6 Things to Consider if Your Dog Has Access to a Fenced-in Yard

Too often dog owners feel that leaving their dog run in the backyard takes care of all the dog’s needs. Following are six things to consider when your dog has access to a fenced-in yard:

A fenced-in yard is not a substitute for walking your dog.

In her blog about the myth of backyard exercise for dogs, veterinarian Karen Becker writes that she is continually surprised when owners of “clearly obese dogs” tell her that their dogs get tons of exercise because they have a big backyard.

Becker encourages these owners to spend time observing their dogs in the yard. She writes:

“Your dog may appear to be very active when he first enters your backyard. After all, he does have canine chores to perform, like patrolling the perimeter and sniffing his turf for signs of intruders. Heck, he might even stalk a bird or run back and forth along the fence for a bit. But once he’s checked off all the items on his To Do list, you’ll find him standing at the door waiting to be let back in. If you don’t immediately comply, chances are his next move – especially if the weather is nice – will be to lie down for a nap.”

Beautiful young couple with dog running in autumn forest

Training and veterinary experts say that no matter how large your yard is, it’s important to walk your dog every day. Not only will this provide physical exercise necessary to remain healthy, but it will also give your dog mental stimulation.

Leaving a dog unattended in the yard for long periods of time can lead to behavioral issues.

In his blog titled Dog Behavior Gets Worst with Back Yard Blues, trainer Jim Burwell writes that dogs left alone in the yard for extended periods of time can develop territorial aggression. They start to run the fence line barking and lunging at passersby. This aggressive behavior, Burwell cautions, can be transferred indoors—for example when the doorbell rings.

A dog left unattended in a yard can develop a fear of children who may tease him/her from the other side of the fence or gate. This leads to barrier frustration leaving the dog no option to relieve the anxiety except for barking, growling and lunging at the gate. This can eventually lead to fear of kids.

Positive motivation trainers say they especially see behavioral issues when it comes to dogs confined with electronic fences and strongly discourage the installation of these fences.

It is not safe to leave your dog in the yard when you’re not home

Aside from behavior issues, it’s not safe to leave your dog unattended in the yard for long periods of time. Your dog could escape and get into trouble with neighbors or could be hit by a car. Someone who is annoyed that your dog barks a lot could maliciously throw something poisonous into the yard.

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), dog theft is on the rise and dogs left outdoors for long periods of time are targets. This is especially true if your fenced-in yard is visible from the street.

Dog laying on grass, man with laptop in background

Turn the backyard into a playground for your dog.

In her blog, An Argument against the Backyard, positive motivation trainer, Katalin Kerekes, recommends that families transform their backyard into a playground for the dog. She writes:

“You can hide things in your dog’s digging pit and have her dig them up. You can teach her an outdoor trick like how to point at squirrels, circle a tree, weave between trees, carry empty trash bags for you so you can collect leaves or my personal favorite, if you have a dog who marks you can put kicking on cue and call it ‘wipe your paws.’”

Think about your dog’s needs when landscaping the yard.

While it’s great to have soft sun-drenched grassy areas in your yard, it’s just as important to provide shady spots by planting trees or adding a pergola or dog kennel. A water feature such as a fountain or a faucet with a drinking station for the dogs is also a necessity.

When part of the fenced-in yard includes a garden, small fences or dense shrubbery can be used to block off areas off-limits to the dog. Experts at Borst Landscape and Design in Allendale, NJ say a combination of hardscape (patio and paver) and softscape (grass and mulch) materials for pathways and play areas are good options for dog-friendly yards.

Field stone or blue stone are the best options for paved surfaces as darker hardscape materials can get too hot for a dog’s paws. High traffic areas in the yard can be mulched to prevent wear and tear on the lawn. Sturdy round covers such as pachysandra and vinca are good choices for areas where grass may not grow. In addition to adding color to the yard, they offer a nice resting spot for dogs.

Small garden

Sturdy plants such as ornamental grasses, cat mint, lilac bushes and viburnums can withstand trampling if a dog accidentally enters an off-limits section of the yard. Consider container gardening if you live with a natural born digger. The ASPCA offers a list of plants that are toxic to pets.

Keep Your Yard Looking Fresh by Designating Areas for Bathroom Breaks.

Teaching your dog to use an out-of-the-way spot for potty breaks can help keep your yard looking beautiful. Borst Landscape experts suggest mulching the chosen spot and hiding it behind tall shrubs or grasses. Border hedges and densely planted beds will help deter dogs from relieving themselves in non-designated areas of the yard. Trainers recommend using treats or clicker training to teach dogs to use the same spot every time.

When dogs do urinate on grassy spots in the yard the nitrogen in the urine causes brown spots in the lawn. Watering these areas after a pet has urinated can help cut down on those unsightly spots. An organic fertilizer lawn care program can help keep the grass healthy.

Dangers of Invisible Fences for Dogs
How to Feng Shui Your Yard
23 Common Plants Poisonous to Dogs

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Carole R
Carole R5 months ago

Good ideas. Thanks.

michelle t
jennifer t9 months ago

Excellent,informative article. Thanks

Marie W
Marie W11 months ago


natasha p
Past Member about a year ago

ty cute pics

Janis K
Janis Kabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing.

Glennis W
Glennis Wabout a year ago

Very informative Thank you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis Wabout a year ago

Great information and advice Thank you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis Wabout a year ago

Very interesting article Thank you for caring and sharing

Janis K
Janis Kabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing.

Roslyn McBride
Roslyn McBrideabout a year ago

Some good points.