Why Outdoor Dogs are Nearly Impossible to Train

Thanks Gloucestershire echo. I think Dogs Deserve To Live Inside

I have recently had quite a few people that need help with their dog training; my answers are pretty standard, exercise, training, crate training etc.

But lately I have had a lot of people that want to train their “outside dog”.

Working with an “outdoor dog” is so much more complicated that working with an indoor dog.

However, I think that people who don’t work with that “indoor dog or puppy” end up with that “outside dog” because it becomes easier to leave the naughty puppy or adult dog outside and not interact with it at all.

Don’t Do It

Don’t fall prey to this problem!

All relationships take effort and work, the same is true for your relationship with your dog. Without thoughtfulness, kindness, patience, and obedience your relationship isn’t going to work.

So my first training tip is: don’t leave your dog outside!

Good obedient dogs live inside where they are sheltered from the conditions of the weather and where they can learn manners and obedience from their owner.

Back Yard Dog Syndrome

Thanks No More Chain for the Photo

Thanks No More Chain for the Photo

When I was training service dogs for people with disabilities we used to go to the shelter every week (sometimes a few times a week) to look for potential service dog candidates (one person’s trash can be another man’s treasure!  For more on finding the right shelter dog click here)

But we would find many dogs with what we called “Back Yard Dog Syndrome”

The first part of our temperament test was to bring the dog, on leash, into a sterile room with no one else inside.  We would sit on a chair and wait to see how long it would take the dog to interact with us.

We wanted a dog that would fairly quickly, jump on us, nuzzle us, rub on us, put their heads in our laps or bump our hands for attention.

*All dogs were given at least 3 days prior to testing to get more used to their environment.

Dogs that didn’t want to be touched or didn’t want affection (what we called Back Yard Dog Syndrome) did not pass.

We wanted a dog that was more interested in people than anything else.

Granted some of these dogs body slammed us or jumped on us, but their agenda was not to be “with us”.

Outdoor Dogs

You see outdoor dogs care about outdoor things, like sounds, and the smells of their environment.  They haven’t always bonded to a human, but they are used to wandering and sniffing; so they choose this behavior even when taken out of a shelter run.

They care about sniffing and barking and squirrels and deer and all kinds of other things that the outdoors has to offer; because that is what they are used to.

Typically, as mentioned above, they don’t have a deep relationship with their owners.

After all, it is difficult to build a relationship, especially one where the other person/dog listens to you, if you don’t spend time together.

And being outside makes them reactive.  They are listening for sounds and opportunities to bark.

I Have People Dogs

I wouldn't want to live here either.... Thanks Better Pet Supplies for the photo

I wouldn’t want to live here either…. Thanks Better Pet Supplies for the photo

I have “people dogs” they don’t care for being outside for long, unless I am outdoors with them.

My dogs also don’t care for other dogs.  They are not dog aggressive, but they have no desire to play with them either.

My dogs care about ME.

I’m am their world.

I carry their toys, their treats, and I know how to play the games they love.

And, I think that their living inside is strategic to our having such a good relationship.

I give them commands when they are naughty, I work on obedience for their meals, and I also spend a good deal with them in my lap and snuggling with me.

All of this time spent together helps our friendship, trust and relationship grow stronger.  It helps ensure that they listen to me, and it helps me to understand and empathize with them.

Outdoor DogsISPCA

People who have “outdoor dogs” often don’t choose to spend time with them.

Usually the only time they see them is for the occasional feeding or walking through the yard.

Again, it is difficult if not impossible to have a relationship when this is all you do.

You must make time to train.  Train at least 3-5 times per day for 15 to 20 minutes a session.

You must make time to exercise.  Your outdoor dog isn’t exercising himself no matter how much area he has to roam, for more on that read this

And, you must make time to snuggle him.  Take time for petting and massage and down time.  Not everything you has to do should be “uber” exciting.  Your dog should learn to relax when you are around, just like he should learn to listen.

If you are EXCITING every time you see your dog, your dog is more likely to jump on you and get over excited.

Outdoor dogs need to learn to be calm around you as well as all of the things mentioned above.

But Ultimately

But ultimately I am a believer in indoor dogs and the relationship you will have when you learn to live and love one another.

Start Calming Down Your Over Excited Dogs Today!

Your First Lesson’s FREE:

Sign up below and we’ll email you your first “Training For Calm” lesson to your inbox in the next 5 minutes.


  1. Christina Stockinger says:

    Hi Minette,

    once more you have chosen a theme,as is was wrtitten just for me.I have written to you earlier – about other problems, and it brought me each time a little level higher.

    My problem here is, that I have never had dogs before in my life, although I would have liked so much.I’m now 73. The reason was that my husband has an allergy, so we cannot have dogs inside. Some years before, we have been living in Switzerland and there of course we could not leave them outside in the hard winters.

    Now we live in Brazil, where there is no problem to keep them outside as far as the temperatur is concerned. Of course they ar ptotected from rain as well a from to much sun.

    I spend quite a lot of time with them. I start with a walk at 4h in the morning with the first of them,because I want to go to the beach,the hatbout etc., which takes much more time.The other two get only one hour, alternately. Besides obedience, hands off, I took an online course about relationship games. I use always about an hour for this (for all of them seperately) and in the afternoon at 45 minutes with swimming, playing or repetitons of exercises.

    But I am always a bit with a bad conscience, because I cannot fully share my life with theme and integrate, what they have learned into working place the everyday life. Would it perhaps help if I’d transport my as far as I can to the outside? E.g buy a laptop and use my “inside” computer only when it’s really necessary. They come immedieately to me, when they hear where I am.

    I do not know how I could improve my relationship to them more.



    Carolyn Reply:

    Christina, start your husband on allergy meds. And keep the fur vacuumed up as much as possible, from floors and furniture. NO dog should be kept outside, they are supposed to be a member of the family!

    If all else fails give the dear creatures to someone who can allow them to stay in the house. I have a cat that I have had for fifteen years, and guess what? I am allergic to her! I take my allergy meds and keep her away from my face. She is not going ANYWHERE because I have allergies.


    Timea Reply:

    Thank you for helping here but this is getting very unrealistic… Training 3-5 times a day?? Not everybody is unemployed or dog trainer. People work. So yes… not possible for everybody 🙂


    Minette Reply:

    That is breakfast and dinner and one other time… certainly not impossible nor improbable, dogs are an investment in time and effort


  2. Mike says:

    Sure, outside dogs can be trained. Have.trained it to attack anyone who enters the yard, unauthorized. It’s amazing how many people try to anthropomorphize canines.


    Minette Reply:

    hmmmm a dog trained to attack anyone who comes on the property that sounds safe…

    And, I am not talking about police dogs or the like, they get to go to work with their companions and are gone working 8+ hours a day no matter where they sleep.

    A very few people can kennel a dog and work it to a very high standard for competition etc., but I still believe it is a sad life for all around and THESE dogs at least get worked and trained usually daily


  3. Dot says:

    Not altogether true.
    My Border Collies always lived outside, but were allowed in the house in the evenings or sometimes for short periods during the day.
    It is the amount of time you spend with your pup that matters not where it sleeps.
    All 3 were achievers in tracking, stock work, agility and obedience.
    My new Min. Schnauzer pup sleeps outside in summer and spends most of the day in the yard. No worries either.


    Vivienne Reply:

    But really your dogs are not back yard dogs, they only sleep outside. I believe Minnette is writing about those dogs that live outside all the time, and pretty much have no quality time with their humans. Often those backyard dogs don’t even get walked. I’ve seen that plenty of times and it is heart breaking. You obviously don’t neglect your dogs.


    Linda Reply:

    I agree with Vivienne and dot. Yes Dot’s dog come inside on occassion. but Dot is correct in saying it not where your dog lives (in or out) but how much time you spend with your dog. i have always had dogs and they have always been trained well with not many problems to work on. the only times any of my dogs have come inside is when they had had operations and needed to stay clean and even then they were only in the laundry.spending time with your dog or puppy is essential to whether you have a disobedient dog or a well behaved one. i have had staffy’s, kelpie, cattle dog and now i have a rotti. all very different dogs with different temperaments. animals deserve being well looked after, it is our responsibility to do so.


  4. Anonymous With Allergies says:

    I spend lots of time hugging, snuggling, loving my dogs but they have to live outside until I can afford to move. I have a mobile home with particle board floors and not much room, and allergies. Everyday I wish they could live in a house with me, because when growing up my family had two small dogs living in the house. I know this is what they need, and I want. However, I cannot do anything at all about it facing unemployment, sickness, and bad flooring problem. I am glad your article hit their behavior right on the spot, and I can see possibilities for us to improve a few things. I thought they were interested in sniffing because dogs have better sense of smell than humans, and they also need to listen for wild animals that could get them. (They are well protected, but still…) I can change my behavior in what I let them know I approve of a lot, and encourage less enjoyment in sniffing and listening for animals. I can encourage them to be more interested in what I do now, because your article specifies they do not need “uber” entertainment, and I can see how I have unknowingly been making they jump and be excited too much. I wanted them to be calmer with me, so I can slowly work on changing what I have been doing and help them learn calmer behavior now. This has been a problem for me for a long time, and I appreciate this article instead of simply being criticized by their doctors all the time. This article has really helped me to learn to be a better pet owner of my outdoor pets, until we can all get into a real house with room and cleaning ability for pets–and happy!


  5. Lane says:

    Thank you Minette,
    I have a seizure alert and response service dog whom I chose from a shelter. He was just 1 week shy of being euthanized. He indeed passed the tests you demonstrating a dog’s “candicacy” for service animal testing.
    However, he was found as a feral dog. He had been passed on from foster family to foster family. I knew he had a strong “force” though he was only 17 lbs. I saw the royal dog through all the scruffiness when I first saw his posted picture.
    My best friend helped me to bring him home. She always believed him sweet, calm, etc. She had a hard time believing that behind closed doors he was quite a “devil dominant dog” LOL. Though he seemed a playful, affectionate dog, he would not succumb to any will but his own. It took almost 6 weeks for him to “sit” on command. Everything you mention here about the problems in training “outdoor dogs” is everything I had to work through.
    I’ll never forget that morning, during a perfectly wonderful walk, he lunged aggressively toward a passing squirrel. Imagine my shock and fear when he turned viciously back to attack me, complete with bared fangs and flying leap, when I tried to rein him in. I had to punch/block him from landing on me after that take off! He snarled and glared menacingly. Not knowing what else to do, I growled and barked loudly back at him. Only then did he back off; in fact, he started to shake and then peed, too. Nevertheless, I was so shaken that I called my best friend, crying that Buddicelli was not working out, that I would have to take him back.
    Ironically, even with his dispositions, he was supernaturally sensitive and tenderhearted when I would have pre-seizure auras and he responded amazingly when I was not able to stand or walk after my seizures. He would block me from getting up, direct me to where he last saw me put my medication. If I was not able to immediately “get” the behaviors he exhibited to warn me, he would bring his service vest to me and drop it at my feet as if to tell me he was “working” and that I should now obey HIM.
    The service animal trainers were very patient with him (and me!), but also warned me that Buddicelli (his name-pronounced “Botty-CHELL-ee” like the Italian painter) would always test me every so often, though with less frequency once our bond was forged through Buddicelli’s formal 2-year training period.
    Thanks, Minette! Buddicelli has grown into a less reactive, less fearful dog–he turned from pauper to prince!


  6. Donna Villers says:

    I believe Dogs are companions ,and if you own a dog they should be treated as one……
    If you want and out door dog then you need to go outside and spend time with them ,or bring them inside,…!!


    Carolyn Reply:

    A big AMEN to that Donna!! Those kind of people would not last one night out with their dogs, even with a fur coat on! I believe you feel the same way that I do; IF YOU CAN’T TREAT A PET LIKE A MEMBER OF THE FAMILY DON’T HAVE THEM!!


  7. sue says:

    It feels like many of you are jumping to conclusions about outside dogs. My initial question was how to housebreak a dog that stays in the house (crate) at night, but is outside in the day while I’m at work. I found it cruel to leave in a crate 8 hrs,
    we are on an acre and have an invisible fence. Annie can raom the yard or stay in her igloo if she wants. When I get home she gets fed but has access to water all day if she wants, I just cant seem to house break her completely, because all instructions want you to crate the dog,,any suggestions?


    Minette Reply:


    A safe dog is a crated inside and well loved dog.

    Outside they can bark and be poisoned, other animals can get into their area, they can be shot or tortured or stolen by people.

    I like knowing mine are safe inside and happy listening to music and chilling until I get home.

    IF you are worried about it being cruel pay a neighbor kid to let the dog out and play… but many people crate their dogs 8 hours or more


  8. Debi says:

    Many years ago, when I was in school, I had a friend whose home I would regularly visit after school.they had a beautiful collie. This poor dog was always in the back yard. She was always so happy and excited to see us (we always entered the house through the back yard). I would always suggest that we stay outside with the dog to play or study. The family didn’t understand why I would want to do this. One day, my friend told me that they’d called the pound to come and put her down. I was furious. I told her that they should have called me, I would have made arrangements to transport her to the Vets. All that I could think was the fear this wonderful dog must have felt, being taken away by strangers to be killed!


  9. Charlie says:

    I have trouble getting my dog to listen to me because he is an outside dog. He loves me to death, but does not treat me as master, just as “playtime”person. i would love nothing more then to have him as an inside dog, but unfortunately i live in an environment where that is not possible. i cannot find a place that allows indoor dogs, and i can’t give him up either…and i only have about 5 hours a day available to be with him…how do i accomplish things?
    …for those who say i shouldnt have a dog..i know, but its hard to give up something you love, i hadnt planned on having one, he literally dropped into my lap one day and i cant imagine life without him!!


  10. Susan says:

    Thanks for this! I rescued a dog that had been surrendered multiple times, they said he had “never bonded with people”. We have worked consistently on bonding, and while he still has some of this behavior (he reacts to outdoor stimuli, and spends a good amount of time outside) he now spends much more time with us. He is calm when we are inside and busy, finding a bed nearby, and watches for cues when outside in case we are going on an outing (he’s deaf, so he has to look for a visual “come” unless he has his vibrating collar on). We feel he has made a lot of progress, but it is nice to see why he likes, and reacts more, to the outside! I have been spending time on physical contact, but will make it a priority now that I see this.


  11. Minette says:

    I see all the horrific things in the dog world. I see the dogs that maul children and the dogs that learn to climb fences and get run over… I also see a lot of dogs who are poisoned by angry neighbors.

    People may not even know how many hours their dogs bark at a time when left outside or how many neighbors work at night. Many of these neighbors chuck poisoned food over the fence to kill the dog to get quiet.

    I also recently saw an incident hit the news in UT where a dog was out in his yard, but the police were looking for a missing child. The police opened the gate, the dog charged and tried to bite and the dog was shot.

    I feel sorry for everyone involved. If it was my child I would want him searched for… if it was my dog in my yard and he got shot… I would be livid.

    If the dog was inside with the radio on in his crate; he never would have been shot.

    For people who work all day I recommend a dog walker, even a teenager or kid (as long as the dog is good) who can come in and walk or play with the dog…

    I leave mine inside so that they stay alive… even I don’t know if my dogs would bark all day if left outside alone… but am pretty sure they would


  12. Arundi says:

    I also have an outdoor dog.But from the day I got her,I found that she preferred outdoor life.Even before opening her eyes, she used to move out of her basket and sleep on the cold cement floor of her mom’s kennel. we are still unable to make her sleep in a basket,she even hates mats.
    My opinion is that the problem is not being an indoor dog or an outdoor dog.It depends on the love,care and attention they are given.Of course my dog is not the best trained dog or the easiest to train,but she is trainable all the same.
    She is interested in other dogs and creatures but she is interested in humans too and people love her.I also do not approve dragging dogs to our world by tearing them away from their own world.Dog parents should not be dog jailers. They should have some freedom too.


  13. Harry says:


    We went to buy a Great Dane puppy,walking through the outside cages we saw two Danes 6 month old from another litter.
    These dogs had had no human contact ,only being fed.

    My wife and I could not leave them there.

    Outdoor dogs 6 months old and two of them.

    18 months later and a lot of difficult times on they are both wonderful dog ,pretty well trained and absolutely love people.

    One of the most difficult thing was that there was two of them and such big dogs,around 12st each.

    If you are willing to persever and love your dog all is possible.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *