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You weren’t entirely sure what breed to get to start with. You had a few potentials in mind, but then you watched 'Homeward Bound'. After that, it was always going to be a Golden Retriever. So far, you have had no regrets. He made the most adorable puppy in the world. Even as he’s grown up he’s remained cute and cuddly. Guests and family love playing with him when they come round and you love cuddling up to him in the evenings.
However, he does have one bad habit. You simply cannot keep him contained in the yard. He’s hell-bent on leaping over bushes and exploring. Yet training him to stay in the yard is essential if you want to keep him safe. If you don’t, there’s the danger he has an altercation with another dog or that he’s involved in a traffic collision.
Training him to stay in the yard isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Golden Retrievers are intelligent and at times, mischievous. So, you will need to take a number of steps to deter him from escaping from the yard to start with. You will also need to motivate him to stay put using a variety of incentives. If he wants to stay in the yard then it will be far easier to keep him there.
If he’s a puppy he should be a fast learner. You could see results in just a week or two. If he’s older with a long rap sheet of trying to escape then you may need a little while longer. Be prepared to invest up to a month into training. Succeed and you won’t have to panic each time you lose sight of him.
Before you start training, you will need to gather a few bits. You may need some new, secure fencing for your yard. You will also need a deterrence collar and a water spray bottle for one of the methods.
An array of toys and food puzzles will be required, as will some tasty treats or his favorite food broken into small chunks. Then set aside a few minutes each day for training.
Once you have all the above, you just need patience and an optimistic attitude, then work can begin!
The Containment Method
The first thing to do is to remove the temptation of escaping. To do that, ensure you have secure fencing surrounding the yard. Alternatively, large bushes or anything that can obscure his view will reduce his desire to leave the yard.
You can also try securing him to a long leash when he is in the yard. Then simply tether it to a point where he has still plenty of freedom to roam around.
Water spray bottle
If you do catch him trying to escape, rush over and give a quick spray of water near his face. You can also issue a firm ‘NO’ command. This will soon get him associating leaving the yard with negative consequences.
You can buy deterrence collars from a range of online and local stores. Whenever you see him trying to escape or approaching the boundaries of the yard, hit the button and an unpleasant spray of citronella will be released.
Don’t terrify him
It is important that when you use the methods above, you remain calm throughout. If you go overboard and frighten him then he may only want to escape more. So, stay calm and collected.
The Make It Fun Method
Make sure you go out each day and spend a few minutes playing with him in the yard. Golden Retrievers have a lot of energy, so you need to ensure he blows off some of that steam. Play tug of war, fetch and any other games he enjoys. All will help him associate the yard with attention from his owner and his favorite games.
Try leaving the odd food puzzle out in the yard. This is particularly important if you leave him out there for extended periods of time. The food puzzle will keep him content and occupied while you are away.
Leave his toys outside
You need to make the yard feel part of his territory. So, leave his toys out there with him. Not only will they give him something to play with, but he will feel more relaxed and at ease.
Make sure he gets a decent daily walk. Golden Retrievers need a lengthy walk each day. If he gets this, he’s much more likely to be spend his time in the yard napping, instead of plotting to escape.
Leave the odd treat in the yard. You can also lure him outside with a treat to start with. This will all help him associate the yard with tasty treats and positive consequences.
The Slow & Steady Method
Secure him to a leash and walk him around the permitter of the yard once in the morning and once in the evening. Do this for several days and he will begin to think of it as his territory and somewhere he wants to stay to protect.
To start with, leave him out in the yard for just 10 minutes or so. Also give him something to play with out there. You don’t want him to be bored with nothing to do. After the 10 minutes, let back inside and give him some verbal praise and a treat.
Increase the time
The next day put him outside for 15 minutes. Also give him toys to play with when he’s out there and a treat when his time is up. The day after that, add another 5 minutes. The trick is to gradually build up the length of time you leave him out there for.
Once he’s comfortable in the yard for a decent length of time, you can join him. Stand in the middle of the yard and call him over to you whenever he walks towards the edge. Talk in a high-pitched, animated voice.
As soon as he moves away from the edge and comes over to you, hand over a tasty treat and give him some verbal praise. If you do this for a few minutes each day, it will soon become habit to stay firmly in the yard and away from any escape routes.
By James Barra
Published: 02/01/2018, edited: 01/08/2021