Electric Dog Fence Training
An Overview of Dog Fence Training
The most crucial part of installing an electric dog fence is training your dog on the fence. It should take about 2 weeks for your dog to be happily contained. Without training, the system is completely useless. Training your dog is simple. All you need to do is commit to three 15 minutes sessions every day, for 2 weeks.
You can find a quick overview of the training below. The most important thing that you need to teach the dog is that when they hear the beep, they need to turn around, instead of running through the fence. Follow the information below to find a more detailed explanation for each step of training.
Training is Simple
Step 1: Introducing the Dog to the Fence
First, you teach the dog that the warning beep and the boundary flags mean that they must turn and retreat. It is important to set this foundation, because when the correction is applied in the next step, the dog knows what they are expected to do, and they learn how to not get the correction.
For Step One, it is important to disable the stimulation. With the eXtreme Dog Fence, you can do this by putting it in beep only mode.
Fitting the Collar
An electric dog fence receiver collar should be worn high up on the dog’s neck, ideally right below the ears. The receiver box should be at the front of the dog’s neck, underneath his head. The collar should fit perhaps more snugly than you think. You should only be able to get one finger between the probes on the collar and your dog’s neck. If you can freely spin the collar around the dog’s neck, it is too loose and your dog will not feel the correction.
*As a side note, be sure to not leave your dog’s containment collar on for more than 12 hours a day. Leaving a collar on for too long can cause a condition called pressure necrosis, which are red sore spots on the dog’s neck. Should you ever see red spots on your dog’s neck, remove the collar immediately, and discontinue use until the sores have healed.
Begin each session with playtime. Playing with your dog starts things off on a positive note. Your dog will be more likely to stay interested and eager to train. Also, food works wonders with dogs. Small bits of roast beef, chicken or hot dogs can seriously aid in the training process.
Training in Step One
In step one, you are taking your dog out on a long leash that is attached to your dog’s regular collar. Don’t attach a leash to the receiver collar because you don’t want to put any pressure on the contact points of your dog’s neck.
Allow your dog to approach the flags, but never encourage him to do so. Let him wander over to them on his own. When he does, he will hear the beep on the collar. Next, give the “no” command and lead the dog away from the flags, back into the safety zone. Be sure to install a sense of urgency in this initial session. When the dog goes back over into the safe zone, reward him with praise and a treat. Repeat this process during every training session using different areas of the yard at least 3 times a day for the first 2 days.
Start and end each session with a victory lap! If you run, your dog will run too. Just do a quick lap around the safe zone away from the training flags. A victory lap is done so that your dog knows that the yard is safe.
Step 2: Introducing the Correction
Now, the correction is added to our training. This shows the dog that the consequence for ignoring the beep is a static shock. The lessons of the first step are reinforced, that the dog must turn and retreat whenever they hear the warning beep.
Adding the correction will help solidify the boundary rules that were taught in Step One. Since the dog was already taught to turn and retreat when they hear the beep, adding the correction will further reinforce this association.
After the first correction, you can adjust the strength of the correction so that it is strong enough to capture the dog’s attention, but not so strong that it is overwhelming to the dog. It is important that you as the owner stay calm and confident, so that the dog will not feel nervous if you do.
Setting the Level of Correction
For small or sensitive dogs, you should start with the correction level on the lowest setting. Medium-sized dogs can have a medium setting and large, strong-willed dog can be on a high setting.
The correction level that is needed for each dog is different, because each dog is different. You are basically making an educated guess until the dog has received his first correction and you see his reaction. If you are uncertain about which correction level to use, guess high for strong-willed dogs and guess low for mild-mannered dogs.
Some people choose to set the correction level very low, because they fear about hurting the dog. However, this is not a good approach. If the correction is set too low, the dog will think that it is no big deal, and potentially wander out into the street.
Other people attempt to “scare the dog” with the correction and turn it up too high for them. This isn’t good because the dog may feel overwhelmed and won’t be receptive to learning. Instead you want to choose a correction level that is just strong enough to capture the dog’s attention and focus it on the dog fence.
More About Fitting the Collar
Remember this: if the contact points aren’t making good contact with the dog’s neck, the dog won’t feel a thing. The most common cause of a dog ignoring the correction is a collar that is fitted incorrectly. Dogs that have longer hair may need longer contact points. What you may need to do if the dog has longer hair is thin out the hair around the contact points with some scissors. Then you can mat down this spot with a bit of Vaseline.
Don’t Forget Playtime
Remember to play with your dog in the safe zone, before and after each training session. Playing a little bit before and after each training session keeps the dog open to taking part in training.
Training Your Dog With Correction
Just like in Step One, you are going to take the dog out on a long leash. Just like before, you are not going to lure the dog over the boundary, just let them wander over to the boundary on their own. After they cross the line and receive the correction, you may notice that they may flinch. This is when you pull the dog back into the safe zone, saying “no” with a firm voice. Praise them and give them a treat when they retreat into the safe zone.
Be sure to not baby your dog when he receives the correction. It is just a static shock, which feels similar to running across the carpet in your socks and then touching a doorknob. It is surprising, but not painful. Keep in mind that you are the dog’s leader. If you panic then he will too and he won’t learn. Act like it wasn’t a big deal and it won’t be a big deal to them.
What if your dog doesn’t cross the boundary? If he doesn’t, be sure to reward him with a treat. Pay attention to his body language. You may notice the dog heading toward the boundary, but stop short of the flags. You may also see the dog turn his back to the flags. Either one of these things warrants a treat, some praise, or a quick game of fetch.
This activity should be repeated 3 times a day for another week. Be sure that your dog only gets shocked once per session. Any more than this and the dog may find training an unpleasant experience.
When the dog is consistently demonstrating that they are not going to cross the fence, it is time for the next step. In step 3, we test the dog’s compliance by providing a temptation for them to cross the fence, to see if the dog will still resist crossing the fence.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. My dog is completely ignoring the correction. Should the correction level be turned up?
A. During the training, if the dog is not reacting at all to the correction, the most common reason is that the collar is not fitted properly. Even when the collar is at the lowest setting, most dogs will at least show some sort of a reaction such as turning their head or scratching at the collar. If there is no reaction, it could be because the probes on the collar are not making good contact with the skin, and the dog simply doesn’t feel the correction.
Make sure that the dog’s hair is moved out of the way, and make sure that you can only insert 1 finger between the prongs and your dog’s neck. It may be a good idea to thin out the hair of a long haired dog, in the area where the contact points are touching the dog’s neck.
If you are certain that the collar is properly fitted, wait and see the dog’s reaction to the shock before increasing the level of correction. It is very rare for the dog to show no reaction whatsoever, if the collar is fitted properly.
Q. My dog shows a reaction when corrected, but doesn’t seem to be particularly bothered by it. Is it time to turn up the strength of the correction?
A. If the dog’s reaction is very mild, such as not moving with any urgency or pausing to scratch at the collar, it is time to increase the correction level to increase the dog’s attention.
Q. After being corrected, my dog became extremely afraid and ran back to the house. Now he won’t go anywhere near the flags. What do I do now?
A. Some dogs are more timid than others, and become overly sensitive to the correction. For dogs like this, the idea is to first decrease the correction level, and then increase the amount of reward for playing inside of the safety zone. If your dog becomes afraid, devote more of your training time to playing and rewarding in the safe zone. Giving your dog treats within the safety zone is likely to make a big difference, promoting a more positive association with the yard.
In addition to this, if your dog had an overly fearful reaction, make sure that you are not inadvertently babying the dog, therefore contributing to their fear. This can happen if you give the dog too much love and attention after they receive the correction.
Q. My dog learned to not cross the boundary, but now he stays very far away from it. How can I help my dog be more comfortable of the entire yard?
A. After getting the correction, most dogs stay 10 feet back from the flags. This reaction is a normal part of the training process. It is normal in the beginning for the dog to be very cautious. As time passes, they will become more experimental and will inch closer to the boundary again. To get your dog to go closer to the boundary, you can help by leading them on the leash into the safe zone, and begin playing with them there. With that being said, you don’t have to do this. Naturally, as time goes on, the dog will get closer and closer to the flags as they become familiar.
Step 3: Testing Compliance
Now the dog needs to be tested using temptations on the other side of the wire. This is done to make sure that the boundary rules are followed, even when the dog becomes excited. The dog learns that the boundary rules need to be observed, even if there is a reason for him to want to run to the other side of the boundary.
During the last few days of training, the dog needs to be tested to see how well they have learned their boundary rules. This is important to do, so that the dog stays contained even when there are temptations for him to go across the boundary. By doing these tests in a controlled setting, we are able to make sure that the dog will stay in the yard even when we start letting them off of the leash. This allows us to further reinforce any weak spots in our training. It is important to teach this now, before the dog makes a habit of breaking through the fence.
Before You Begin
Think about what the biggest temptations would be for your dog when you take him off of the leash. These are the temptations that you need to test your dog on. These temptations may include squirrels (or other wildlife), people, other dogs, and food. Other triggers may include a delivery person or chasing a tennis ball. Dealing with these issues upfront may be easier than trying to change it after a pattern of breaking the fence has been established.
Compliance training is very like the correction training that was performed in Step Two. The only difference is that now we are adding a temptation on the other side of the fence. Begin by leading your dog out on a long leash. Next, let the dog see some kind of temptation on the other side of the fence.
Should the dog stop at the boundary, reward him with a treat and lots of praise for following the rules. You should be proud of your pup.
Should the dog cross the boundary, he will receive the correction. Say, “no” in a firm voice, and pull him back. When the dog retreats, briefly praise him.
The next time, you can begin to drop the leash, so that it is dragging on the ground when you do the training. Because the leash is dragging on the ground, the dog will perceive it as being off of the leash. However, you can still grab the lease to control the dog, if the need arises.
When the dog is consistently resisting all temptation, you can begin introducing Supervised Off Leash time, in Step Four.
Does your dog have games or toys he likes to play? These can be used to get the dog excited, so that you can test their compliance to the boundary. For example, perhaps your dog loves to play fetch with a tennis ball, you could begin the session by doing this in the safety zone. Try to get the dog more and more excited playing with him. Next, throw the ball slightly over the boundary to see how the dog reacts.
A dog that is well-trained will quickly see the flags and not chase after the ball. You may notice that your dog’s gaze will switch from the ball to the flags. The dog may show that he is tempted, but should not cross where the flags are planted.
Temptation: Family Members
Most dogs feel a very strong connection to their family members. They may feel a bit of separation anxiety when they leave. This would create a strong will to follow family members who are crossing the boundary. It is a good idea to test this by having a family member walk past the dog and over the boundary line. It is important that the person you choose does not call to the dog, or pay the dog any attention. To increase the amount of temptation, you can have the person play with the dog for a few minutes before they cross the boundary.
Most dogs really appreciate the opportunity to play with other dogs. You can test this by having a friend walk another dog near the boundary. Now you can see if your dog attempts to cross the line. To take this one step further, you can have your neighbor bring their dog over beforehand to play inside of the containment area for a few minutes, before they walk over the boundary line. If your dog passes this test, be sure to give him lots of praise and a treat.
Many breeds of dogs possess a strong prey drive. Because of this, they are instinctively inclined to chase critters such as squirrels, rabbits, birds or deer.
When wildlife is the temptation, this may be a little less easy to plan. What you can do is purchase an animal scent from a hunting store. This is particularly useful for dogs with a strong instinct, such as bloodhounds.
Does your doggie always want to follow the Fedex truck? Here is what you can do. Try to find some way of simulating that temptation during the training period. Try to go out and train when the delivery driver arrives. Another idea is to have a friend drive up to the house. Then they can walk up to the door and then leave, to create a similar experience. Then you can test the dog to see if he or she is tempted to run through the boundary.
When testing using any of the above distractions, if the dog runs over the boundary, move back to Step 2 and work with the dog a little more.
Step 4: Allowing the Dog Off Leash
In Step Four, you work on gradually increasing the amount of off leash time that the dog has, until they are able to spend longer periods of time without supervision. Starting with short periods of time, now you can let the dog be off leash. You will be working up to letting your down remain unsupervised in the yard all day long.
During the first few days, it is important to keep a closer eye on the dog to make sure he isn’t breaking through. However, quickly moving to unsupervised off-leash time shouldn’t be an issue.
Begin to allow your dog to be in the yard, off of the leash. The sessions should be short and supervised at first. However, if you see that the dog is observing the boundary, then extend their sessions. Begin going inside for short periods of time and leave the dog unsupervised for several minutes. Watch them through your window to see what happens.
Should you get any breakouts, you will need to move back to Step Two. If there is a particular trigger causing the breakouts, move to Step 3 to test the dog.
Once your dog stays within the boundary no matter what, pat yourself on the back for a job well done!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. My dog appears to be getting bored outside, and he is digging up the flowers. How can I make him stop?
A. Keep this in mind. You could always create a circle of wire around your flowerbeds, to keep the dog out of them. You would then connect your smaller circle to your larger circle using twisted wire. The smaller circle becomes another area that the dog cannot cross.
Q. After being contained for a year, my dog is going through the boundary. What is going on?
A. Watch the dog as he goes through the boundary, paying attention to his reaction.
If there is no visible reaction, then the dog isn’t getting corrected in the first place. Maybe the collar is too loose around the dog’s neck and the probes are no longer making contact with the dog’s skin. If this is the case, fit the collar correctly and go back to Step two of training.
It is also possible that the collar is no longer working. In this case, you can walk the collar over the wire, holding the contact points in the palm of your hand. Now you can feel for yourself if the collar is correcting at all.
Another possibility is that the dog is flinching or yelping as they cross. In this case, they are feeling the correction. For this situation, it is important to go back and do some basic training, such as in Step Two. Increase the correction level and increase the width of the boundary so that crossing the boundary is harder for the dog to do.
After Training: Removing the Flags
About 2-3 months after your dogs have had some time to get used to the system, you can begin to remove the training flags. You can take out every other flag in the first week, and remove every other flag the next week. By the third week, you can remove all of the flags.
While your dog is being trained, you should completely avoid crossing the boundary lines. During this time, if you need to take them for a walk, you can put them in your car and drive them over the boundary line, or if your dog is little, you can carry them over the boundary line (with the collar off of course.)
After a couple of months have passed, you can help them walk through the boundary, doing the following exercise.
Begin by removing your dog’s containment collar. Next, put your dog on a leash. Pick an exact spot in your boundary where you are going to both enter and exit. This is called your “invisible gate.” The idea is that you are letting the dog know that at this point you have chosen in the fence, that it is okay to enter and exit the yard, when you are with them.