July 6, 2015
Dogs are beautifully athletic animals and a joy to watch. But, when their prowess compels them to jump the backyard fence, it can be quite nerve wracking and frightening for their humans. Where did my inquisitive canine go? We live on a busy street, will she return safely? Will she return at all?
As a certified professional dog trainer, I have worked with many dog guardians to find solutions for keeping their globetrotting inquisitive canines safe and secure. The first step to stop fence hopping is to create an inviting environment to motivate your dog to stay home. Here are some ways to accomplish this:
- While a dog is learning to stay in the yard, it should always be supervised when left outside. Leaving such decisions to its own devices might result in a round of fence jumping. Setting your dog up for success is the best way to avoid disappointment and is key to successful dog training.
- An enriching environment can include scavenger hunts, interactive food toys, chewies, bones and even a digging pit in your yard. Also make sure your dog is experiencing fun times with family members at home and not just on walks or other isolated times. If you’re so inclined, you might want to arrange doggy playdates at home so your dog doesn’t feel it necessary to jump the fence to set up its own rendezvous.
- See if it’s possible to build a higher fence or plant a hedge where you live. This is a management step that may help prevent your dog from independently taking a tour of the neighborhood.
Now that your dog’s environment is secure, here are some dog training tips for coaching it to stay in the yard:
- Teach your dog what the correct choice is and reward it for remaining on your property. Using high-value yummy food treats — ask your vet about pieces of human foods such as lean chicken, steak, fish, pork — or whatever motivation works best to positively reinforce desired behaviors from your dog. While a professional dog trainer can help you analyze the rewards you’re using, there are also some simple things you can do to discover what motivates your dog.
- Reward this wanted behavior frequently. Once your dog is conditioned to stay in the yard, then reward it intermittently to ensure you’ve acknowledged it is making good choices. Remember, we can never be thanked enough for doing something someone else wants — especially when it’s as difficult as not going out to spend time playing with friends and neighbors.
- Train necessary behaviors: “Coming when called” and “Leave it!” might be two behaviors that would come in handy should your dog take flight. Using the first one if it takes off, and if it doesn’t come back then use your backup cue “Leave it!” This is the cue I use for when I want a dog to stop what he or she is doing and come to me. If you’ve ever taught your dog to “touch target,” you could use that as well — keeping a target in your hand (or targeting your hand itself) while she or he comes and touches it with its paw or nose.
I’m guessing most inquisitive canines live in homes and neighborhoods that are quite appealing. It’s now wonder dogs want to get out and explore. With a little planning, training, and forethought, you should be able to motivate your dog to stay and play at home.
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