How to Train a German Shepherd to Stay in the Yard

Hard
3-9 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

Your German Shepherd is a big ball of energy and you would love to let them run wild in your yard. Unfortunately, you can't trust them to stay in the yard and not take off whenever something grabs their attention. You take your pup on walks and to the dog park, but you can tell they need more time outdoors. If only there was some way to make your German Shepherd stay in the yard.

Defining Tasks

Boundary training is a great way to teach you German Shepherd to stay in the yard. With consistent training and a little patience, you can train your pup to respect the edges of your yard as if a fence were really in place. Compared to shock collars and other methods, training is a more humane way to keep your buddy safe. However, it is important to keep in mind that Shepherds have generations of working dog instincts in their DNA. Years of breeding have encouraged the prey instinct in your pups and there is always the possibility that some distraction will be enough to make your dog throw their training out the window. While you can train excellent manners into your German Shepherd, you should never leave your pup alone in an unfenced yard.

Getting Started

For boundary training, you will need a variety of treats of different values to show your dog which behaviors are ideal. Start with some good treats your pup doesn't usually get and reserve the top tier treats, such as roast beef and other high value meats, until later. You will also need a long training leash and for some of the methods, it is a good idea to use flags. You can buy small flags or tie a strip of white cloth to a dowel rod. A training clicker works very well for sculpting this behavior.

The Flag Method

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Step
1
Teach your pup to target
Start off indoors and teach your German Shepherd to target a flag. When your pup touches the flag with their nose, mark the behavior with a click or verbal cue such as "good." Then have your Shepherd return to you to get a treat. Practice this activity for a week or so before moving onto the next step.
Step
2
Set up a boundary
About every eight to 10 feet around your yard, place a flag. With these flags, you are establishing a boundary in which you want your German Shepherd to stay. How much of the yard you want your pup to use is up to you.
Step
3
Have your dog touch each flag and return
With your German Shepherd on a long leash of about 15 feet, walk around the yard. Your pup should already understand that touching a flag means a reward so they should run to each flag and then return to you for a treat. Increase the value of your treats once you go outside.
Step
4
Practice, practice, practice
Once or twice a day, walk the boundary of your yard with your pup. You can increase the length of the leash. Once your dog consistently touches each flag on a long leash, you can add in distractions, such as friend running past the boundary line or throwing a toy over the line. If your dog stays within the boundary line even after a big distraction, give them a big reward.
Step
5
Try going off-leash
If you feel confident your German Shepherd respects the boundary line, you can let them into the yard without a leash as long as you are with them. Continue to stage distractions and offer big rewards for returning to you. You can also try running back to your front door or porch after a big distraction and giving your pup an extra special reward if they come back to you
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The Sit and Wait Method

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Step
1
Decide on a boundary for your yard
Just as in the 'Flag' method, set up a boundary line in your yard by using flags. For this method, it is best to set up the flags two or three feet before the actual boundary you want your German Shepherd to respect.
Step
2
Brush up on basic commands
You want your pup to have a strong understanding of certain basic commands, such as 'sit', 'no', and 'wait'. If you don't already have a release command for 'wait', work on that with your German Shepherd before going outside to begin boundary training. Common release words for 'wait' include "let's go" and "okay."
Step
3
Walk the boundary line
With your German Shepherd on a leash, walk along the boundary line. If your pup crosses the line, correct them with a quick jerk on the leash and a firm "no." Do this several times a day for a few days.
Step
4
Practice waiting at the line
Keeping your dog on a leash, walk up to the boundary line and stop. Give your pup the command "wait" and stay in place for a few seconds before giving them a reward. You can also have your German Shepherd sit at the edge of the boundary. Practice stopping at the line several more times until your pup stops instinctively when you reach the boundary line.
Step
5
Step over the line
After a few days, walk up to the line as before and then tell your pup to wait as you step over the line yourself. On the other side of the line, wait for a few seconds and then step back over and give them a treat for staying put. You can reinforce this step by walking further away from the boundary line and waiting for longer periods of time before rewarding your pup. Repeat the same steps at many different areas of the boundary.
Step
6
Practice off-leash
When you feel confident that your German Shepherd has a good sense of the boundary, try repeating the same steps without the leash. If your dog struggles with staying within the boundaries, put the leash back on them and practice a bit more. Remember - never leave your dog alone in an unfenced yard.
Step
7
Reinforce the boundary
A good step to take once your dog is familiar with the boundary is to add in distractions. Place dog toys outside of the line or have someone else stand outside of the boundary to tempt your pup. Any step over the line means going back through your German Shepherd's lessons. Always have your dog on a leash and use the release word when they step over the boundary so they know the acceptable conditions for leaving the yard.
Recommend training method?

The Don't Chase Me Method

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Step
1
Start with the basics
Make sure your German Shepherd has a good handle on their basic commands, including 'sit', 'stay', and 'come'. If you're working with a puppy, practice leash-walking as well to make sure they feel comfortable on a leash.
Step
2
Walk the yard
With your pup on a leash, walk close to the boundary of your yard, but stop a few feet before you get to the actual boundary. You can decide how far from the edge of your property you want to instill the boundary. If your German Shepherd keeps walking forward, gently tug on the leash, say "come," and start walking in the other direction.
Step
3
Reward the retreat
The pull on the leash should startle your pup enough to change direction. When your Shepherd turns and retreats from the line with you, give them a treat and lots of praise and love. Practice approaching and retreating from the boundary line for a few days before moving on to the next step.
Step
4
Have someone run across the boundary line
Ask someone your pup loves to help out with this step. You want them to run through the yard and cross the boundary without calling your German Shepherd or taunting them in anyway. Keep your dog close to you with the leash so they cannot break the boundary and then give them a special reward for staying in the yard.
Step
5
Keep adding distractions
Continue practicing on the leash and adding in more distractions with your puppy pulled close to you. Once you think your dog has a good sense of what is expected of them, you can institute a distraction without pulling them close. If your German Shepherd refuse to break the boundary line, give them a big reward and lots of praise and affection.
Step
6
Try going off-leash
After a few weeks, play in the yard with your Shepherd without a leash. Make sure they stay within the boundaries. If your dog struggles with staying in the yard, go back on the leash for a while longer and then try off-leash again. When they get the hang of the boundary line, you can stop giving treats but keep rewarding them with praise and affection for staying in the yard.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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