Ever wished your dog would just stay out of the kitchen? Maybe the nursery? Or just not dash the gate when you leave your yard without him?
Invisible boundaries is what you’re looking for. But before we start, I’d like to give a safety warning, because safety always come first. If you’re working on invisible boundaries outside, then you should use a long line while you’re working, unless your dog has a bullet proof recall in the face of distractions.
Alright, ready to start. To do this, you need something to mark your boundary. This can be anything from the line in the pavement, to a row of flags or a strip of tape on the floor. Whatever is most handy for you. The most important thing is that you stay consistent with whatever you choose.
- Pick out your boundary and grab your rewards
- Walk to the boundary with your dog and put a treat on the ground on the side of the boundary you want your dog to be at
- Reward a couple of times here, to build value in the spot.
- Randomly toss rewards behind the dog, to get him to approach the boundary again. As he approaches, place the reward on the ground before he stops. This will cause him to stop.
- After about 8-10 repetitions of step 4, you can give it a try to see if he stops by himself at the boundary. Keep rewarding onto the ground. If he doesn’t stop by himself, you need more repetitions of step 4.
- When your dog consistently stops by the chosen boundary, you can move away from the boundary to increase difficulty. It’s important never to move further away than your dog can handle. If your dog tries to follow at the first step, you need to start at half a step. Toss the rewards to your dog for staying.
- Grab a friend and have him walk around on the forbidden side of your boundary and reward your dog behind the boundary – still onto the ground. You may need to take a step back in training and reward more often when you add distractions
- Keep proofing the behaviour with random rewards for staying behind the boundary
- Increase difficulty by crossing the boundary yourself and reward your dog for not following. If your dog follow, lead him back behind the boundary and try again. If it’s very difficult for your dog, you can drop the treat at the boundary when you cross, to help him remember. As your training progresses, you can remove the visual marker of the boundary.
- Optional: Add an “OK to cross” cue. Pick a cue and say it as you toss a treat on the forbidden side of the boundary. Repeat until your dog connects the cue and the behaviour.
- Optional: Add a “Get back in there” cue. Use your “OK to cross” cue from step 10 and toss a treat inside the boundary as you give the new cue. Repeat a few times, then give the cue before you toss the treat and reward for actually being on the right side of the boundary.
Check out my video on how to teach this skill below.