Step Three: Testing Compliance
OverviewIn the last few days of training we want to test the dog to see how well they have internalized the boundary rules. We are doing this to make sure the dog is contained even when there are extreme temptations. By doing these extreme tests in a controlled setting, we can make sure the dog will stay contained when we start letting them off-leash. This is our opportunity to fix any weak spots in our training. If is much easier to teach this now than later once the dog has gotten used to breaking through the fence.
PreliminariesThink through what the biggest temptations that your dog will face once you start leaving him offleash. We want to expose the dog to these temptations in this controlled training so that. For most dogs the biggest temptations are food, family, other dogs, and wildlife. But, if your dog has particular triggers like delivery people or chasing a tennis ball, then we should incorporate them into the training. It is easy to deal with any of these issues upfront, it takes longer to work through these issues after a pattern of breaking the fence has been established.
TrainingThe compliance training is very similar to the correction training that you performed in Step Two, except now we add temptation on the other side of the fence. Again you will put on the correction collar and put the dog on a long leash. Then you will expose the dog to some temptation on the other side of the fence. If the dog stops at the boundary, reward them for obeying the boundary rules. Lavish praise, or give the dog a treat for resisting the temptation and obeying the boundary rules. They have done very well. If the dog crosses the boundary, let them get the correction, say "no, no, no" and use the leash to tug the dog back away from the boundary. Then give the dog brief praise for retreating. As the dog progresses, you can start to drop the leash so that it drags on the ground when you do the training. With the leash dragging on the ground, the dog perceives they are off-leash, but you can still grab the leash and control the dog if you need to. When the dog is confidently resisting all temptation, time to start introducing Supervised Off Leash Time in Step Four.
ToysIf your dog has games or toys it likes to play, use these to whip the dog into an excited state, then test their boundary compliance. For example, if you have Labrador that loves to play fetch with a tennis ball, you would play with the dog in the safe zone. Get the dog more and more excited playing the game, then throw the ball slightly over the boundary and observe the dogs reactions. A well trained dog will quickly site the flags and not follow the toy over the boundary. You will see the eyes move from the ball over the boundary to the flags. The dog may look tempted, but should not cross. They should wait for a human to retrieve the ball for them before continuing the game.
Family MembersMost dogs are very close to human family members and get a separation anxiety when family members leave creating a strong temptation to follow them past the boundary. We want to test them on this by having a family member walk past the dog and over boundary. It is important that when they walk past the dog over the boundary that they do not pay any attention to the dog or call the dog (we always want a dog to be able to trust human commands and should never do anything to disrupt that trust). ' To increase the level of temptation, the family member can play with the dog for a few minutes and get them excited before walking past the dog and across the boundary.
Other DogsMost dogs are very motivated by the opportunity to play with other dogs. We want to test this by having a confederate walk another dog past the boundary. Ask a neighbor to help out by walking his dog close to the boundary and see if your dog attempts to cross. If you dog successfully stops at the boundary you can increase the level of temptation by having the neighbors dog come onto your property and play with your dog until he has gotten into the excited state, then having the neighbor lead their dog past the boundary and seeing if your dog follows.
Other Animals: Wildlife, LiveStock, CatsMany dogs have a strong prey drive and are instinctively drawn to chasing critters like cats, squirrels, rabbits, birds, poultry, livestock, and deer. Where the temptation is a domestic animal like a chicken it is easy to introduce one as a temptation on the other side of the boundary line. Simply have someone borrow a chicken and parade it on the other side of the boundary. As the dog progresses in the training have the animal run past the boundary, the fast movement is often particularly tempting for high prey drive dogs. Where the temptation is wild life which are harder to cooperate, do the training at times when this wildlife is most active and most likely to make an appearance. You can also lay down a scent line using a purchased scent from a hunting store. This is a particularly useful tool for nose driven dogs like bloodhounds and beagles.
If your dog gets distracted and crosses over the boundary for any of these tests, then you need to do a bit more training until your dog can pass these tests and any other test you devise before proceeding to Off Leash in Step Four.