Disciplining your dog

How to get your dog to respect your garden Part 1

Many people believe that you shouldn’t even consider owning a dog unless you have a fenced-in yard. While this opinion may be extreme, it’s no argument that a backyard makes dog ownership simpler: House training can begin outdoors from the start and pace is readily accessible for exercise and exploration – even before leash manners are taught.

In fact, the backyard is so handy, some dog owners even use it in place of training (not a very wise move). Got company coming over? No problem – toss Sparky out into the yard to prevent exuberant greetings and bring him back when all the visitors have settled in – or wait until they’ve all gone home. Hey, how about installing a pet door so you don’t even need to get up to let the dog in or out?

Convenient? Yes. Smart? Not really…

Unfortunately, this relinquishment of supervision and control can lead to backyard mayhem and the creation of an independent thinker – a dog that has little desire to please its human caretaker!

Dogs are social creations, and given their druthers, most would choose to keep company with their human family and canine friends. When shipped out to the backyard alone, they become bored and lonely. They entertain themselves by digging holes, tearing out plants and shrubbery, and escaping under or over the fence in search of companionship. Some bark their butts off in an attempt to call their clan together or exchange vocalizations with other yard-bound dogs.

Social isolation isn’t the only reason dogs dig, bark and destroy the backyard, but it plays a major role. After all, if a supervised dog is about to do the wrong thing, its owner is on the spot to give it a warning and redirect its attention to someone preferable, such as fetching a toy or performing an obedience command.

When the dog does the right thing, its owner is able to immediately reward the good behavior with play, praise or a tasty treat; and as we know from psychologists, rewarded behavior increases in frequency.

Think of your backyard as the dog’s home gym. It’s a great place for exercise and stress reduction, but not meant to be the dog’s exclusive home 24/7. A dog isolated in the backyard cannot learn house manners, protect the residents and contents of the home, or build respectful relationships with its people.

If your adolescent dog is too rambunctious to leave home all day then either hire a dog walker, drop it off at a puppy daycare center, or install a dog door in the utility room so your dog has access to the yard and one or two well dog-proofed areas of the home. Do one or several of these things until it’s well-behaved enough to earn full run of the house.