“How do I keep my puppy on my property? My yard isn’t fenced.”
Teaching a puppy anything is easy using the lure/reward method. That is using the lure to indicate the required action and rewarding the pup when he complies. We start with using food and within 12 – 20 repetitions we switch to a toy or activity.
The preliminary step to boundary training is a solid sit/stay. You will be asking for stay in the process of training pup to respect the boundary so begin training sit/stay anywhere you happen to be – kitchen, living room, yard.
A cautionary note: If your puppy is a sigh hound breed, I strongly recommend a fence. This applies to rescued dogs and those with a history of aggression or wandering. Here we’re dealing with puppies.
Let’s get started.
- Stakes or orange cones
- Boundary tape or string
- Colored plastic ties
- Collar or harness
- Bait bag or pocket
Before bringing puppy outside, use either stakes and tie–on strips of tape, or stakes with string between them and colored plastic tied at intervals for visibility, or orange cones to define the boundary of your property.
Have your entire family walk this created boundary. Once everyone is in agreement, bring on the puppy.
If you start this the day you bring puppy home (usually at about 8 weeks of age), and I strongly recommend that you do, he’ll learn to respect your property boundary in about 4 weeks.
Puppy needs a collar or harness. A leash is not necessary at this point because he’ll follow you anyway.
Have lots of tiny treats in a bait bag or your pocket.
Now, off you go.
Dogs learn visual clues (or cues) very quickly and easily so without speaking, use your hand to point at the stakes or cones and wave your hand along to the next one as you and your pup walk along inside your makeshift ‘fence’.
Keep pup’s attention focused on you with treats. If pup make s a move to cross the ‘line’, scoop him up, back up a couple of feet, put him down and move quickly past the break point, keeping him focused on you.
Continue to indicate the boundary by pointing and waving silently. For this first session, repeat the walk twice more.
Later, on Day 1, walk the boundary 3 more times and then one more session (3 times around). That’s a total, on Day 1, of 9 boundary walks in 3 sessions.
On Day 2, and going forward, walk the boundary 6 times in 2 sessions, 3 times ‘round each time.
In a few days, your pup will walk to the boundary and stop.
Now you’re ready to move on.
If you’ve already started walking on a leash, and it’s a good idea if you have, you can incorporate your leash walking training into your boundary training. Walk a few steps with pup on your left, boundary on your right, stop and ask for a sit.
After a few days, ask for a stay near the boundary. When pup sits as you stop, say, “Stay”, using an open palm signal and take one or two steps away from him. Come back to him, reward him with kibble or treats and praise him if he stays. Add a step
or two each time you do this until you can walk a full circle around him without his breaking the stay .
By Day 10 or so, you’re ready for the next big move. Ask pup to sit/stay. (Don’t forget the open palm signal.) Take one step over the boundary, facing the pup all the while. Keep your palm in the stay position. Step back inside the boundary to praise and reward him with a treat and a “Let’s go” as you quickly move along inside the boundary.
Continue to stop, ask for a sit/stay and step over the boundary and back as you proceed along the inside of your created perimeter.
You can see the game plan now, can’t you?
By session 2 of your crossing the boundary you’ll be able to take 2 steps before returning to pup. Keep adding steps away from him as long as he stays and be very enthusiastic with your “Good dog. Let’s go,” when you a step back to him. Keep the treats coming but make them random and intermittent.
When you can take, say, 5 steps over the boundary and pup stays, that’s a good reason to give him a ‘handful of tiny treats’ (jackpot). When the behavior is impressive, the reward is huge!
Up until now we have worked with no distractions; just you and your pup walking the boundary line. Keep testing your pup’s stay until you are convinced it is solid. Turn your back on him. Wave your arms about while away from him. Do a little happy dance.
Later you can add the down/stay and the stand/stay but for now, stick with the sit/stay.
When the sit/stay is solid, begin to add small distractions. You’ve already begun teaching off in other settings. Now bring it to the boundary.
Toss a treat just over the boundary. Say, “Pup (his name), off.” If pup stays reward him with praise and a treat from your pocket or bait bag. Then retrieve the tossed treat but do NOT give it to the pup.
Continue walking the inside of the boundary. Stop every few yards (metres) and ask for a sit. (It may, by now, be automatic – you stop; pup sits.) Toss a treat over the boundary. Remind pup to stay as you back over the boundary to retrieve it. Come back to him and reward the stay with praise and treats from your pocket – not the one you picked up.
To increase the distractions when pup is ready, probably not for a few weeks yet, toss a favourite toy, ask him to stay, then walk several steps over the boundary with your back to him. Stop. If he has stayed, toss several treats beyond him into the safe zone and tell him “OK”. (Or whatever your release word is).
Remember when you add a distraction to initially shorten the stay time.
Distance, duration, distraction – add them one at a time and every time you add one, reduce the other two. Make sense?
Be patient but be very consistent and practise, practise, practice – every day, several times a day. By the end of two weeks or so, the boundary will be very clear to your pup and you can add other cues and distractions.
- Keep pup successful. If he breaks a stay reduce the time (duration) and always end a session with a successful stay.
- For now, to take pup for walks, drive over the boundary. Confusion will result if you and pup walk over it.
- Add distractions slowly.
- Every time you increase the distance, duration or distractions, reward handsomely for compliance.
That’s the ‘how’.
Stick with it, practice lots and you will be successful in having your pup respect the boundaries of your yard.