How to Teach Boundaries to your Dog

Boundary training can result in many wonderful benefits, but only if you maintain a consistent level of expectation for your dog

Developing a Pattern

Retreat Pattern:  Days 1, 2, 3

  • Walk the dog on a 5 to 6-foot leash around the perimeter of your property several times a day.
  • Do not let the dog roam freely outside.
  • Approach the fence line at least twice a day with the dog on a leash.
  • Each time she begins to wander over your property line, turn quickly INTO the yard, give a little jerk on the leash and walk her back inside the line.
  • Continue this process several times a day.
  • When the dog begins to follow, PRAISE!!  with plenty of positive reinforcements (treats, pats, verbal praise) to reward the dog for coming when called or staying when told.
  • Repeat this procedure at multiple points throughout the yard for 3 days.
  • When your dog returns into your yard with no prompt from you, and will not approach the boundary, you may move on to the next step.

Consequences for their Actions

Correction:  1st session on the 4th day:

The handler holds the leash.  Have another family member walk through the boundary while the leash handler allows the dog enough slack to try and follow.

DO NOT LOOK AT OR CALL TO THE DOG TO FOLLOW YOU! 

If the dog chooses to follow, it should receive a correction.

PRAISE the dog if it turns back into the yard to return to the handler.

Repeat.

Be sure to move to different areas of the boundary line.

If the dog avoids the boundary, you may move on to distractions.

Proofing the Training

Distractions: Days 4, 5, 6, 7:

  • The dog is on a leash for the proofing stage.
  • NEVER pull or call the dog into the boundary while practicing with distractions!!
  • Set up different types of distractions at different points of the boundary.
  • Be sure to practice with lots of different types of distractions.  Dogs cannot generalize so just because they don’t follow a ball through the boundary, doesn’t mean they won’t follow a cat, or a child, etc.
  • PRAISE if your dog returns to you.

When you are trying to proof him with the perimeter training, it is fair to tempt him to come into the street with anything you can think of EXCEPT any formal commands. If you did this, you would be confusing your dog and not being fair. ie, you’ve issued a command and then corrected him for obeying you.

This is not right.

You can say, “Do you want to go in the street?” and still correct the dog if he walks in the street because THE ONLY time he should walk in the street is if you give him the release command.   In addition, you do not want to mistakenly say, “LOUIE Do you want to go in the street?” because the dog’s name is basically an informal come command and we don’t ever want to associate the dog’s name with something negative.

Adding a Long Line

Long Lead w/SUPERVISION: 1 Week:

  • Be sure you keep your dog on a long line during this phase of training.
  • Approach the fence line at least twice a day with the dog on a leash.  When you are close enough that the dog can cross the boundary, turn quickly INTO the yard.
  • When the dog begins to follow, PRAISE!!  Repeat this procedure at multiple points throughout the yard for 7 days.
  • When your dog returns into your yard with no prompt from you, and will not approach the boundary with distractions, you may move on to the next step.
  • Keep your dog on the property as much as possible during the first month of training.  This will make it easier for the dog to understand the boundary.
  • If you must remove the dog, place the dog in the car, and drive out of the boundary.

You may also use a remote collar to train your dog.  The point of using either the long line or the remote collar is to make it easier to teach the dog that he cannot cross the perimeter regardless of where he is or what distractions may be in his way… until he gets conditioned to respond.

If you can just run fast, then you don’t need ANY type of long line or e-collar. The equipment you choose to use just makes it easier for YOU and the environment you’re training.

For example, if I’m teaching the dog to retrieve birds and he needs to run into heavy brush, then obviously a remote e-collar will work best for my needs. But if I’m training in a regular grassy park without a lot of obstacles, then a long line will work best.

If it’s just in my back yard, I know that I can go to the dog and make him come… without ANY equipment on… and he’ll learn the same lesson because he cannot get away from me.

Now it’s time to work with your dog Off-leash

Off Lead w/SUPERVISION: 2 Weeks:

  • Be sure you STAY WITH THE DOG during this phase of training and keep him tied when you are not supervising him.
  • During this training time, approach the fence line at least twice a day with the dog.
  • When you are close enough that the dog can cross the boundary, turn quickly into the yard.
  • When the dog begins to follow, PRAISE!!
  • Repeat this procedure at multiple points throughout the yard for 14 days.
  • When your dog returns into your yard with no prompt from you, and will not approach the boundary with distractions, you may move on to the next step.
  • Make the distance short at first, and slowly increase the distance between you and your dog.
  • When your dog first is untied, give her some ‘fun time’, and also, before she comes back inside, play with her.
  • Make your dog understand that the yard is a FUN place to be!!!

Off Lead UNSUPERVISED: 2 Weeks:

  • During the time, be sure you observe your dog from within your house or from a distance.
  • Make the unsupervised time outside brief at first, and slowly increase the time.
  • Be sure you frequently check on your dog.
  • When your dog first is unsupervised, tie him up between unsupervised sessions.

Remove Flags

After two weeks of SUCCESSFUL unsupervised containment, if you are using flags you can begin removing the flags.

Remove ½ of the flags each day until they are all down.

OBSERVE to make sure that your dog still retreats at the boundary lines when the flags are removed.

From the dog’s point of view, each perimeter is like an invisible fence. Once he comes up with every new boundary, he will wait for your release command to let him know that it’s okay to pass through.

For example, if he’s standing inside your front door and you give him the release command, he will then run out the front door but stop when he comes to the edge of the yard and again wait for you to issue the release command.

Think of the release command as being analogous with telling your dog, “Exercise finished.” So, regardless of what exercise the dog may be doing, you always release him with the same phrase.

Summary

Follow the instructions to the letter. When training, take the dog to the boundary.  If the dog goes over “boundary” give snap correction with verbal NO.  Also, use a visual boundary to provide a visual cue in the first week or two of on-leash training.  You will need to train boundaries 3 to 4 times a day.   Your firm “No” and gentle leash tug will correct your dog until it graduates to off-leash training and learns the boundary itself will cause a correction by you squirting the dog without it seeing you do it.

Use this method to reinforce—not replace—good training and obedience. Otherwise, you have a false sense of security.

Supervise your unleashed dog at all times. If your dog goes over the boundary without correction, it will take longer to train the boundaries.

NOTE: Even a dog who appears to be fully boundary trained can never be considered 100% reliable. There is always the possibility that something or someone may come along and prove too tempting to the dog thereby endangering your pet and/or other people or animals.

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