Many people focus on taking precautions by letting their dogs free-roam inside the house unattended. They train them to stay away from certain furniture and keep the wires of electronics out of their reach. This same level of meticulousness, however, often don’t apply to one part of the house where dogs are likely to spend most of their time: the backyard.
When you fail to teach them what’s okay and what’s not okay, you set them up to fail your expectations. Worse, you also increase the likelihood of them getting into trouble. Some of the hazardous habits they can build quickly is chewing on plants and other things they find lying on the ground, digging holes, and even escaping.
If you can’t trust your dog to behave whenever you’re not around or you’re not completely sure that they’re safe unattended, now is the time to reconsider your choices.
Should You Leave Them Alone When You Go Out?
The answer depends mostly on your immediate environment and the kind of neighborhood you live in. The likelihood of thieves entering your property could put your dog in danger if left in the backyard unattended. Some insects and animals could pose harm to them, and some parts of Australia are known for sightings of them within their vicinity.
You might experience trouble with fire ants, snakes, bees, scorpions, bobcats, and even coyotes. The same thing applies to your frontyard, especially if your dogs aren’t friendly with people and other animals. They could cultivate aggressive behavior that you’ll find difficult to handle when you’re walking them.
If there are no imminent dangers in your backyard, you can leave them alone for short periods of time, but let them earn the freedom to roam freely and with minimal supervision. Otherwise, keep them within sight at all times.
How Do I Reduce the Risks?
The solution is to create a mistake-free environment for them in your backyard that is suitable for training. Coordinate with landscaping contractors to help you design an aesthetically pleasing backyard that poses little to no threat to your dog’s safety.
This may mean elevating plant beds, fending your flower bushes, and opting for more hanging plants. Tell your chosen contractor that you don’t want any material or plant that is toxic for your dogs in case they do manage to chew off bits of them. This means no more aloe versa and daffodils and more African violets and lipstick plants.
Be consistent in addressing behaviors you don’t like, and let them earn the freedom to roam freely. Teach them the ideal activities in the backyard such as playing with their toys, sleeping on their outside dog bed, and playing fetch or Frisbee with members of your family.
Expect that you’ll be spending a lot of time with them outside for training and monitoring before you can leave them be. Like any other trick, you have to be clear and consistent so that they pick up on your cues faster.
What Happens When I Lose My Temper?
You’ll find a lot of dog owners admitting that they’ve lost their temper one too many times in front of their dogs. Being an owner is just more difficult some days, and it is frustrating when they chew the sole off your new shoes. That said, making it a habit to raise your voice at them and use intimidation is never okay. Positive reinforcement is the only means to instill lasting good behavior in your dogs.
When intimidation becomes your method of discipline, you send the message that they cannot do those things only when you’re around. They’ll still cultivate the bad habits you don’t like but will be careful to do them only while you’re away. Positive reinforcement, on the other hand, will help them continue their good behavior even when nobody’s looking.
Gradually increase their time alone in your backyard while keeping watch through the screen door or the window. Come out and interact with them whenever they make good choices, to avoid them developing habits that intend to call your attention, like digging and incessant barking.
This process will take weeks and even months before you get the results you want, and you’ll also have to employ the cooperation of your entire family. Dogs get confused when you discourage certain behaviors that other people in the house tolerate.
Let Your Dogs Enjoy the Outdoors
The great outdoors has many interesting things to offer your dogs. If you have a big backyard that they can run around in, by all means let them. Just do your research and know the pros and cons of your specific environment so that you can make the necessary precautions for your dogs’ safety.