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 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.
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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.
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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.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Judge
German Shepherd
1 Day
1 found helpful
Question
1 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
670 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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Windsor
Golden Retriever
1 Year
0 found helpful
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Windsor
Golden Retriever
1 Year

He always used to listen when he was called for, and he always used to stay out of the neighboring yard and the upper level in out house, but this past week he won't listen and he's always running over to the neighbors no matter how much we holler for him. Now my folks have told me to tell him no whenever he does something like that and to bat him on the nose but I just don't feel comfortable with doing that. I don't know what to do.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
91 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Younger adult dogs often struggle to retain learned behaviors. It is just something that happens until they are completely mature. The best thing to do in this scenario is to refresh his recall. You may have to practice in this setting, so he refreshes quickly. Recall: STAGE ONE – 'Catching' or Charging Up the 'Come' Cue Start in a distraction free environment so that your dog can focus only on you. Whenever your puppy or dog is coming to you on his own, wait until he is a couple of feet from you and then say his name and the word 'come.' When he gets to you, make a big fuss. With this exercise, your dog will learn that coming to you is a really good thing. After a while, you can lengthen the distance between you and start using the word when he is coming to you from a greater distance. Coming to you should always be rewarded, whatever the circumstance and no matter how long it took your dog to respond. Motivate your dog to come by being exciting, running away from him, waving a toy, or having delicious food for him when he gets to you. This will show him that coming back to you the best thing he can do. STAGE TWO – Solidifying the Cue Through Play Make sure you play the Back and Forth game with another person that your dog is comfortable with. Start the game in a quiet environment so it is easy for your dog to focus on you. Hold your dog back while the other person calls him excitedly. Try not to use his name or the cue word but talk excitedly to ‘gee’ him up. Do not release him until the person calls his name followed by the cue word “come.” When the cue word is given, release your dog and let him go running to the person calling. As soon as he reaches them they should praise and reward him with a game of tug or a food reward. When your dog has had his reward, have the other person hold him back as you call him and release as you say his name followed by the cue word. When he comes to you reward him with another game of tug or food reward. Repeat this game back and forth but only do a few repetitions so your dog does not get bored or too tired. Keeping it fresh means the game is always fun to play. STAGE THREE – Adding Vocal Cue With Hand Signal Inside Now your dog knows what the word “come” means you can use the cue word to call him to you while adding a hand signal to the word. Hand signals are always good to build with vocal cues so that even if your dog cannot hear you he will understand what the hand signal means. This is good if your dog is a distance away from you. Start in a quiet environment. Walk away from your dog and call his name followed by the cue word and a hand signal. Praise and reward him when he comes to you. Start increasing the distance you call him from and praise for his compliance. If he does not respond, go back to the previous distance and repeat. Only practice this cue for a few minutes so your dog does not get bored. The secret to success is to always keep it fun, exciting and fresh. When your dog recognizes the hand signal, try calling his name and using the hand signal by itself without the vocal cue. You will then be able to use a combination of vocal cue only, hand signal only and the two together. Now your dog knows what the cue word means you can start to call him from different rooms or from areas where he cannot see you. This will encourage him to respond even when you are out of sight. STAGE FOUR – Adding Vocal Cue With Hand Signal Outside Now your dog is consistently coming to you in a distraction free environment you can proof your recall cue by taking it outside. Practice the recall in your yard and then gradually build up to the point where you can use it in the park or similar environment. The ultimate test is to use the recall when your dog is engaged in a different activity. Wait for a lull in that activity and then call your dog to you. Praise his decision to comply.

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Oscar
Treeing Walker Coonhound
6 Years
0 found helpful
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Oscar
Treeing Walker Coonhound
6 Years

He will not go to the bathroom in our backyard he wants to go everywhere else help

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
91 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Often when adult dogs have potty training issues, I tell people to just start completely over with potty training as if your dog were a puppy. This usually solves the problem in a few weeks or less. I am going to send you quite a bit of info on potty training. It is geared towards puppies, but the process is the same. Potty training: Know Your Pup. As you spend time with your puppy, learn your puppy’s love language. Just as some people prefer gifts, touch, or time spent together, puppies can be the same way. Some puppies love praise or pets, while others prefer treats. As you get to know your puppy, consider what reward your puppy loves the most. Create a Daily Schedule. It is best to have a routine for your puppy. A schedule helps them understand when to eat, play, and “go to the bathroom.” Your puppy should go out frequently and the routine should be the same every time. When? Start the day by taking your puppy outside, and repeating based on age and ability. They should also go out after napping, chewing, playing, and within 10 to 15 minutes of eating. Although some puppies can sleep for seven hours, it is important to set an alarm and take your pup out during the night. When you do, don’t make a fuss about it. Quietly take them outside with minimal stimulation and light. Praise them if they go to the bathroom and gently return them to their bed or crate. You don’t want them to get stimulated and ready to play in the middle of the night! As you get to know your puppy, you will become aware of their individual habits. Click here to learn more about house training schedules for puppies. Where? Take your puppy to a specific area to urinate or defecate. Be consistent. You can create an area by using urine-soaked paper or bowel movements to help create an aroma to stimulate your puppy. How? Take your puppy out on a leash so they can focus on the desired activity. This will help prevent them from wandering off to play. Once your puppy is in the selected area, use your verbal cue, such as “Hurry Up,” “Poopies,” “Go tinkle,” or any phrase your puppy responds to. What? Know the signs that your puppy has to go to the bathroom. Every animal may have a different “I gotta go” gesture, which often include restlessness, sniffing around, circling, scratching at the door, barking, and, eventually, squatting. At the first sign that your pup has to go, calmly and quickly take them outside to their bathroom spot. Deal with Accidents. Accidents are a normal part of house training a puppy. What to Do If you see your puppy in the process of urinating or defecating inappropriately, calmly and quickly interrupt them in the act. Tell them to stop (either by a jarring sound or command), and immediately take them to an appropriate location for elimination. After your puppy goes to the bathroom, lavishly praise them and offer a treat. Thoroughly clean up accidents, so your puppy is not attracted to this area again. Create a consistent feeding and watering schedule. Depending on the age of your puppy, they will eat three to four times a day. A consistent feeding routine can create a regular bathroom schedule. Take away water about 2 hours before bedtime. Learn more about ideal dog schedules here. What NOT to Do Don’t punish your puppy when they have an accident. At that point, it is too late. When a puppy has an accident in the house and they walk away, within seconds they have already forgotten about what they did. Taking them to the scene of the crime and yelling and/or rubbing their nose in it does not help and, in fact, can harm your puppy! Supervise. The best thing you can do is to prevent accidents and the best way to do this is to supervise your puppy at all times. You can tether your puppy to your waist with a five or six-foot leash and carefully observe them for signs that they need to go to the bathroom. If you can’t supervise, then crate or confine your puppy. The more accidents your puppy has in the house, the more confusing it will be for them and this can delay house training. Reward, Reward, Reward. It is important to give your puppy a reward for their good behavior. This can be for commands such as sitting and coming to you, or for appropriately eliminating outside. In a puppy, a reward can be a couple kibbles of puppy food or a treat, such as a small piece of meat. The treat should be exciting for them and only available as a result of good behavior.

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Roman
German Shepherd
8 Weeks
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Roman
German Shepherd
8 Weeks

What method is most effective to train pup to learn boundary area of a 1 acre, non-fenced yard. Is the clicker method more effective than a collar with tone, vibration and static/shock?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
85 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I am not a fan of deterrent collars but I do have a guide to share that has methods for teaching boundaries: https://wagwalking.com/training/stay-within-boundaries. I especially like the Reinforcing Boundaries Method because it gives the dog a visual that is easily remembered. The Wait Method is another good one and is described in the guide also. Be sure to take Roman to obedience classes to instill the bond with you that will have him coming to you when called. Work on his Recall also: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-come-back. The methods are all fantastic. A stellar recall will make the boundaries training easier, too. Good luck!

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Question
Ginger
Labrador Retriever
3 Years
0 found helpful
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Ginger
Labrador Retriever
3 Years

She won’t stay in our yard. She always tries to go down the road and in the taller grass where we don’t cut with the lawnmower. And then when I they to get her in or play with her she will just run off even more.

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
85 Dog owners recommended

Hello, to start, I would work on taking her on a leashed walk every day (a lengthy one) . Work on the heel command as described here: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel. Use either the Turns Method or the Stop and Go Method. The time spent training to heel will be like a play time for Ginger, all the while you are working on building respect from her. Start obedience training as well. Dogs love a challenge and love to train! This will bring you and Ginger closer together: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-pitbull-puppy-to-be-obedient. Once you have these skills under control, you can work on Ginger's recall. This is an excellent guide - read the entire guide for tips that will teach her to come back when you call: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-come-back. Lastly, you can work to teach Ginger boundaries for the yard: https://wagwalking.com/training/stay-within-boundaries. Happy training!

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