Country Living Training Tips – Training 911
By Mary Green
I know lots of people who live on farms, ranches and other acreages. I think they are so lucky! I am pretty sure that my dogs would love to have some room to roam. The problem this presents, though, is dogs may roam off of the property. I am often asked how to teach the dogs to stay on the property.
Can dogs learn to respect and understand their boundaries? Can they be taught to stay home even when they are left loose?
The short answer is, as always, “that depends.” Some factors to consider:
• Intact dogs are more likely to roam than sterilized dogs.
• Dogs that lack human interaction are more likely to roam, so bring them inside!
• Dogs that are not bonded to people are more likely to roam.
• Dogs new to the household may be chased off by established family dogs.
• Owners must comply with leash laws in their area.
• No dog should ever be chained up.
• It takes time for a dog to learn boundaries. Never expect a new dog to stay put!
Many of my friends have dogs bred to work on the farm: the herders like Border Collies, Aussies, Heelers, and the guardian breeds like the Anatolians and the Pyrenees. These breeds or types of dogs have an innate sense of territory. They work with people. They have stock sense. They are more likely to stay close to the livestock, or hang out on the porch than perhaps a hunting dog would. They learn the territory in a natural manner by accompanying their owners, doing farm chores. It’s a natural evolution for many dogs.
Learning the ropes can be passed from older to younger dogs. The youngsters stick close by the elders who teach them what is allowed. They learn what to chase and not chase, what animals belong there, and what animals do not. They gain working knowledge of life on the property in an organic process.
If you don’t have a mentor dog, you can still train your dog to understand boundaries. Use a long line (like for tracking dogs) or a horse lunge line to allow your dog some freedom. You will hold on to one end as you would a leash, but you don’t reel it in or even pull on it. You call your dog and reward him for coming to you. Repetition is key to success in this. Over time, your dog will learn to stay close by. If you are one of the lucky folks who have property plus an ATV, you can teach your dog to ride on the vehicle with you, or run along with you as you do chores.
If you cannot be 100 percent sure that your dog will not roam off of your property when you are not present, then he must be confined in some manner. Failure to do so can result in his death. While it is unreasonable to expect someone to chain-link fence a 10-acre area, it is completely reasonable to expect someone to fence a suitable dog yard. At the very least, put up a chain-link dog run!
Not everyone without a fenced yard lives on a farm. I also know plenty of wonderful, responsible dog owners who live where fences are not allowed. There are ways to train dogs to stay on your property, even if you live on the golf course.
I am not a fan of the invisible fences where the dog has to wear a collar that delivers an unpleasant shock if he ventures out of bounds. These fences do nothing to prevent other animals from entering into your yard. There are also lots of dogs that charge out of dog doors, barking, lunging and snarling toward the barrier. The person, or dog, happening by has no idea that the dog will likely stop before the barrier. It’s pretty traumatic to that individual!
Even on a small unfenced property, you should teach your dog the boundaries in a positive manner. Make a routine of walking your dog along your boundary line. Walk every day, or several times daily, to help establish boundary understanding. All the reward, reinforcement and “good stuff” happens on your property.
Make it your habit to walk your dog on leash to your mailbox if it is at the curb. Practice your obedience training in your yard. Make that the place where all good things happen. Teach a solid come-when-called behavior, and practice it often with a really yummy reward.
My dogs get super excited when I say, “Do you want to go to Sharon’s?” because they know they will get to run in the meadow. They will smell all the favorite country aromas and forget for a little while they are city dogs. They would probably love to live on a farm… as long as they could be near me and sleep on my bed.