It’s easy to see why you’d want to protect a beloved pet and keep your dog from leaving the front yard. Sometimes anxiety, unfamiliarity, boredom, a rickety fence, or other issues can allow your canine to escape and roam the neighborhood.
One way to resolve this issue, at least partly, is to do boundary training with your pup to show it the limits or boundaries of its yard, especially one without a physical fence, and you can feel safer that it won’t run away.
In most cases, dog owners turn to an invisible dog fence for the sake of convenience. However, it is entirely achievable to boundary train your pet with simple commands and patience – plus it costs a whole lot less.
Why Use Boundary Training with Your Dog?
A dog that doesn’t know the bounds of its yard can escape out the front door and leave the safety of your yard without care. Your pup might roam the neighborhood and engage in dangerous activities such as fighting with other dogs or chasing cars in the street.
If you own a Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie) or another herding breed of dog, you can probably relate. This behavior can put them in danger of getting hit by a car or bicycle if not trained to stay in the yard.
This is why dog GPS tracker collars are such a useful tool – owners can be alerted immediately if their dog leaves the boundaries of their property. For dog owners interested in convenience and security, GPS dog fences combine the technologies of invisible fences and GPS tracker collars into one streamlined package.
With or without the help of these devices, training a dog to stay in the yard can keep your furry friend safe from coyotes, rattlesnakes, and other wild creatures, depending on where you live. Some people also use poisons to control rats and other rodents, and a wandering dog can accidentally eat these in someone else’s yard and become very ill or even suffer death.
Timeline for Training
A study conducted in the Netherlands has shown that dogs learn skills and retain them better with fewer sessions per week rather than daily training (1). The training might take more weeks but will require less time each week, with the payoff that your dog will remember your teachings.
According to the study, daily training was less effective, even though the trainers invested the same total number of hours with the dog.
Choose a few days of the week to have one or two sessions each time. Work in five to 15-minute intervals, and you should be able to get a good result. If you attend classes with one-hour sessions, give your pup several breaks so that it can keep its focus.
Try not to keep your dog in training mode for a full hour, as a tired or distracted pup won’t learn as well. If your dog seems to lose focus or switch off, stop and take a training break for at least a few minutes.
Equip yourself with dog treats that your pet perceives as high value. You’ll also need to train your pup to respond to commands such as ‘stay,’ ‘come,’ or ‘leave it,’ for example. It‘s helpful to make sure that your dog follows these consistently before attempting boundary training.
The three boundary methods that follow have the same basic structure, but each version adds a bit more technique and reinforcement to accommodate dogs that may perform better with slower learning or more support. Try the first method if your pup has shown that it responds quickly to training.
The Basic Boundary Method
Before learning how to train your dog to stay in the yard with this method, you’ll need to teach your pup some basic behavior commands and have some equipment and a helper.
- Useful commands: Stay, come, leave it
- Necessary equipment: Retractable dog leash and collar, treats, a favorite toy, and a helper
- Location: In your yard
To start, leash up your pup and go for a walk around the perimeter of your property to show your dog the boundary line. Each time your dog steps outside of the boundary, stop walking and gently tug on the leash to pull your pet back inside the boundary line. When the dog comes back to you and steps into the right side of the property, reward you with a treat.
Once your dog walks around the perimeter and does not stray out of the boundary, introduce a distraction. Have your helper run in front of the dog across the boundary line. If your pup doesn’t chase, reward with a treat. If your dog chases or steps out of the approved area, use the leash to guide the dog back gently or use the ‘leave it’ command.
You can up the ante by throwing a favorite toy outside of the boundary line. Reward your pet if it doesn’t go after the toy. If the dog does pursue the toy, use the ‘leave it’ or ‘come’ command and reward once your dog comes back to you, inside of the boundary line.
Once your dog completes the previous steps with some consistency, remove the leash and play with your pup inside the boundary area. Throw a toy outside the boundary every so often and use commands to correct your dog if it steps outside the line. Reward your pup for staying inside the boundary area. Work your way around the yard and continue rewarding your pup as reinforcement while it learns where the boundaries of its yard end.
Boundary Training with Sit Command
This process works up more slowly to help with training your dog if it has a difficult time resisting distractions.
- Useful commands: Stay, sit, leave it
- Necessary equipment: Leash and collar, treats, boundary flags (optional)
- Location: In your yard
Walk around your yard perimeter with your pup on a leash, and point several times to the boundary line as you work your way around. Optionally, you can use brightly colored boundary flags or some other type of marker to aid in demonstrating the boundary line. Do several laps around the perimeter for a few days.
Next, instead of pointing, walk your dog while waving your arm over the area to remind your pup of the bounded space in which it can walk. Walk around the yard four or more times each session, three times. By now, your pup should start to walk within the boundary reasonably consistently.
After a week of perimeter walking, stop at various points around the boundary and give your dog the ‘sit’ command and reward each time your pet obeys.
Next, try giving your dog the ‘stay’ command, and while it stays, walk outside the boundary line. If your dog follows you, take it by the leash and bring it back inside the boundary. Reward once your pup is back inside the yard. If your dog stays within the perimeter as you walk out, return inside and reward your pet.
Once your dog has consistent success, go on daily yard outings, and use the ‘leave it’ command each time it crosses outside of the boundary line. Reward your pup once it comes back inside the boundary.
Finally, walk your pet around the yard, throw some treats outside the boundary and say ‘leave it,’ rewarding your pet with other treats if it complies. Then circle back around the perimeter, step outside to grab the original treats, giving your dog the ‘stay’ command as you step outside the boundary.
Clicker and Flags Boundary Training
If you have had success using a clicker to train your dog, try this clicker and flags method to boundary train your pup.
- Useful commands: Stay, come, leave it
- Necessary equipment: Leash and collar, treats, boundary flags (look for marking flags at any hardware store)
- Location: Inside your home, then the yard
Start by bringing out two flags and getting your pet to understand that the flags have significance. While inside your home, place the two flags a few feet apart, then click and reward when your dog comes upon them. Repeat this until your dog makes a consistent connection between touching the flags, clicks, and rewards.
Spread the flags a few more feet apart, have your dog touch each of the flags, and use the clicker and reward to reinforce the behavior. Keep spreading the flags further apart, and train your pup to touch the flags and get a treat.
Once your dog consistently touches the flags indoors, place the flags outside on the perimeter of the bounded area of your yard. You can start with a smaller area, and as your dog becomes more consistent touching the flags, move them so that they’re spread further apart.
Remove your dog’s leash, and proceed to walk the perimeter with your pup, instructing it to touch each of the flags, making sure to click and reward as long as your pet stays within the boundaries.
Finally, start removing flags until your dog stays inside of the boundary lines without the need for any flags as a reminder.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. How do I keep my dog from leaving the yard?
Using a method called boundary training, you can train your dog to stay safely within the perimeter of your yard. This way of training works best when you plan to spend time outdoors with your pet and don’t want it to run off when distractions come up.
2. How do I train my dog not to run away?
The best way to train your pooch not to run away is to give him incentives to stay, such as treats, pets, and playtime.
Train your pet to consistently respond to the ‘come,’ ‘sit,’ and ‘stay’ commands. From inside the house, start practicing discipline by having your dog sit at the door before leaving for a walk.
While walking or playing outside at a safe place such as a park, practice dropping the leash, back away from your pet, and use the ‘come’ command, giving rewards each time it complies.
Let your dog go back to playing while backing further away. Ask your dog to come and keep moving further away and having your pet come to you. Keep reinforcing with treats and practice so that your dog always comes when called and doesn’t run away.
3. How do you teach a dog boundaries?
Try boundary training, which involves teaching your dog the boundaries or limits of the area in which it’s allowed to go. First, demonstrate the perimeter or boundary, keeping a leash on and correcting the dog if it leaves the bounded area, and rewarding when it comes back into the area.
You can try using flags and a clicker to clearly define the boundaries and reinforce your dog’s good behavior. You can also start to introduce distractions, such as toys or people going outside of the perimeter, and reward your dog each time it does not follow the distraction.
4. Why does my dog keep getting out of the yard?
You might need to double-check that your fencing is high enough, secure, and has no holes for your dog to squeeze out and roam the neighborhood. If your dog is digging under your fence, you can also make sure that the base of your fence doesn’t have room underneath for your dog to dig a way out.
Dogs that haven’t been spayed or neutered often want to roam and feel compelled to get out of their yard. Additionally, dogs with minimal stimulation during the day can get bored and look for ways to get out into the world for some excitement.
Spend some time assessing what your pet needs. Is it a high-energy breed such as a border collie that needs constant exercise and stimulation? Understanding the breed helps to know its unique needs. You can also train your dog to obey certain commands and learn the boundaries of its yard.
However, put the safety of your dog first. If you aren’t present to give commands, so your dog stays in the yard, make sure that you have a well-secured area to keep your dog so that it doesn’t get out again and run into dangerous circumstances.