Backyards are so convenient for dog owners. I mean, I love my back yard. It makes quick pee breaks for the dogs AND ME so easy (No no, I don’t pee in the yard…okay just clarifying”)
Not having to leash them up when they quickly need to do their business is just so nice.
We can also just sit outside together and sunbath in our private area and the dogs can run around while doing so.
So yes, I love love love my back yard because I remember how it was without. ❤️
But back yards or often misused and such can actually cause problem behaviours in your dog
Let me tell you what I mean...
1. The Back Yard Is Not An Exercise Substitute
Having a big back yard and having your dog being able to run around in it, doesn’t mean he needs less walks or exercise. And bare with me...I want to tell you a story about what's going on.
The back yard is for a dog like your living room. It’s cozy to relax, you’re comfortable because it’s your own home. You know exactly what’s going on and it’s a great place to sometimes just sit down and relax. If you feel like, you can have a dance party by yourself or with your roommate, super fun yeah, but it’s not actually quite the same as socializing with other people (if you enjoy that).
For your dog, he knows your back yard in and out. He knows, every smell, every rock where it belongs there is absolutely no stimulation after just a short period of time. It can quickly get boring.
Boredom might lead to your dog digging up the yard, destroying things in the house, barking at everything he sees walking by and so on. Your dog might have a quick dance party by himself but as a social creature that likes to do the distance and wander, he would much rather go out and see the world where there are is stimulation, he can smell new smells and experience new things.
If you are an extroverted person, just think of what would happen if you had to stay home all the time. Your dog needs all his exercise needs met regardless of having a back yard or not.
A back yard is simply a convenient add on to have to play WITH your dog, have pee breaks and enjoy lounging around sometimes.
But it does NOT replace any exercise.
2. The Back Yard Is Not A Dog Sitter
Do you feel bad leaving your dog home alone while you are at work?
You don’t want him to have to sit inside all day long?
Since you have a back yard you think that would be a great place for your dog to hang out when you’re gone?
I wish I wouldn’t have to burst your bubble, because the idea sounds pretty cool.
Now here’s the problem. It’s literally calling for trouble.
Let me paint you a picture:
You are putting your dog out in the yard saying “Bye, bee good, I’ll be back soon”. First your dog might have a little dance party like “wohhooo freedom”. 10 minutes later he’s like “and now what?”. So he’s starting to sniff around and discovering a squirrel up the tree. He’s like "hey squirrel, come down…let me hunt you” now what that really looks like if you’d watch him goes like that: “Bark, Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark” up the tree for as long as he feels needed.
In this sense, he encourages his own hunting instinct (which is a normal instinct but needs to be controlled) and at the same time, he becomes a nuisance barker. It’s super satisfying behavior for him but not your neighbors.
Maybe one day a cat strolls through your yard and he’s up and going after that. Once the squirrel and the cat are gone, a person might be walking by the fence. Your dog thinks: “hey intruder, go away”. So he will bark at the person approaching and because the person really doesn’t care and is just walking by, your dog is “barking them away”. "Cool" your dog thinks, "I just scared the intruder away. I will do the same thing next time cause that's my job isn't it?"
Maybe your neighbor has a dog in his yard as well, they both smell each other through the fence and they’re like “hey let’s play”. So they start running along the fence. Sooner or later your dog is like “dude, this is no fun, get over her, stop nagging me” and over time it goes from playing along the fence to fence fighting because the dogs get frustrated by the barrier. Again, for your dog this can be satisfying behavoiur because all he does is channeling his energy into other behaviour and find an outlet that suits his needed energy release.
The problem is with all that back yard behaviour....that you are not there to interrupt these undesired behaviors and that teaches your dog that they are totally acceptable. And for him, they are actually desirable because they serve his purpose.
So, when you’re home, you might be wondering, why is my dog constantly barking at things or people walking by when he's out in the yard? Why is he reactive towards the neighbor’s dog or possibly even dogs on the street when you’re out and about? And why oh why has his prey drive gotten so intense?
Your dog will be better off hanging out in the house lounging around and also making sure they have no access to windows to bark out off etc. We always recommend crating the dog when you leave the house unless their behaviours are solid so they can actually be left loose in the house.
If you really feel bad about leaving your dog while you are gone, hire a dog walker or a pet sitter to check on your pooch and spend some time with them.
Again, the back yard is great, but make sure to only utilize it when you are home and are able to interrupt any undesired behaviours.
About the author:
Simone Krebser - CPDT: Owner and head dog trainer of K9 Possible Dog Training serving the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia from Osoyoos to Penticton and Kelowna with result based dog training. Certified dog trainer, certified pet first aid instructor, member of the IACP, dog crazy and chocolate/cheese addict. “My life revolves around dog’s day in and out and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is my goal to help enhance the lives of as many dogs (and their owners) as possible. Your dog is my priority and I’m as committed to your dog as you are. But I can only help those who sincerely want to help their dogs and not only themselves.”