How to Keep Dog in Yard Without a Fence

What can you do if you are lucky enough to have a yard for your dog to play in but there is no fence in place?

Whether it be zoning laws, size limitations, or maybe just aesthetics, there are many reasons to look for alternatives to fences.

These alternatives include but are not limited to, training, trolley runners, pens, and GPS collars, which all serve as viable options if you can’t use a fence to keep your dog in the yard.

In today’s post, we will explore why it is crucial to keep your dog in your yard and provide alternatives to physical fences.

Read our related article, What Are the Best Ways to Keep a Dog in the Yard? for more unique ideas to keep your dog home!

I. What Are The Consequences for Dog Owners Without a Fence in Place?


It’s no secret dogs love to roam, and if left unattended and unsecured in your yard, there is every chance they will take advantage and go on an adventure.

Unrestrained dogs out on the street can easily find themselves involved in an accident.

Even if you live in the country and you don’t see what harm your dog will get into, you should still consider pedestrians and other animals.

Especially if your dog is aggressive around strangers and towards animals.

But when a fence isn’t an option in your yard is it even possible for them to be out there?

The answer is yes, there are solutions to fences, and you can have a dog in a yard without one. 

In some cases, it may limit their mobility, in other cases, you may need to get creative, or spend a little bit more money than you would on a fence.

But, a dog can thrive in a yard without a fence

Below are different types of solutions to this problem so you can find out what they are, and which ones are best for you and your dog.

Read our related article on How to Keep a Dog Outside Without a Fence for more ideas on keeping your dog safe!

II. How to Keep Dog in Yard Without a Fence

Consider the following options if your property does not have a secure boundary fence:

  1. Manual Boundary Training
  2. Consider Using a Long Line
  3. Utilize a Tie-Out System
  4. Trolley Runners
  5. Build an Exercise Pen For Your Dog
  6. Explore Invisible Fences
  7. GPS Collars

1) Manual Boundary Training

While boundary training might be time-intensive, it is also one of the cheapest alternatives to installing a new fence.

The premise is simple: you train your dog not to leave the yard.

Putting this into practice, of course, is where the hard work and effort comes into play.

You can take various approaches to boundary training. There is no right or wrong method and all that counts is finding what works for your dog.

If your yard already has some form of boundary in place, even if it is just a strip along the border or gravel demarcating the boundary, this will make instructing your dog a little easier.

If there is absolutely no form of boundary in place, you might need to use some rope or flags during the initial stages of training.

Start by simply walking your dog around the yard on a leash. As with all dog training, positive reinforcement is key.

Reward your pooch when he stays within the boundaries of your yard.

If he breaches the boundary, quickly walk them back into the yard. Reward your dog for coming home.

Start gradually walking closer to the edge of your yard and, as always, reward your pup for staying where he belongs.

The final stage of training involves you walking outside your yard’s perimeter while urging your pooch to be good and stay inside.

Throw treats into the yard rewarding compliance.

Now, this form of manual training is far from a quick fix. Also, depending on the temperament of your dog, it could be difficult to achieve results.

The good news is, you have nothing to lose by giving it a go.

2) Consider Using a Long Line

A long line is any form of leash, tether, or rope that gives your dog some freedom to explore the yard while still ensuring he can’t escape.

A long line will be attached to you, so the method is contingent on your presence in the yard.

That said, if you just want to relax in your chair with a good book without endlessly looking up to monitor your dog, this could be a worthwhile option to explore.

3) Utilize a Tie-Out System

A tie-out system utilizes a chain or rope to keep your dog where you want him even if you are not in the yard.

This method gives your dog the freedom he would get from a long line, but it does not require you to be out in the yard with him.

Some of these systems are designed to be permanently staked down, and others offer a more temporary solution by being attached to a tree or pole.

If the system anchors to a fixed point, your dog will benefit from a modest amount of room to stretch his legs.

If it boasts a mobile anchor, your canine will enjoy unfettered access to the whole yard without any chance of escaping.

Read More: Can My Dog Be Home Alone? Learn how long you can leave your dog, how to tell if your dog is ready and helpful tips!

4) Trolley Runners

While similar to a tie-out or a long line, a trolley runner consists of a cable that runs horizontally to the ground with a cord that attaches to the cable.

Trolley runners can be 100+ feet and give your dog a bigger space to run around, are cost-effective, and are still portable if you are willing to put in the installation work.

These are also more permanent than long lines, requiring two sturdy structures to secure the cable, but they do not tangle as much as tie-outs do.

5) Build an Exercise Pen For Your Dog or outdoor kennel

If you are looking for a quick and easy fix that doesn’t call for any training, building an exercise pen could be worth pursuing.

All that you need is a small enclosed area, so this solution is far cheaper than installing a fence around the perimeter of your yard.

The drawback, of course, is that your dog will have more limited access to the yard.

If you have a puppy or a small breed, though, a pen or kennel is a neat solution to the headache of your dog escaping from the yard.

Kennels are a very secure place for your dog while out in the yard as they don’t allow other animals or people to get in, and they ensure your dog isn’t going anywhere.

But, kennels are not portable and may involve a long installation process.

In that sense, they are much like fences, so making sure you can have one in your yard is necessary before buying.

6) Explore Invisible Fences

Explore Invisible Fences

If you don’t like the idea of a physical fence, you could investigate invisible fences.

An invisible fence is an electric device that dispenses mild static shocks if your dog goes beyond the boundary.

This type of electric dog fence is much easier to maintain than a physical fence. Also, your dog is highly unlikely to tunnel under these fences.

Cost-wise, you should will be saving money over installing a physical fence, too.

With some of these fences, you will need to bury some cable around the yard’s perimeter.

Some function with no wires whatsoever. With these fences, a GPS signal will monitor your dog’s whereabouts.

Although they are commonly called electric dog fences, it’s a mild static shock rather than an electric shock delivered.

Your dog will be surprised and shocked rather than hurt, so you should not let the idea of these fences put you off.

Having said that, if you do not feel comfortable and don’t find the concept of this form of repulsion training to be humane, you should not use one.

The downside of these fences are that you will need to train your dog.

Most bad experiences with these fences stem from the dog receiving insufficient training.

Additionally, these fences will not keep other animals or people out. There also isn’t a guarantee they will fully contain your dog. 

Some dogs run through fences, so it is important to note that a different method may be best if your dog tends to run away or not learn boundaries quickly.

Read our related articles, How Deep Do You Bury Invisible Fence Wire? and How to Bury Dog Fence Wire Under Your Driveway for a quick look at the installation process!

7) GPS Collars

A less secure, but better way to give your dog more freedom, are GPS collars that allow you to track where your dog is from your phone.

If Wi-Fi is available in the area, the collar will display the coordinates of your dog on an app on your phone or other device, provided it is within the coverage area.

Your dog can run around, and go wherever they want without you having to worry about where they are because their location shows up on your device.

This grants them the freedom to exercise, play, even swim without constant supervision.

This option does not provide boundaries or protection from outside factors like cars, people, etc., and the GPS will only tell you where they are, it will not prevent them from going anywhere. 

You should stay away from this option if you live near a main road, somewhere with dangerous wild animals, or have a dog that tends to run away and not come right home.

Now that you have a handful of options that will guarantee your dog stays in the yard without a fence, let’s discuss why you need to keep your dog safely contained.

Read More: Are GPS Dog Collars Safe? Can they make your dog sick? Learn about potential dangers.

III. More Reasons Why You Need to Keep Your Dog Safely Contained

Some people may wonder if it is worth it to seek out alternatives to fences when you can just train your dog to stay put or keep an eye on them when they are outside. 

If you have the time, patience, and a little bit of luck, boundary training does work with some dogs.

Training your dog to stay within boundaries on their own is recommended only in areas with little or no danger, and usually not used exclusively.

Boundaries, both physical and mental, help your dog understand what can and cannot be done, ultimately making them happier.

Dogs look to their owners to be the leaders and tell them where they stand, and what they can and can’t do. 

If this doesn’t happen, their instincts kick in, and they may feel the need to fill the role of leader.

This can lead to the dog trying to “set the rules”, or doing whatever they want, which is problematic for your dog and for you.

Mental boundaries like saying “no” when they do something wrong sets behavioral standards, and your dog learns from them.

Physical boundaries have the same effect, and make clear what is expected of them, avoiding any problems you may otherwise have to encounter.

However, no matter how well-trained your dog is, or how watchful you are when they are outside, there are factors that are out of your control.

If you are still unconvinced and tempted to risk leaving things to chance, here are some solid reasons why you should consider alternative options if you don’t have a fence:

  • Cars
  • Getting Lost
  • Biting People
  • Issues With Other Dogs
  • Your Dog Could Eat Something Bad
  • Interaction with Other Animals
  • Your Dog Could Be Stolen
  • It Can Be Illegal For Dogs To Roam
  • Themselves

Read our related article, How Do I Teach My Dog to Stay in the Yard? Whether you have no fence or an invisible fence, training is key to keeping your dog home.


Passing traffic is one of the principal reasons for keeping your dog from roaming outside alone.

Dogs die after being hit by cars every day, and even if your dog survives being hit by a car, the chances of sustaining an injury is high.

Even if you feel your dog is trained enough not to run into traffic, you just can’t predict what will happen out on the highway and an accident could happen at any moment.

Why take the chance with your precious furball’s life?

Getting Lost

Now, there is obviously very little chance your dog will deliberately run away, but the thing is, many dogs can wander off and lose their bearings.

Just because dogs appear to have an innate homing instinct and seemingly first-class navigation skills, they can always end up lost.

The chances of this happening are greater if you live in a hectic city environment, or if you have just moved to a new area.

Even dogs not prone to running off at all can be easily spooked by a noise or being chased by another dog and then end up completely lost.

Again, is it worth taking this chance when you could very easily beef up security in your yard?

Biting People

The majority of dog owners do not perceive their dog as a threat in terms of biting.

The reality is, dogs bite people every day.

Well-trained dogs could still end up biting someone depending on how that person interacts with them.

The repercussions of your dog biting someone can be severe and could even result in your dog being euthanized.

Issues With Other Dogs

If your dog gets out and about outside your yard, there is every chance he will encounter other dogs.

Not all dogs get along, and most are also, of course, highly territorial.

So, there is every chance another dog could chase your pup and leave him stranded. He could also end up injuring another dog and getting you embroiled in a lawsuit.

You could also find your dog ends up pregnant if she isn’t spayed and ends up meeting other dogs.

Do the right thing and make sure you dog stays inside the boundaries of your yard.

Your Dog Could Eat Something Bad

Another possible concern if your dog wanders off is what he might eat on his travels.

Half-eaten scraps of food, pieces of plastic, and even medications could end up causing all sorts of problems.

Since you won’t know what he’s consumed, this will also make treatment more difficult if he ends up sick.

Interaction with Other Animals

If your dog roams off, there’s a strong probability he will encounter other forms of wildlife.

Depending on where you live and what sort of animals you find there, this could be potentially dangerous.

Even small animals such as raccoons can be dangerous to dogs, and they also carry rabies.

Birds of prey can be a surprise hazard for smaller dogs, swooping down from nowhere. More obvious threats like coyotes and wolves can end up killing dogs.

Conversely, your dog could kill birds or other small animals.

Your Dog Could Be Stolen

You might think the chance of your dog being stolen is remarkably slim, but many owners of purebred dogs have been devastated to find their pride and joy has been dog-napped.

Not only do you run the risk of losing your precious pooch, there’s also a more sinister underbelly to dog theft. Many kidnappers will use stolen dogs as bait in dog fights.

As with all of these potential complications if your dog wanders off, following one of the methods above can prevent it from happening in the first place.

It Can Be Illegal For Dogs To Roam

In many places, it is against the law for dogs to roam alone in public.

You could be fined if your dog is caught in breach of these laws, and you could even end up with your dog confiscated.

Fines will increase if your dog is involved in any kind of biting incident, and the process of retrieving your dog can sometimes be quite lengthy.


As mentioned above, knowing what your dog can and can’t do is good for them, and an important part of the training process.

Setting boundaries, both physical and mental, helps them to understand what is expected of them, and how they are supposed to behave.

Read More: Is an Invisible Fence Cheaper Than a Regular Dog Fence? We share everything you need to know about cost, benefits, and downsides to these fence types!

IV. Conclusion

Well, we hope by now you have a clear idea of how you can keep your dog contained in your yard even if you don’t have a fence.

You should also have a thorough understanding of the many reasons to prioritize security if you have an outside space that is not enclosed by a permanent boundary fence.

No matter what the reason, yards that cannot accommodate physical fences can still be a good place for your dogs to be.

Before you head off, we’d urge you to bookmark BarkVA. Unlike many pet sites that concentrate on every animal under the sun, here we are focused only on all things canine.

So, if you’re a committed dog lover, consider us your go-to resource. We’ll see you soon!

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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