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— February 18, 2014 —

“I can’t get a dog until I have a fenced-in yard for him.”
by Daniel McElroy Jr.

I hear it all the time. “I have to wait to get a yard before I get a dog.” I can tell you for a fact that that is not true. A yard can be a nice perk for your dog, but a yard can also cause serious behavioral issues for your dog.

I don’t have a yard, and I have dogs. Actually, I have two large dogs and a foster dog in a 2 bedroom apartment in the city. I also volunteer with K9 4 KEEPS and try to help dogs find perfect homes with people in Chicago and the surrounding area.

As a rescue, K9 4 KEEPS (unlike some rescues out there) doesn’t require an adopter have a fenced-in yard in order to adopt from us. I walk my dogs and as a dog trainer, I recommend EVERYONE walk their dogs — whether they have a yard or not.

I have had a number of clients come in with dogs who have behavioral issues. Sometimes it’s a simple issue of not having gotten the dog out for enough socialization in the real world. Often these clients have situations that have resulted from using the yard as an exercise area, a potty area and a training area. Basically, all the dog ever knows is the yard that they grew up in. They never get to experience the “real world” and all the things it contains. A dog that has grown up in the ’burbs and learned to walk, potty and sit and lay down in their yard never learns to deal with the rest of the world.

About a year ago, I had a dog that moved to the city with his young owner who had been raised in a yard in the ’burbs. Cammy is a mixed breed dog that was raised in just that type of situation. She was basically a yard and house dog and never went many other places. When her young owner got her first job and moved out of her parent’s house, Cammy moved to the city with her. The move triggered all sorts of behavioral issues. She was very reactive to other dogs on while on walks and God forbid she see a jogger. We have worked together for quite a while to help resolve those and she’s making progress. Of course, Cammy’s owner didn’t foresee these issues, but this is exactly why we are writing this Tail today.

Having a yard, in and of itself isn’t an issue. It’s relying on the yard for all of your dog’s training, housebreaking, exercise and socialization needs that is the problem. I say it all the time, “Your dog needs a BIG world, not a small world.” What this means is that your dog needs to experience lots of new things, people and places. If all your dog ever experiences is what happens in your yard, he’ll be woefully unprepared for the boarding kennel, doggie park or even a visit to the next family reunion.

Another thing is this. A dog behind a fence can become overstimulated by seeing exciting things outside his fence. Even worse, a dog that gets teased by kids through a fence can develop serious issues with youngsters. If a dog is let out in a fenced yard, I strongly recommend that the human stay out with the dog to supervise him. The fenced-in yard offers nice containment, but terrible training.

Lastly, no matter how big your apartment, house or yard is, you still have to take your dog outside for exercise. Keeping the last couple of paragraphs in mind, this means that your dog will need you to take him lots of new places. Ultimately, in order to have a well mannered and balanced pet, you will have to walk your dog. So, whether or not you have a yard need not factor into your decision to get your new best friend now or later.

So, if you think you’d like add a dog to your family, but think you need to wait until you have a yard, don’t wait. Do it! Your best friend is waiting.

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