There’s always value in making sure that your dogs are as well-protected as possible. For many pet owners, that means installing a dog fence. For those who are not able to install a fence because of a lack of room or resources, though, figuring out how to give a dog enough space to roam while keeping him or her safety can be quite difficult. That, perhaps, is why the invisible fence has become so important.
Simply put, no one wants to have to deal with the sad fact that a dog without proper boundaries is almost always going to be a dog who is tempted to run off. Even the most obedient and well-tempered dog can be tempted into running away, and from there he or she is at risk. As such, adding an electric dog fence to your property makes a lot of a fence. To get the most out of the electric fence, though, training your dog is a must to understand how the it works.
What is an Electric Dog Fence?
An electric fence is one of those modern conveniences that has come about by necessity. Since some dog owners either can’t have a fence because installing one isn’t practical or because doing so would be prohibitively expensive, creating an alternative kind of safe boundary has become a must.
These types of dog fence, also known as an invisible fence, come in a few different varieties. The traditional type features wires that are buried underground, but there are also units that are solely carried on the collar and work with GPS or Wi-Fi functionality. Regardless of how the unit works, though, these fences are set up to provide a sort of invisible border for your dog. The dog’s collar receives signals from the electric fence, which uses a series of different static correction measures to convince the dog not to cross the boundary of the fenced-in area. These corrections range from loud signals to a static-shock deterrent, both of which are designed to keep your dog safe and in the designated zone. In time, at least in theory, the dog will learn where it is safe to go on your property and what areas must be avoided.
You cannot, however, just throw a collar on your dog and hope that he or she will understand how the electric fence works. Doing so leaves your dog with a frightening experience because of the static correction that will not only make the fence less effective, but that will terrify your dog any time he or she even sees the collar. It’s vital that responsible dog owners spend time helping their pets not only learn where the boundaries of the fence are located but that they also work to make sure that the dog understands what it means when the collar gives off an audible signal so that the dog can avoid being exposed to the corrective stimulus.
Before You Start
As you might imagine, you can’t just grab an invisible fence off the rack and expect a good experience when you train your dog. Instead, you’ll need to make sure that the system you have is the right fit for your dog. For most, this means making sure that you have a system that always starts with at least one static correction stimulus tone before resorting to getting shocked, as well as tools that can help you to properly train your dog before you start letting him or her start wandering around.
In addition to the system, you’ll also want to invest in a long, standard leash when training your dog. This way, you can bring your dog back to you if he or she gets too close to the fence boundary. It’s also a good idea to make sure that you have the right kind of collar that works with your fence’s transmitter – usually something that’s both comfortable and secure, and that is definitely non-metallic.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure that you have good positive reinforcement tools on hand to help your dog. This means not only having treats available for when your dog does a good job but making sure that you’re there with plenty of praise throughout the process. Your goal is to teach your dog that the invisible fence is a necessary part of his or her life rather than something to be feared.
Methods for Training Your Dog
There are a few different methods for training your dog to work with an electric fence. Each has its pros and cons, so it’s a good idea to read about each to figure out which one is most likely to work for you and your pet.
The Response to Signal Method
Engage Only the Signal Function
It’s always a good idea to start training your dog by making sure that the collar’s shock functionality is turned off. You’ll want to make sure that your dog is initially only trained to heed the signal; this is not only going to be easier on your dog, but it’s going to help you to avoid accidental discharges when your dog makes mistakes.
Walk to the Fence
Next, put your leash on the dog and walk around the interior of your boundary area. You’ll want to stay near the electric fence, but well within the space so that your dog can get an idea of where to go safely.
Pay Attention to the Signal
As you walk around, your dog will naturally get closer to the invisible fence boundary. When his or her collar signals, move him or her away from the boundary area. Every time your dog moves away after the signal, he or she should be rewarded with a treat and a great deal of praise.
Engage the Corrective Measure
Once your dog gets the hang of the signal, you’ll move on to the next step. Engage the collar’s static correction signal, with the power on the unit set as low as possible.
Now that the correction is on, you can resume your walk. Walk around the perimeter of the invisible fence. If things are going well, your dog should back away from the boundary as soon as he or she hears the signal. If the dog wanders, though, the corrective stimulus will kick in.
Test Your Dog
To really train your dog, put him to the test. Make sure that there are ample distractions on the other side of the line, from favorite toys to food to even other dogs. Anything that motivates your dog to cross the boundary will work.
Allow the Correction to Work
If your dog crosses the boundary, the corrective stimulus will kick in. In most cases, the stimulus will cause the dog to stop and go back. If this doesn’t work, you might need to turn up the strength of the stimulus until the dog retreats. If your dog goes back where he or she belongs, give the dog a reward.
Now it’s time to really test your dog. Take the leash off and let your dog wander. If he or she gets near the boundary and comes back due to the signal, give him or her a treat. Keep going until your dog starts to obey the signal.
Recall and Flag
Start with Recall
Put your dog on a long leash, then work on making sure he or she comes when called. This is going to be a big part of this training method, so make sure that your dog has this part down.
Flag the Line
Make sure that you set up flags along the boundary line of your invisible fence.
Go for a Walk
Once again, you’ll keep your dog on a leash and walk the perimeter. This time, make sure that you stay relatively far away from the boundary line.
Recall on Alert
If your dog’s collar signals, recall him or her back to you. If he or she moves away from the boundary life, give him or her a treat.
Time for Distractions
Keep practicing recall until you feel comfortable with your dog’s progress. Once this is done, it’s time to start adding distractions to the other side of the boundary line. Make these distractions as attractive as possible so that the next step can work.
Let the Corrections Work
Again, you’re going to have to let the corrective stimulus work if your dog chooses to go across the boundary line. This will help your dog to not only understand what the boundary does but will also help you figure out if the stimulus level is set high enough to actually stop your dog from going across the invisible fence.
Now it’s time to let your dog go free. Keep watching him or her as he or she goes off-leash, rewarding your dog any time he or she moves away from the invisible fence when he or she hears the audio signal.
Remove the Flags
When you feel confident that your dog knows where the boundary lines are located and that he or she will move away when he or she gets an audio cue, you can remove the flags that you’ve put around the perimeter. You’ll need to watch your dog again, just to make sure that he or she understands that the boundary line is still there.
The Positive Reinforcement Method
Flag the Line
Once again, you’ll set up flags along the perimeter of the boundary line.
Don’t worry about a leash; instead, go out to the marked area with your dog and play around with a toy that he or she really likes.
Recall at Signal
If your dog gets too close to the boundary line, he or she will hear an audio signal. This is your cue to recall your dog and to give him or her a treat once he or she moves back to start playing again.
Let the Correction Work
If your dog doesn’t come back, you’ll have to let the correction start working. Again, this is a time when you can observe your dog figure out whether or not the stimulus level is set correctly and whether it will actually stop him or her from running off.
Bring in the Distractions
You should keep playing with your dog at this point, but it does make sense to start bringing in distractions. If your dog starts to run towards the invisible fence, encourage him or her to come back. If your dog comes back to you when called or when an audio cue sounds, give him or her a treat.
Now it’s just time to reinforce the behaviors. Practice until you feel comfortable, then remove the flags from the boundary line. Keep observing your dog, playing, and reinforcing until you feel comfortable with your dog staying out in the boundary area.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How long does it take to train a dog with an Invisible Fence?
Invisible fence training largely depends on the dog. With some dogs, you may be able to feel comfortable letting them run around after a week or so. Many, however, may take over six weeks. It’s vital that you continue to keep an eye on your dog within the boundary of the fenced-in area until you are absolutely sure he or she won’t runoff.
2. How do you train a dog to stay in an electric fence?
There are a few different training methods. All of them, however, come down to conditioning your dog to the presence of the fence and what happens when he or she crosses the boundary lines. Your goal should be to reward your dog for positive behaviors like moving away when he or she hears the audio tone so that the dog won’t ever have to interact with the invisible fence.
3. What do I do if my dog runs through an invisible fence?
Once you have your dog back, you’ll need to return to the very beginning of the training. It’s possible that you missed something during the initial training process that you don’t have the corrective stimulus turned up high enough, but it’s always a good idea to go back and reinforce the right behaviors.
4. Can an electric fence hurt my dog?
An invisible fence won’t hurt your dog, but that doesn’t mean he or she will like the corrective stimulus. Consider what your dog feels to be much like a severe static shock – something that will surprise him or her, but not something that causes real damage.