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Fido is no longer the energetic puppy that spent his days tearing around the house chasing kids and playing with other pets. Now he’s getting on a bit. There’s grey under his chin and you sometimes have to call his name that bit louder to catch his attention. But it’s fine and normal, everyone gets old, even humans! However, now that his hearing and eyesight aren’t so good, you’d like to keep him close by where you can keep him safe.
Training your older dog to stay inside could even save his life. He could escape the yard, head for a road and end up in a traffic collision. A collision, which in the worst case may take his life, but if not may still land you with substantial vet bills. Training him to stay inside could also mean you don’t have to leave the kids unsupervised while you track him down.
Fortunately, trading Fido to stay inside is pretty straightforward. The focus of training will be to get him into a consistent routine of staying indoors. Part of that will also entail enticing him in with food and toys. You will also need to take steps to prevent him going outside in the first place.
If Fido is still fairly receptive, he could get in a habit of staying inside in just a matter of weeks. However, if he’s less interested in following instructions and no longer playing with a full deck of cards, then you may need a couple of months to train him to stay indoors. If this training is successful you won’t have to worry when you lose sight of him. It also means if you’ve just had work done in your yard that he won’t go out and trample all over it.
Before you get to work you will need to gather a few bits. For one of the methods, baby gates and a long leash will be needed. You will also need some mouth-watering treats. Alternatively, you can break his favorite food into small pieces. Toys and food puzzles will also be required.
Then just set aside a few minutes each day for training. Try and find a time where you can practice in the house without distractions.
Once you have collected all that, just bring patience and a positive attitude, then work can begin!
The Come Method
One effective way to keep him indoors is to train him to always want to be at your side. You can gradually get him into this habit over time and all you need is a handful of treats. Simply regularly call his name in a high-pitched voice.
As soon as he comes over to you, hand over a tasty treat. If you don’t want to use a treat, you can hold up a toy to lure him over and play with that for a minute as a reward instead.
Practice makes perfect
Practice this randomly throughout the day when you are in the house. This will get him into a habit of always wanting to be firmly at your side, indoors.
Move farther away
As you practice, you can also move farther away when you call his name. For example, call "Fido" when you are the other side of the house to make sure he still comes to you. You also need to call him when there are distractions around, such as guests. Before you know it he will be in a habit of following you around in the house and wouldn’t want to step outside without you anyway.
Don’t punish him
Dogs, even old dogs, always learn best with positive reinforcement. So even if you do catch him outside, stay calm and swiftly bring him in. If you punish him, he becomes scared of you he may want to get outside to escape from you.
The Temptation Removal Method
Obscure his view
Fido may want to go outside because he can see an interesting environment, full of things to sniff. So simply obscuring his view with curtains and blinds may completely remove the temptation.
Limit his access
Keep doors closed. Alternatively, you can fit baby gates. They are quick and easy to install and take down. Each time he gets outside without permission will push back the end result.
To give him some freedom while also preventing him from going outside, you may want to consider tethering him inside. A long leash will still allow him to roam around, but it will prevent you having to worry if you aren’t in the room to supervise him.
If you do catch him trying to go outside, pull out a toy or hold up a treat and call his name to lure him away. You want to distract him whenever he shows interest in going outside and demonstrate that staying indoors comes with positive rewards.
Meet his toilet needs
He may want to go outside because he needs the toilet. So if you’re to successfully train him to stay indoors, you need to make sure you regularly take him out to the toilet or have somewhere he can go. Otherwise training him to remain inside will prove challenging.
The Distraction Method
Fido may be old, but he’s probably still got a healthy appetite. So leave him food puzzles inside to get through. Not only will this stop him getting bored of indoors, but it will also help show him that he has everything he needs within four walls.
Even older dogs need exercise. So although it may seem counter-intuitive, make sure he gets enough exercise outside. If he’s been out and he’s now tired, he will be much more inclined to remain inside and sleep.
A designated area
Make sure Fido has his own area, corner or bed. Also, make sure this bed is comfy with blankets and is relatively private--ideally with three walls around him. If he has somewhere that feels like his, it will become his territory that he will naturally want to stay in.
Walk the perimeter
Another part of making inside feel like his territory is showing him where his boundaries are. So, secure him to a leash and walk him around the perimeter of the house once in the morning and once in the evening. Inside will soon feel like his territory that he naturally wants to stay in to defend.
You need to make inside his sanctuary where he has everything he needs. That means handing over tasty treats every now and then. You can also leave out new toys for him to play with. You want him associating inside with only positive memories.
By James Barra
Published: 03/07/2018, edited: 01/08/2021