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Think Like a Dog Trainer. Part 6: Dog in Yard

By Jess Rollins
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Dog digging habit

Welcome to part 6 of a multi-part article designed to alert you to the many of the potential pitfalls of living with an untrained dog (or in-training) in your home and how to best cope with them using management and positive training techniques. In each description of a potential problem, I will outline how you can prevent it, how to teach good behavior, and what to do as an immediate response if you find yourself in a situation where you need to quickly stop him from misbehaving. Ideally, you will proactively prevent your dog's misbehavior and hence will not have many "Ack, STOP that!" moments. Using the "immediate responses" below more than a time or two each day could set back your training efforts with your dog and prevent him from learning how to behave politely. Therefore, if you find yourself relying on them too heavily, simply increase the prevention you are doing and make sure that your rewards for good behavior are truly rewarding to him. The immediate responses below are designed to interrupt your dog without either rewarding his misbehavior or frightening him.

Part 6: Your Dog Out in the Yard. What could possibly go wrong? :-)

I don't recommend allowing your dog in your yard unsupervised as it very often leads to problems. If your dog spends time unattended in the yard he will most likely develop problem behaviors like digging, barking, escaping or territorial aggression. It is best to enjoy the yard together with your dog so that you can prevent these problems from developing.

Potential problems to be alert for when your dog is in your yard:


  • Prevent: Make sure he is not left outside long enough to get bored and start a digging habit.
  • Immediate response: REMOVE-DOG (terms in all caps are described in the table below).
  • Train: LEAVE-IT. Consider constructing a DIGGING-PIT. Click to view the solve dog digging page on our website.



  • Prevent: Do not leave your dog outside unsupervised and make sure your fence and gate is secure. Secure fences for retriever-sized dogs should be at least 6 feet tall. Some dogs may need something put down to prevent digging under the fence. You may also want to put a sign or a lock on your gate so it is not left open. We do not recommend using invisible fences as there can be many problems with them, for more on that click here. Using a tether or tie out for more than a few minutes unsupervised can also be a problem and is being outlawed in some states. Be sure your dog is always wearing identification just in case he happens to escape.
  • Immediate response: GET-THAT-DOG!
  • Train: DOOR-MANNERS around the gate, but don't rely on it alone to keep him safe! Also teach him to come when called.

Chewing and eating branches, rocks, leaves, etc.

  • Prevent: Remove these items from the yard.
  • Immediate response: DROP-IT. If he eats a small amount it will probably pass fine.
  • Train: LEAVE-IT for items in the yard.

Eating mushrooms - These can be deadly!

  • Prevent: REMOVE-ITEM
  • Immediate response: INTERRUPT then REMOVE-DOG. If he has a sharp object in his mouth, DROP-IT. Call your veterinarian if you suspect he ingested some.
  • Train: LEAVE-IT

Eating poop
Thankfully most dogs will grow out of this habit by age 2 or so and it is not as bad for their health as you would think. If your dog has this problem you could consider improving his diet and/or giving a supplement designed to curb this behavior like "Deter" or "Forbid".

  • Prevent: Clean up after your dog right away when he does his business.
  • Immediate response: Try not to make a big deal out of it as that may make the poop seem more "valuable". INTERRUPT then REMOVE-DOG. Don't worry about getting it out of his mouth.
  • Train: LEAVE-IT and see our poop eating problem solving page.




Build your dog his own place to dig by sectioning off part of your yard or by purchasing a kiddie pool for this purpose. Bury treats and toys in his dig spot and then encourage and help him to find the goodies. If he digs in another spot, bring him in the house, but if he digs in his spot reward him by hiding another treat there for him.


Click for more information on teaching your dog to greet people politely without jumping up.


Train your dog to wait for permission before going through doorways.


Go and get him if he has escaped. Reward him for coming to you or allowing you to catch him Bonk yourself on the head with a newspaper 3 times while repeating "“ "I will be more careful".


Ask him to "drop it". If he does not yet know "drop it", show him a treat to induce him to open his mouth. If he still won't release the item, force his mouth open using the technique described here. Click for instructions on how to train your dog to "drop it".


Say "Hey!" loudly and clap your hands to interrupt what he is doing. Then take a couple of running steps away to entice him to follow you from the area.


Click for instructions on training your dog to "leave it".


Click for instructions on how to teach your dog to be "quiet" when you ask.


Put items out of reach. If this is not possible, use gates, a tether or a door to keep him away.


Encourage him to follow you from the area or lead him away by his collar or drag-line. Grabbing his collar may be frightening if he senses your annoyance. Diffuse this by talking in a silly voice as you approach. Then focus on adding more prevention and rewards for good behavior.

Click for Part 5: Your Dog and Visitors

Click for Part 7: Visiting the Dog Park

Jess Rollins

The Author:

Jess Rollins

Jess Rollins and Pet Expertise's Mission is to Help You to Maximize Your Dog's Potential!

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