Train your dog to stay home!
It’s spring time, and it’s a fresh exciting season for all animals. Dogs are more prone to wander away from home in Spring than at any other time! Just take notice of how many lost dogs are advertised in Social media like Facebook and local newspaper sites. To avoid a situation like this, you have to train your dog to stay home or you may be one of the advertisers!
First of all, lets distinguish the difference between a house dog and an outside dog. House dogs are USUALLY only let outside in a fenced yard or on a leash, but not always. For dogs that live in the house with you, like any other family member, it is vital that you teach your dog to come when called. Some day your dog may get out of the fence, or may see his or her opportunity through an open door.
When you see someone let their house dog outside
without a leash or tether of any kind, and not within the confines of a fence, but rather are supervising them, that dog owner is pretty sure his or her dog will come when called.
I was watching this the other day from a restaurant window that was facing a home across the street. I watched as a man came out of his home, with a little Shih Tzu leading the way, no leash, and there was no fence in the front of his yard. There was a busy street though, and I cringed as I thought about what could happen if this little dog made a run for the road!
The little dog did a zig zag pattern all over the little front yard, while the dog owner watched. Eventually the little dog squatted for a few seconds and then headed for the door with his or her owner right behind. This dog and his/her owner had a bond and the understanding of what was required. I say his or her because some male dogs will squat to pee too.
My dogs have all had a great recall, eventually
but it was one of the first things I have taught all of them. Whether they were house dogs or ranch dogs, it made no difference. You can read the post on Teaching your dog to come when called now if that is what you need to work on, or read on…
House dogs should come when called, every time, whether in the house or in your yard. Our house dogs also had the run of our ranch acres for bathroom breaks. I could leave them unsupervised entirely for the bathroom/exercise breaks during the cold winter months but on nice days, I had to check on them often.
If your house dogs live on an acreage, farm or ranch and have free run times, you need to teach them where your property boundaries are. If your dogs are ranch or farm dogs, and spend most of their time outside, untethered and unkenneled, it is especially important that you teach them where your property ends and the neighbour’s property begins.
The most important thing that you must NEVER do
is to never never ever take your dog off your property for a walk in the countryside, whether on or off leash.
I am obviously talking about dogs that have some unsupervised time roaming on a larger yard, farm or ranch. A so called town dog, is not generally left unsupervised on it’s yard with no fence, as that would result in Animal Control scooping up your dog.
Why? Your dog will not know the difference between your taking him off the yard with you, and him or her going off the yard on his own. Allowing your dog, on or off leash, to mark territory along your walk in the countryside, is allowing your dog to ENLARGE HIS TERRITORY!
All Dogs mark their territory, almost everyone knows that right? Male or female, they all do it!
I feel like screaming every time I see one of my neighbours allowing their dog to follow them on a walk on the country roads. The result is that to keep their dogs home, they have to be kept on a chain or locked up. When not on a chain, their dogs are roaming all over the neighbourhood. Their owners have allowed them to ENLARGE THEIR TERRITORY.
If you have to take your dog somewhere, do it by using a vehicle. Want to take your dog for a walk in town, and you live in the countryside? Go for a car or truck ride (not in the back of the Truck box either), and drive to your destination.
Never allow your dog to ride in the box of your Truck, as first of all it’s darn dangerous and second, it makes it too easy for your dog to memorize the route.
To teach your dog his boundaries
you must walk him or her around your property lines, every day while the dog is young. Allow and encourage the dog to pee and poop along the way as this reinforces the lesson. This can become a pleasurable and bonding time with your dog. Yes, it can be a bit boring at times too, taking the same path over and over.
Once your dog is a little older, you can ease up on going around the property lines every single day but you may want to continue because it’s a nice relaxing time with your dog. During the winter months, with heavy snow on the ground (in our part of the world), it may become impossible so your route may have to vary.
At one time I had 5 dogs at one time
three ranch dogs and 2 house dogs. This daily walk around the property was fun for them, to mingle with one another. It was a joy to watch my youngest ranch dog, entice my two playful house dogs, to play with him. They would play tag as only dogs do. First one dog would take off running, getting all the others to chase him, and then another dog would start it and be chased.
That was a long time ago, and oddly enough, it still brings an ache to my heart when I remember those times. Those five dogs are all gone now. Bellows, Frisco, Lucky, Bobo and Joey.
If you are as close to neighbours as our ranch is, you may never be able to allow complete 24 hour unsupervised access to your dogs. We had a kennel/pen that our ranch dogs were confined in for the nights and for when we left home for a while. However, for the most part, when we were home, they became 90% trustworthy. There was the odd time, one would go visit the neighbour’s garbage can or garden if they smelled some goodies.
I did not have an electronic collar back then
which could have reinforced the training much quicker and more thoroughly. For my dogs now, I use a electronic or shock collar to enhance the training for my youngest head strong dog. He is a Great Pyrenees x, a breed that is notorious for wandering if not given a herd or flock to guard from young.
The shock collar should be used sparingly but it should be on a setting that makes your dog yelp! yes that may sound cruel, but when your dog has been shown your property lines many many times, and still chooses to go over, when you are not looking, it’s time for a more stern lesson.
*A quick note on shock collars, I am of the opinion, that they should not be used as an every day training tool. Rather, the shock collar should only be used as a reinforcement tool along with basic training. I would not use it in any training except to teach boundary lessons, or in some cases, used at the right time, to break a dog of a dangerous habit. To be done by experienced dog owners only.
My Great Pyrenees X, Ciro, still tests his training at age 3 years. When the weather is lousy, he has no interest, but give him a lovely sunny temperate day……and he gets bored because I am busy on the yard… off he goes to visit the neighbour’s chicken coop. Of course I call him back, and I scold him a bit as he’s coming back. I use the words ‘stay home’, and promptly put him on our fenced deck and walk away, no more fussing. We use our fenced and gated deck as a kennel during the day. It’s quite large, at 25 by 25 feet, with a covered dining gazebo in one corner.
After Ciro has broken the rules,
the next time he’s allowed free access, I put the e collar or shock collar on. I keep a closer eye on him, and actually hope he will head across the lines. The quicker I can re inforce the boundary line lesson the better. Last year, I spied him on the farmer’s field behind our farm, and managed to give him a good sharp zap, and another lesson was needed later when I spied him heading for the neighbour’s chicken coop. When I heard the yelp, I knew lesson was learned.
Ciro did not push the boundaries for a very long time, but now that it’s Spring, he forgot and headed for the chicken coop again! My other dog, a collie/golden X, has no desire to break the rules and tends to follow me around more. When he was younger, yes he did check out the neighbour’s garbage too, but I did not have the e collar then.
An important thing to remember, is to never allow your dog to see you hold the remote towards him and push the button. You want your dog to think that it is unpleasant to cross the boundary, that its the neighbour’s property that is creating the zap, not you!
Some people have had great success
in laying down an electronic wire system around their property, so no monitoring is necessary (after training). It is not fool proof however. Your dog should still be taught as to where the boundaries are by daily walks around your acreage or ranch.
Some dogs, when extremely agitated by another dog on the other side, or becomes frightened for whatever reason, will run through the electronic boundary. This results in a dog that will now be shocked again when he tries to come back, in effect punishing the dog for trying to come back home!
I have seen some reports of dogs on the loose, wearing electronic collars, from just such instances! I choose not to use this system, for this reason because there are a lot of loose dogs in our neighbourhood.
In summary, never take your dog or dogs off your property for a walk so they can mark their territory. To train your dog to stay home, you must walk the boundaries with them often, every day if possible for quite a while. I highly recommend the use of an e collar if you have an obstinate dog like my Ciro. Confinement is necessary when you cannot actively supervise them, until they are trustworthy.