Dog Training

How to Train a Dog to Stay in an Unfenced Yard



Diane Garrod's image for:
"How to Train a Dog to Stay in an Unfenced Yard"
Caption: 
Location: 
Image by: 
©  

Boundary training uses a dog's natural instincts to stay within and create a territory. It is best to begin boundary training with a puppy. An adult dog can also learn, but you'll need one who is biddable. The dog who has escaped, had predatory tendencies or been a wanderer would not be reliable and a fence is the best way to contain this type of dog.

Use a clicker or a marker word to boundary train your dog in three-parts.

PART ONE. Boundary Basic Training.

Timeline: Two weeks.

The first 48 hours establish boundary by walking dog around the exact perimeter you've established. Walk dog around eight times the first day and six times the next day. As you do this, simply without speaking, point to the boundary line which should be on YOUR right as you are walking around. Your dog is walking with you, on your left. You can put up orange surveyors flags, orange cones, stakes or anything to mark this boundary, but a diligent owner can train their dog to respect boundaries without visuals. Dogs have an uncanny ability to remember topography.

By the third day, walk your dog around the boundary four times per day. Make a sweeping gesture with your arm, finger pointing down. By day three your dog should be walking up TO LINE and stopping. This indicates your dog is starting to understand boundary concept.

The next three sessions, days six through nine, focus on three skills: sit at the boundary line, stay, and leave it (NOTE: dog stays inside boundary line, but leave it means anything beyond the designated line is off bounds and a leave it zone).

Now start treat tossing over the line. Your right hand tosses a treat outside boundary, dog is on your left. You cue "leave it!"

When your dog looks at YOU, click and say "good leave it!" Reward with a treat from your hand and pick up the treat you tossed. Make sure the tossed treat is easily recovered, meaning don't toss it out too far. Your dog must NEVER leave the boundary you are setting. This is important to avoid confusion. To take your dog on a walk during the training period, do so by driving to the walking area. Your dog is not ready in the first six weeks to walk outside of the boundary. It will create confusion and disrespect for what you are teaching them.

Continue above in days ten through fourteen. By now, you have established a very clear guideline of territory boundary for your dog through clicking for the ACTION of staying "inside" the boundary and praising for leaving the treat if it goes outside the boundary. You have walked the perimeter at least four times a day and are ready for part two.

PART TWO: Boundary Intermediate Training.

Time line: Four Weeks

WEEK ONE: Began this portion with a call away skill coupled with the sweeping right hand motion. Add a pleasant and enthusiastic recall cue and run backwards away from the line. Click and praise each time your dog turns away from the boundary and toward you.


The goal is getting the dog to think for himself and to recognize the boundary by being consistent. Of course, there will be those times the dog will challenge your boundaries.oops, back to kindergarten. Start over to reinforce the rules. It will take much less time to show Fido you mean business and to redefine the boundary line when a mistake is made.

Once you see Fido understanding and respecting your boundary guidelines and when he is playing the call away game enthusiastically, you can start letting the leash drag.

WEEK TWO: Let leash drag.

Walk past the dog and over the boundary line. As you do this, say "stay". Stop a foot or two outside of the line, click, and toss a treat over the dog's body so they have to turn to get it (turning INTO the property). At this point you are teaching stay within the boundary, with you outside of it. Then quickly walk back into the boundary, click and treat your dog for staying inside the boundary line.

Practice this moving one step further each time until you can walk several feet away or even across the street. Your dog, however, cannot cross the boundary, so don't go any further than where your dog can be continually successful. Do not encourage your dog out of the boundary or you'll have to start over. You are reinforcing staying in the boundary line with heavy reinforcement using a clicker for the ACTION of stopping behind the line and a treat reward for the POSITION of remaining inside.

WEEK THREE: Walk boundary three times per day.

Periodically, in different spots toss out a treat and say leave it.

Periodically, in different spots, step over the boundary as in week two.

WEEK FOUR: Now, you'll add other distractions outside the property line, but don't overwhelm your dog. Start with a toy or ball and like the treat, toss it over the boundary. Say "stay" and "leave it". Step over the boundary (your dog is inside the boundary, right?) and YOU go and get the toy or ball. When you pick it up, click and reward by tossing a treat over your dog's head or returning to deliver the treat inside the boundary line.

Be very specific about where you are delivering the rewards. You are teaching your dog no matter whether a ball rolls outside of the boundary, they are to stay within the lines. It must be consistently taught and highly rewarded. Once dog shows signs of comprehension add people, a cat, another dog, people jogging by or walking past one at a time. What might your dog encounter in the boundary area you've set? Train it.

At the end of this week, proof your progress by eliminating the word stay and step over the boundary. Reward with a jackpot if your dog complies.

Now it is time for you to train advanced work by being BEHIND your dog as they approach the boundary dragging a long line.

Once that is solid, then train without a lead, and then with pulling on the lead as you go over the boundary. Your dog does not follow no matter how hard you pull on the lead.

This is advanced boundary line training. It creates a solid, thinking dog, who will be able to stay within the boundary off lead, supervised and eventually unsupervised.

PART THREE: Boundary Advanced Reliability.

At the end of the six weeks you'll have a pretty solid boundary skill. Walk the boundary with your dog one or two times a week for consistent practice.

DOG APPROACH. At this stage, keep the long leash on your dog. You now want them to understand the concept of staying in the boundary, even if you are behind them. Proof this by walking toward the boundary line and stopping. Your dog may continue forward or stop with you. If they continue forward and stop, click and treat. Treat is delivered when they come back to you, as in the call away, but without a cue from you.

The click will be enough to have them eagerly turning away from the boundary and toward you. Do a call away, if you have to, but it may not be necessary if all the steps above have been solidly laid. If your dog, simply stays with you, click and treat for this also. Each time stop further and further away. The long line you are using should be long enough to stretch to the boundary line. Now you are stepping back into the property one step at a time, as your dog goes forward, the reverse of the training in week two.

ADD LEASH PULL. Now you are getting advanced and your dog really "gets it". When you point to a spot and say stay and walk out and over that boundary, your dog should act like a stubborn mule when you tighten the lead. They will not cross the line. You train this by using a light pressure at first, so light your dog doesn't notice it. Then increase the pressure until you can pull pretty hard and your dog will not leave the property.

PERIODIC PROOFING. Goal is to supervise your dog so they never go beyond your boundary by themselves and so do not get into the habit of doing it. They can go off boundary only with you and on cue for their walk OR in the car.

ADDING CUES FOR WALKS. You will have dog walk up to boundary and sit and stay.

You will do some step overs and stays and walk back. Now you'll add a cue they have never heard and one that will be used ONLY for permission to walk WITH YOU over the boundary, such as "walk up". Now, you can take walks in the neighborhood and still retain your boundary line training. This should come only after you've finished training the lead pull with results. When you return, you MUST have a cue that releases the dog back into the boundary and cues them they are not to go beyond, i.e. "go home" or simply "home". This is said ONLY when you come back onto the property.

When beginning to walk off boundary, reinforce boundary training, such as a toss treat or ball toss outside of the boundary line each time you return from your walk. This establishes a clear guideline.

You will enjoy your dog and your dog will enjoy understanding where their boundaries lie. It is well worth the time and effort taken to get lasting results and can be used for any boundary you set, whether in someone else's home, inside the house, or on a trail walk.

 

More about this author: Diane Garrod

ARTICLE SOURCES AND CITATIONS