My clients call me to their homes for a multitude of reasons, but one that often doesn’t prompt the call, inevitably comes up in discussion time and time again.
“I can’t get Fido to stop (fill in the blank – jumping, barking, digging, ignoring me, etc.) in the backyard.” Almost always I follow with a question (they hate it when I do that) which is, “How much time does Fido spend in the backyard alone?”
Why do I ask that?
1. Dogs, especially when there’s only one, rarely exercise themselves.
The notion of, if I let Rover out, he’ll run around and get his exercise like we might go for a jog, just doesn’t typically happen. They might run around a bit, chase a squirrel here, bark at a passerby there, but they won’t exercise themselves positively and with purpose.
2. An unsupervised, bored dog, will find something to do that comes to him naturally such as digging, rolling in poop, chasing/tormenting squirrels, guarding property, etc.
Unfortunately, they won’t come up with things to do on their own that might take the load off of some of your chores in the yard. They come up with normal dog things to do.
3. We can only be effective in guiding dogs on yard rules, if we are out there with them rewarding the instant of the good and redirecting the bad.
God love ‘em, they are loving, but simple creatures who learn by whatever happens in the moment they are doing something. So, if they are digging, and it feels so good, and you aren’t there to catch them and redirect to a more desirable outdoor behavior, they just get reinforced – it felt good to do, I think I’ll do it again.
4. Leaving a dog outside for long periods of time gives them the message that the yard is theirs.
From the moment a dog comes into our home, we are developing a relationship through training, delivering food, and walks on a leash. When we leave a dog alone outside, there is no relationship being developed through these things. For all intents and purposes, the yard seems to them to be their domain because we forgo any direction about what works for us and what doesn’t. I often have a client who says, “My dog is a different dog outside versus inside.” If training and guidance about how to be outside is implemented, this difference in personality starts to even out.
5. Dogs are social animals so, often, they would rather be with us than anywhere else.
This is why when you let your dog out because of beautiful weather, he goes out and then waits at the door. The weather wasn’t the draw, the possibility of you was. I rarely recommend leaving a dog out so much that they stop wanting to be with you. That bond is something you want to maintain outdoors amongst distractions. If a dog is forced to get used to staying outside without you, the above list begins to build.