How to Train Your Dog to Stay in an Unfenced Yard

Hard
2-4 Months
Behavior

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.

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. 

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. 

The Boundary Training Method

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Step
1
Clicker
Using a clicker, teach your dog to recognize flags and then place them along the boundary line.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Perimeter Method

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Step
1
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Help from Friends Method

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Step
1
Commands
Train your dog basic commands such as ‘stay,’ ‘come,’ and leave it.’
Step
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.
Step
3
Treat
Once he responds and comes back to you, offer him a treat.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
7
Reward
Be sure to reward your dog as he learns where his boundaries are.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Baylee
German Shepherd
1 Year
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Baylee
German Shepherd
1 Year

Baylee chases other dogs making her leave her yard. She won’t listen

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
277 Dog owners recommended

Hello Beverly, I suggest you work on her "Come" and "Leave It" commands before having her off leash. Practice her "Come" command and "Leave It" command in a public location such as outside a dog park or regular park, where there are lots of other dogs area but enough space to avoid up close interactions. Use a long leash for this and work on enforcing her "Come" by reeling her in with the long leash when she ignores you. Practice this until she can be running toward another dog to say hi and when you tell her to come she will turn around mid-run and run back toward you. In order for her to listen in your yard, she needs to have had opportunities to practice coming and listening around high level distractions at other times when you are able to enforce the command. Generally working toward off leash obedience with her by using a long thirty foot leash, and eventually a lightweight fifty foot leash, will help to ensure obedience when it is most important. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Bowie
Rotti mix
6 Years
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Bowie
Rotti mix
6 Years

We live in the country with many open acres of farm and pastureland, some of which we own. We have accumulated 7 rescue dogs of various sizes, ages, breeds.
I am sad to admit that though we should have fenced in a portion of our property, we have not because we did not have close neighbors. Now we have one. Unless we can fence in a large portion of acreage, do you think it is possible to train my dogs, after may years, of running free? Of course you know nothing of my dogs temperments but my real question is:

is it possible with success to retrain a dog to respect boundaries after years of none???

We have investigated the underground fencing but I am just not convinced they are the answer. I realize this would take much time as I would need to work with each dog.

Thank you very much.
Adele

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
277 Dog owners recommended

Hello Adele, I suspect some of the dogs can learn and others may continue to struggle. You touched on it: I don't know your dogs temperaments...Very determined dogs, intact males with stronger urges to roam, and highly prey driven dogs are far more likely to struggle than dogs that naturally tend to stay closer to their person - like a herding breed or retriever opposed to a scent hound or husky. If your dogs are not intact males, very determined/driven dogs, or highly prey driven, then you have a good chance of success with work and a lot of consistency. You will likely need to use a remote electric collar (e-collar) to proof the boundary training after the dogs have learned though. This device is different than an electric fence. A remote training collar only goes stimulates the dog when you push the button and you control the stimulation level. It should be used in combination with tons of practice and teaching the dogs one by one where the boundary line is beforehand, like you mentioned. You can then practice calling the dog away from the line from further and further away while he is wearing the e-collar and correcting with the e-collar if he disobeys. The correction should not be a high-dangerous correction. You want to use the lowest level that each dog responds to, called a working level, and each dog's working level will be unique to him. Using an e-collar this way is simply a way to improve your own consistency - to teach the dog that you will enforce your rule even from a distance or from hiding somewhere nearby. The dog is then corrected for disobedience and understands the correction because you already spent time teaching him the boundary before you used the collar while he was on a leash beforehand. This gives him control of the situation and a choice to obey or disobey, rather than a random correction. I suggest setting up markers around your boundary line, like the ones used for training a dog not to go past an underground fence, and then leave them up since your property is large. For the e-collar training, you may want to hire a professional to teach you how to use the collar correctly, how to find a dog's working level, and train the boundaries with it. You can then teach the other dogs by yourself if you wish. Be careful who you hire and which collar that you buy. Garmin, SportDog, Dogtra, E-collar Technologies are good brands. Avoid lesser known, cheap collars - they can be dangerous. A good collar has a minimum of ten levels. Ideally, a good collar should have sixty or more. E-collar technologies mini educator has 100 levels - letting you use the perfect level for each dog without going too high. Another option is to put up a visual fence, that is less secure or shorter, and put an underground electric fence two feet in front of the visual fence, on your side of the fence. This scenario will ultimately depend on the electric fence to stop the dogs instead of just the small fence, but it will increase the likelihood of the electric fence working and the dog's respecting it because there is a physical barrier - however weak, that the dogs cannot just bolt through. The real fence will serve as a reminder that there is an electric fence - making the electric fence more effective and more fair to the dogs. Of course the final option is to just put up a fence tall enough to contain all the dogs. You will have to decide which of the options I mentioned sound best knowing your dogs and your property and financial goals. I wish you the best! Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Judge
German Shepherd
1 Day
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Judge
German Shepherd
1 Day

We are getting a puppy soon and have a large property. I would like to train him to stay in a certain boundary unattended, not the whole property as it is too big for that, but will it confuse him and ruin training when we go hike with him around other parts of the property?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
277 Dog owners recommended

Hello Krystal, It will be harder but you will simply need to teach him a command that means he is allowed to cross. Practice walking and running across the boundary line and him not being allowed to follow you. Clip a leash onto him, tell him "Let's Go", "Free" or whatever command you want him to learn for going across the boundary, then lead him over the line. Practice him being allowed to go across the line when given that word and you tempting him over by crossing the line yourself (after he has learned about the line) and correcting him by herding him back onto the yard where he is supposed to be if he tries to follow you without being released. I suggest only letting him across the line when a leash is clipped to him for now to make it less confusing, even if you simply un-clip the leash again twenty-feet into your walk. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Peanut
Blue Heeler
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Peanut
Blue Heeler
1 Year

My in laws have had Peanut since she was a puppy and unfortunately due to her highly active breed, my in-laws, being an older pair, just can't handle her excessive chewing and hyperactive behavior . We have offered to take peanut in and I'm looking to train her to stay in the yard. She was only kept outside in a 12 by 12 fenced in area. She has a sweet temperament but the poor girl is just bored and not exercised like she should be. She also chews on everything. Tips on how to deal with that would be appreciated as well.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
277 Dog owners recommended

Hello Julie, Check out the video below for a demonstration of how to teach boundaries. I also suggest when your dog steps over the boundary line, telling them "Ah Ah" and moving toward them until they back up onto the correct side of the boundary line. Many dogs learn fastest if you reward for correct behavior, tell them when they do something correct (by using a clicker for praising right when the dog does something correctly), and by calmly telling them No or Ah ah when they are not correct. Boundary training video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuTh47i3hOY For the chewing, check out the article linked below: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-not-to-chew/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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N/A
Australian Shepherd
8 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
N/A
Australian Shepherd
8 Weeks

Hello, I’m getting an aussie puppy in June & wanted to get a head start on what I’m going to need to do to train her to stay in my yard. we live along an interstate with a decent fence separating & nothing but fields surrounding but still want to be cautious! What is the best method of training to train the pup to stay in the yard?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
277 Dog owners recommended

Hello Cassie, I suggest using the "Help from Friends" method to teach boundaries. Also, be aware that at this age she will probably want to stay pretty close to you and stay inside your boundaries decently well with training. When she reaches adolescence and becomes more independent, curious and less nervous about leaving your side that is when she is likely to start wandering off the most. Do the training with her while she is little to keep her safe, but then repeat the training to remind her and reinforce the rules over the next couple of years as she grows up and wants to test limits even more, also. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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