boundary line where the collar will correct them at, tell pup Out, then reward with a treat when they move toward you and away from that line. When pup doesn't obey, they will be automatically correct by the collar, at which point you will quickly reel them toward you with the leash to make the correction stop. Practicing with the leash, collar, and rewards together helps pup understand how to avoid the correction by staying away from the line of the fence, and feel safer inside your yard with the use of treats when pup is in the correct location. This is a lot more fair to pup than pup simply learning through trial and error or corrections with the collar alone. https://www.wayfair.com/Amagabeli--3-ft.-H-x-50-ft.-W-Metal-Fence-Panel-JW009-L3361-K~AADA1014.html https://easypetfence.com/products/6-kitty-corral-cat-fence-posts-2-pack Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Nov. 3, 2021


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