A dog’s home is not his castle, but the backyard is his kingdom! So how do you explain the difference to him?
The answer is you can’t—and I don’t mean verbally. Your dog does not live in the “it’s complicated” world. It’s your job to uncomplicate life for your dog. Teaching your pup in a less convoluted environment ensures better results and a happier, well-trained, content dog. Let me simplify. If you remove the grey area, your dog will not be confused about what is ok or not ok to do. When you have a “puppy in the training stage of life” there are no questionable circumstances in which you leave it “up to the pup” to know what he can or cannot do, and what is acceptable or unacceptable.
Take a look at the reason you may let your dog spend time in the backyard ALONE and UNSUPERVISED. Here are some of the rationales as told to me by pet parents. I have to wonder why the dog looks so sad at the back door if he’s so happy going outside.
- I let him out to go potty.
- He runs around and gets exercise.
- He likes to chase squirrels and birds.
- He likes to lie in the sun.
- I’m trying to tire him out.
- When he gets out of control, I put him outside.
Does any of this sound familiar? I agree a puppy should be allowed to “be a puppy” but as pet parents, we hold a responsibility to teach a puppy appropriately and with an understanding of the fact that what we do may be initiating and or validating unwanted behaviors causing problems that would otherwise not arise.
Let’s revisit each pet parents’ reason for unsupervised outdoor playtime.
- If you let your puppy out by himself to go to the “bathroom” he may or may not urinate or defecate. You won’t know unless you’re watching. Even if he does squat to urinate, any distraction will cause him to stop midway, and then he will probably finish once he’s inside.
Additionally, your puppy will believe that the entire property is his bathroom. He will also manipulate you into letting him out more often than necessary as you will think he has to either pee or poo.
Beneficial alternative- Your puppy should be on a leash until he “goes to the bathroom” in a designated area. THEN release him to play as a reward. For more information see “GOING TO THE BATHROOM OR GOING FOR A WALK” “WHAT JENNA REFERS TO AS THE DESIGNATED BATHROOM”
- Most puppies and adult dogs will run for fun and exercise for a very short time. After that, they find something interesting to chew on, dig at, or get tired and lie down and fall asleep.
Beneficial alternative- Play ball or frisbee with your puppy. Teach him to fetch as well as come-when-called.
- Puppies will chase almost anything. Encouraging this activity will increase his chance of getting lost, getting hurt, chasing anything else, and having no regard for coming when you call him.
Beneficial alternative- Teach your puppy to wait before you throw a ball and give him the “go” to chase after it. That part alone will help him to learn impulse control. Teaching him to bring it back is part of coming when called.
- Dogs get overheated, dehydrated, and suffer heat stroke quite easily. They are also susceptible to sunburn.
Beneficial alternative- Taking a nice long walk, practicing on leash training skills, and playing together outdoors will give your puppy all the fresh air and sun required.
- I know; a tired dog is a good dog. However, if your puppy is left to his own devices he will be digging, chewing, eating, and destroying anything he feels like.
Beneficial alternative- Mental stimulation is more exhausting and favorable for a puppy than misguided physical activity. Training your puppy to sit, stay, walk on a leash, play ball, or come-when-called, just to name a few, will tire him out and benefit both of you much more.
- When pet parents can’t handle or control their puppy in the house, they use a Band-Aid by putting the puppy outside. The only purpose that serves is to relieve the pet parent of the tension and stress caused by whatever the puppy was doing. This immediate fix fixes nothing else.
The truth is, the more time a dog spends outside alone, the worse his behavior will be inside your home, even when you are home with him. When a puppy can do anything he wants, to anything he wants, whenever he wants, how can he understand that the same lack of rules does not apply inside?
If your property, deck, closed-in patio, or sunroom, becomes your dog’s kingdom, what about the castle?
Beneficial alternative- If you must allow your puppy to have the freedom of going outside alone, do it for a limited amount of time. It will give you more control over your puppy if you bring him inside and work with him on his behavioral skills. Teach him to play with his toys and be content. If he’s good, he gets to go outside again.