In today’s post, I want to give you a few tips for keeping your dog close. Many clients find themselves using these methods in the front yard, when they’re gardening, chatting with neighbors, or working on their car. You want to be outside and you want your dog to be with you, but you don’t want to tie him down. The dog needs to be able to wander without running off. You can also use this tip when you’re out on the trail and want your dog to hang close without heeling or being on a leash. It comes in handy at picnics and the beach as well, or any situation where you want your dog to stick around without a command.
Generally, you can do this in two ways. The first is to set your boundary—whether it’s twenty feet or a hundred—and stick to it. When I’m out in an open space, I usually let my dogs get a little further away. Every time my dog gets to a distance that makes me uncomfortable, I call her back with an informal voice command. I just remind her that I’m there. The next time she gets forty feet away, I’ll say her name again. If she gets up to sixty feet away, I might tell her to come. Each time she gets too far away, I either call her casually or formally. What tends to happen is that whenever you stop, your dog will stop too. When I’m hiking with Chocolate Chip, she’ll run until she’s forty feet away, pause to make sure I’m still with her, and then run off again. So you can always choose a distance in your head and be as accurate as you can be. Your dog will tend to hang out within the boundaries after a while.
The second thing you can do, which works better in your yard or on specific trails, is to use some kind of landmark. When people do this in their yards, I tell them to call the dog every time it gets close to the sidewalk. It’s better to issue this command more formally, since you want the dog to be very aware of that space. Don’t wait until the dog is right up to the landmark, but do wait until its intention is clear. Do this over and over, and be very intentional about setting up training sessions. You can’t train this while working on the yard or your car; only later, when the dog is good at this, can you let your guard down.
You may not be able to use this method in neighborhoods where dogs wander and run up to your dog frequently. But if your neighborhood is laid back and you have plenty of space between your house and the road, this is a great method to use!
Of course, the prerequisite for this method is very good recall. Your dog needs to understand your command, whether it’s “come” or “here,” and must be able to obey it off leash if you want to establish this boundary. You’ll need to log plenty of repetitions before you can comfortably say that your dog is good at keeping to your boundaries. But both of these methods are valid ways to safely hang out with your dog!