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

Effective
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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
494 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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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
494 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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Judge
German Shepherd
1 Day
0 found helpful
Question
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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
494 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
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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
494 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
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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
494 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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queenie
Border Collie
2 Years
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queenie
Border Collie
2 Years

We have 4 acres all fenced in. But we have a power gate at the driveway and she will not stay inside the gate when we try to leave. We just got her and she is very clingy with people and wants to be with us. We have 4 fenced in areas that we could put her in for the day, but we really want her to be able to roam with the other dog we have.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
494 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sarah, I suggest looking into pet barrier devices if the issue is only at the gate. A pet barrier device is a bit like an electric fence for a small area. The device is setup in the area where you don't want pup to go, then the range is set so that the dog is corrected with the corresponding collar if they get within a certain distance of the device. As long as the dog stays away from that area they won't be corrected in the rest of the yard though. Is pup only getting out when the gate opens for your vehicle or is the gate wide enough that pup can get out through the bars even after the gate closes? If pup is just slipping out when your car leaves, I suggest using a pet barrier device setup right at the gate to keep pup back from the gate while your car is going through. If pup can get through the gate after it's closed also, I suggest also modifying the gate so that there are not large gaps she can fit through so that the gate will be less of a temptation in general. One example of a pet barrier device: https://www.petco.com/shop/en/petcostore/product/you-and-me-white-food-storage-bin-small-2541986?cm_mmc=PPC-GG-_-PTC_P_SUP_LIA-GG_FY19_SBU04_Supplies_BOPIS-_-76654999654-_-A&kpid=go_6481492731_76654999654_381033017427_pla-750811487164_c&utm_config=tad0iunwp&utm_campaign=PTC_P_SUP_LIA-GG_FY19_SBU04_Supplies_BOPIS&utm_source=google&gclid=Cj0KCQiAiZPvBRDZARIsAORkq7fVoSe1CLNjQcAiZ8OzQ9hMn0brSMPy0Ckwk8PNqaZo9lVa_PV_zf4aAtBuEALw_wcB Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Harley
German Shepard mixed
2 Years
0 found helpful
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Harley
German Shepard mixed
2 Years

Almost every night and early morning Harley barks constantly she barks at thing in are woods. Harley is very protective of us but her barking prevents us from sleeping and we don’t know how to get her to stop barking we’ve tried clicker training but after a while she started to ignore it

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
494 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jessica, It sounds like she is outside and barking when you are not present. If pup is with you, there are a lot of options, but if pup is by herself outside and barking, you will need a way to enforce the quietness without having to be present. A stimulation based bark collar is usually the best option for this outside. Teach pup the Quiet command and practice Quiet during the day while you are there. When pup knows Quiet, add the bark collar, then wait until she finds something to bark at when you are around. When she barks, command quiet and the collar should automatically correct her. Tell her "Ah Ah" and interrupt her if she doesn't stop barking when corrected (to show her that she should stop to stop the correction), and reward with treats if she does stop on her own after the correction and Quiet command. Practicing with her and teaching Quiet helps her understand why the bark collar is correcting her and gives an opportunity for her to choose quietness and earn treats. This makes the training more fair and more likely for the collar to be effective when you aren't present too. When she is in situations where she would normally bark and she doesn't due to the training, reward with treats. Once pup understands the training, have pup wear the bark collar at night. Be sure it is fitted according to directions or it will not work. I suggest only using high quality bark collars that have levels you can adjust. For a manual level, start on the lowest setting and see how pup does. Gradually increase the levels until you find a level pup indicates in any way that that she feels, that will be the level to use. Once the collar is set to that level, it should correct at that level each time she barks, instead of starting at the lowest level and gradually rising - starting at the lowest can sound good in theory but often allows dogs to get into the habit of barking several times before becoming quiet, instead of staying quiet. Also, be aware that if she is outside in an area where wild animals could enter the yard, she might need her bark to keep herself safe. If that's the case, the best option would be to take her inside at night to sleep in a crate where she can't watch out the windows to bark - unless pup is guarding livestock - in which case the barking at night might also be necessary and moving the livestock further from your home might be better - so that she can still guard them without disturbing you or others. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Mork and Mindy
Australian shelherd and chocolate lab cross
9 Months
0 found helpful
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Mork and Mindy
Australian shelherd and chocolate lab cross
9 Months

Our dogs are a brother and sister. They are neutered and spayed. We live on a farm, unfenced. They have started running to neighbouring farms, several miles away. How do we train them to stay home? We are seniors and my husband can’t walk well, so I will have to do the training.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
494 Dog owners recommended

Hello Rachel, I suggest following the "Recruit Help from Friends method" from the article linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/stay-in-an-unfenced-yard Because pups are so motivated to leave by interesting things nextdoor, I would also do some remote collar training in addition to the above method. 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. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Sky
German Shepherd
4 Months
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Question
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Sky
German Shepherd
4 Months

So I am getting my dog tomorrow and we have a neighbor close by that has a dog that constantly stays in our yard and also roams free everywhere else. We previously had a dog that was a rescue and I just couldn’t seem to get him to stay in the yard without wanting to run off with the neighbors dog. Trying to break this trend. What should I do?

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

Hello, thank you for the question. The most important thing I can say after reading your information is to remember that Sky is only 4 months old and should not be outside alone until much training has taken place and boundaries are set. Firstly, take Sky to dog obedience classes as a fun way to establish a strong and healthy bond between the two of you. Once Sky knows "sit, stay, come" and has the recall commands down pat then you can try being out and about in the yard with Sky off-leash. I would use the "Help From Friends" method and practice over and over. Using the long leash to establish the boundaries is key. Patience is a necessity, and praise and rewards are going to let Sky know that listening brings great benefits. I would provide your pup with plenty of stimulating toys, a source of water, and a place to rest to make home the best place to be. Play with your pup in the yard often so that Sky knows you are there and interested. This may dissuade seeking adventure elsewhere. Good luck!

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