Retraining a Dog on an Invisible Fence

by Gajan Retnasaba on April 29, 2013

Greg asks how to retrain a dog that has started to break through their Invisible Fence.

We have an “Invisible Fence” system – wired in a rectangle 100’ x 300’ including a patch of evergreen forest in one corner. We have board fences running part way along two long sides of the rectangle. Two dogs; one a mellow malamute/border collie cross (Bella) who is reliably contained by the Invisible fence and two, Jingles, a short haired border collie too smart for his own good. Both were staying in the yard unless we let the batteries get weak, then Jingles would bolt for freedom. Invisible fence set up the shock level and it seemed to cure the problem for several months. Last week my wife went out of town, and Jingles starting running through the barrier to get to his buddy dogs down the street a couple of houses. (He was bored without anyone home except Bella- who is not interested in playing…) I went back to Invisible Fence and they gave me a stronger collar with the setting on its maximum! They told me that Jingles would have to get shocked once to learn about the new collar. 10 minutes after I got home with the new collar, he learned the felt the new higher shock level. I immediately went and picked him back up from the neighbors. I brought him home and he stayed around all evening – he did seem subdued from his larger shock treatment. The next day I left in the morning and 4:00 pm he had run through the Invisible Fence again! Our neighbor put him on our temporary chain until I got home at 7:00 pm. I took him off the chain and put his collar back on. Within 1 minute of my turning my back he took off down the driveway and through the Invisible Fence like a bullet. The fence is set wide—about 10’ overall. He did not slow up until he was 20 feet past the Invisible Fence which is about the same time he yelped out loud from the pain. Then he took off toward his buddy dogs again!

I am wondering about using a wireless system set to a circle larger than the hard board fences so we end up with an effective oval shape. How far would the system penetrate into the forest or would it stop near its edge? I am thinking that the wireless system that would continue to shock for 30 seconds after he left the safe area might work? How would we train him to turnaround to go back to stop the shock – just the opposite of what he does now? I read somewhere about some systems that look at how fast the dog is running toward the fence to determine when to turn on the shock. Are there such systems? What are your recommendations?

Hi Greg,

I think we can get Jingles contained on your current Invisible Fence system, using your existing equipment. There are stronger collars, and collars that take into account when the dog is running, but for a smart dog like a Border Collie, I think all he needs is a bit of remedial training.

That he is not yelping until passing the boundary makes me think that either the fence is not properly working, or more likely that the collar is not properly fitted. You can test the fence by taking the collar to the boundary and making sure it promptly triggers when you get to the boundary zone. If it doesn’t there is something wrong with the transmitter and you will need invisible fence to come out and fix it. Also test that the collar prongs are contacting the dog’s skin – this is the most common cause of the dog not getting the correction reliably.

When we are confident that everything is working properly, time to do a bit of remedial training. Starting at Step 2 of our training protocol, but the dog on a long leash and let him wander past the boundary, wait till he gets the correction, then say No No No and pull him back into the safe zone. This way he will learn that the correct response to the correction is to retreat rather than keep running.

After about a week, start to introduce temptations on the other side of the boundary. A family member walking by. The neighbor’s dogs. Food. Again, if he stops at the boundary praise him. If he goes through, let him get the correction, say No No No, and pull him back into the safe zone with the leash.

You will need to keep him otherwise contained during the retraining period, the more he goes through the fence the longer it will take to reestablish the boundary.

When you do the retraining, I would at first turn the collar level down or use a weaker collar. Using a very high strength correction on a smaller more pain sensitive dog like a Collie is very rarely necessary and will overwhelm the dog making learning harder.

The wireless systems do indeed have a boundary that continues indefinitely (i.e. you can’t run through), but the signal starts to become unpredictable once he gets to the forest line.

I wouldn’t encourage you to get a new system either wireless or inground. I think what is going on is most likely due to the collar not being fitted correctly and the need for a bit of retraining, both of which can be fixed. If we don’t fix those two issues, you would continue to have problems irrespective of what system you had.

Keep us updates, I would love to know how it turns out.

Best Regards,

Wesley Riojas
General Manager

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Elaine Blackman February 16, 2018 at 6:19 pm

We bought an 11 month old boxer last April to add to a 6 year old boxer. Trained easily to existing petsafe containment system. A month or two later my husband adopted a 6 month old Great Pyrenees pup. She also trained easily to fence. There has been some fighting among the theee dogs and in last month, youngest boxer is continually running through boundary and coming and going as she pleases. We have checked collars and base unit, put in new batteries, even bought a new stubborn dog collar. She is still running the boundary.
I am so distraught. Can you help?

ADMIN – HI Elaine. You may need to turn up the correction level or drop back and do some remedial training with your dog. Another option would be to consult a professional dog trainer.

Savannah June 3, 2017 at 11:53 am

Hi! I have a one year old Pitbull/Lab mix who will not stay inside the fence unless I am outside. I initially had a 2.5 volt PetSafe shock collar on and it worked for about the first two weeks I had him. He started crossing the fence to get across the road to a female Great Pyrenees. After that I kept him and my other dog (Shepherd/Pit mix) inside for about three months. When they went back out in the warmer weather both were fine for about a month, but then he started crossing the fence again. I went and very reluctantly got a new collar. His collar now has a 9 volt battery and is set on the highest setting. I have warning zone set pretty wide, and I just don’t know what to do. I live out in the country and now my parents are threatening to take my dog to the shelter. I don’t want it to come to that! Do you have any idea on what I, a student, could do when I’m home?

ADMIN – HI Savannah. The best option that we have to offer for fencing is the PetSafe Stubborn Dog Fence System. At this time, the only other thing I can think of would be some remedial training, though it sounds like he understands what you want, he is just willfully ignoring it. It may be a good idea to speak with a professional dog trainer and get their thoughts. If you do not know how to find one, I would recommend starting with your local pet store. Ask if they have training classes (most of the bigger chain pet stores offer in house puppy training) and if they do, make time to speak to the trainer. They may have ideas for you or they may have a referral for you as to who would be able to help you.

Alexis Smith April 21, 2017 at 4:53 pm

Hello I have a 4 and a half month old puppy, she is half chocolate lab and half german shepherd. We have started using the wireless fence and she was doing great in the beginning she wouldn’t go past the flags if she saw them, but now she seems to not care if she gets shocked by her collar. I can tell its working cause we have tested it, and I can tell its not to tight but tight enough for it to be touching her skin and she does feel it. we don’t live right beside the road but we go down a small drive way and a short way down the dead end back road and it hits the main raod. she chases us every day to the main road and we have to drive back and bring her back and tell her no. It seems that no matter what we do sh keeps goin out of the fence and every where she shouldn’t. I spend every day with her as much time as I can, because I thougt she might be acting out from not enough attention but she stil does it. I there an easy effective way to keep my stubborn puppy inside the fence?

ADMIN – Hi Alexis. It sounds as if you may want to go back to the beginning with training. Also, you may want to consult a professional dog trainer for pointers on how to help with separation anxiety for the dog.

Hannah March 1, 2017 at 1:40 pm

I have a 6 month old Golden Retriever. I bought the PetSafe Wireless system two weeks ago, and training went exceptionally well with my little dude. He was staying in the yard, he wasn’t taking off every time the neighbor pulled in their drive way or came out on their deck. However, recently it seems he has outsmarted the fence. He stands at the boundary line, while the collar is beeping, and the static correction is on, and waits for it to stop and then crosses over. Poor guy stands there getting shocked and won’t listen to come back into the boundary line. Not sure what to do, I know he is receiving the static correction because he freezes and puts his tail between his legs… But is there a way to change the settings to keep the beep on or static correction so he never makes it over the boundary line??? As long as the collar is beeping/static correcting he won’t cross the line.

ADMIN – Hi Hannah. At this time, the only thing we could suggest would be some remedial training, though it sounds like he understands what you want, he is just willfully ignoring it. Also, if he is freezing in the correction zone, he may not understand what he needs to do once the correction starts so he waits it out because he is unsure what to do about it. It may be a good idea to speak with a professional dog trainer and get their thoughts. If you do not know how to find one, I would recommend starting with your local pet store. Ask if they have training classes (most of the bigger chain pet stores offer in house puppy training) and if they do, make time to speak to the trainer. They may have ideas for you or they may have a referral for you as to who would be able to help you.

Joanne October 23, 2016 at 2:40 pm

Our beagle, Legra, was perfectly trained on the electric fence. The fence technically failed and we eventually replaced it. In the couple months in-between, she was respectful of the boundaries without wearing her collar. Then she became bolder and crossed the boundary. It’s our fault for not quickly replacing the fence.
After the new fence was installed, we attempted to retrain her from the beginning, starting on the leash. The problem is, she refuses to walk on her leash around the yard to do fence training (leash = walk out on the street). So we put the fence collar on her and she seemed ok, even though we reduced the boundaries/containment area compared to the previous fence. Until she got thoroughly zapped. Now she won’t leave the garage or porch when wearing the fence collar – refuses to go into the yard. I can pick her up, deposited her in the yard and she immediately follows me back.
Any tips or ideas on how to break her/get her using the collar and the yard the way she should??? It was such freedom for her – she loved being in the yard!

ADMIN – Hi Joanne. I am so sorry that your dog has become fearful of the pet containment area. What we need to do is help her associate the electric dog collar with positive things. I would try turning the receiver collar off and let your dog get used to wearing it inside the house with no beeping, no correction. It is also a good idea to persuade your dog to go outside and play in the pet containment area as a family with lots of toys and treats! Sometimes it can help if you do this after a walk when your dog is most relaxed. It really helps if you are confident and strong leader during this time. When you think you are ready to begin retraining your dog, you will want to make sure the correction level on the collar is on the LOWEST setting. This way, she will not get a BIG zap. We want her to respond to the smallest correction possible. Start at level one and work up from there until she shows that she is responding to the correction. At this point, you may only need level 1 or 2. And remember, just take it slow. Dogs will adjust in their own time. It may take your dog a couple of weeks. The key is to make the pet containment area a fun place for your dog!

Jef Hale December 18, 2015 at 1:28 pm

Our problem is the same as Adrianne. We adopted a 8 month old Husky. Trained him for a couple of days with flags and positive reinforcement to come back. When he wouldn’t go anywhere near the flags put the collar on. Got near a flag and correction. He was great for a couple of months, watching people and dogs on the walking trail not 10 ft from his boundary – just watched or ran along the boundary. Now twice this week he has bolted through the fence. Last night took him out with a long rope attached and couldn’t get him anywhere near the boundary – through his toy over – nothing. When I thought it was ok, removed the rope and went in the house to get his brush. – when I came out – gone.

ADMIN – Hi Jef. Observe the dog as they go through the boundary and watch their reaction as they cross. If the dog has no visible reaction (other than perhaps a mild apprehensive expression), then the dog is no longer getting the correction. This the most common cause of breakouts. Typically, we get lazy about putting the dogs collar on and it is hanging loosely around their neck and the probes are no longer contacting the dog’s skin. Fit the collar correctly and do a bit of remedial Step Two Correction Training. It is also possible that the collar is no longer working, test the collar using the supplied tester or on your hand to make sure it is still correcting when the dog crosses the boundary. If the dog is reacting, by flinching or yelping as they cross, but is going through nonetheless, we want to increase the consequence of crossing and do some remedial training. Increase the correction level, and increase the boundary width so crossing the boundary is more unpleasant and takes longer. Then do a few remedial training sessions to remind your dog what it is that you want from him.

Connie Young March 11, 2015 at 1:43 pm

I have an electronic invisible fence now and have a Husky trained to the boundaries. He is so respectful of the safe zone and has never attemtpted to break out. We are adding a second dog but wanted to purchase a system that covers a larger territory.
How would I go about retraining the husky to a larger boundary?
Right now he will not even come close the the current boundary.

ADMIN – Hi Connie. What is the age, weight, and temperament of your Husky? What is the size of your total pet containment area? We recommend creating a “Virtual Gate” for the dog to cross between (e.g., two flower pots, etc) on the boundary wire. This encourages the dog to exit at a certain point on the property. Next, create a “leaving the yard” routine with the dog using a command like, “O.K. Let’s go!” Then, remove the correction collar from the dog and leave it in the pet area. Now, put a different “walking collar” and leash on the dog so the dog knows it is safe to exit the pet area. It is also a good idea to remove any boundary flags that hinder the dog from leaving the containment area.

Adrianne December 13, 2014 at 9:30 am

We have an 8 year old Great Pyr Lab mix, (mostly Great Pyr) who doesn’t seem to care whether or not he’s shocked by the invisible fence if it means he can run and roam through the woods. For now he’s not allowed off leash while we try to retrain him. We’ve replanted the flags and taken him on frequent walks around the perimeter. On the few occasions he’s walked through and heard the beep we’ve pulled him back in and praised him. But our challenge is that he does not want to go through the fence boundary, or even near it, while on leash. He’s very nervous and wants to go back to the middle of the yard. We’ve tried staking him on a long leash with enough slack to get shopped, but he backs up as far from the boundary as possible. We’ve tried enticing him by playing on the other side of the wire (we don’t call him) but he will barely even look at us. If we take him off the leash though, he’ll run around like crazy and then blast through the boundary. On one recent training exercise he did very well scoping out the perimeter of the fence while on leash, but then while letting him play off leash for a while under supervision he bolted within a few minutes. We’ve trimmed the fur around his neck, and are pretty confident in the collar fit. As evidenced by the occasional yelp we’ll hear as the dog crosses over the wire. What are we doing wrong?

ADMIN – Hi Adrianne. I’m sorry to hear about your dog training situation. First of all, you are doing everything exactly right! However, consistency is the key. It is also important to be patient with your dog as the training continues. I would like to recommend that you begin every 10 min training session with 5 minutes of play. It is important that the dog understands that the containment area is a fun and safe place for your pet. You can also give your dog some dog puzzles like Kong to help occupy them for a longer period of time. I would also recommend adjusting the correction level on the dog collar to a higher setting to capture your dog’s full attention. It is important to remind your dog of the Boundary Rules and test the dog’s compliance. I suggest starting with some mild temptations and gradually work up to more extreme temptations. Once you are confident that your dog is able to resist all and every temptation, time to move on to “off leash” time.

Gayle Vonderembse October 12, 2014 at 12:21 pm

I have a little cocker spaniel (5 years old and weighs about 23 pounds). She was trained as a pup with our Invisible Fence by the staff in Sylvania, Ohio, but I have gotten lax over the past couple of years about putting the collar on her as she was so good about staying within the boundaries. The last couple of months, she has continued to push the boundaries farther and farther and now likes to run into the neighbor’s yard. I have re-established the flags all along the boundaries and want to retrain her. I am wondering how I turn the shock down. When I called my local Invisible Fence people, they did not want to help me and said it should not be turned down. Their only suggestion was just to put up the flags and let her suffer the consequences. Any thoughts on this? I just don’t want her to get a terrific shock right from the start when all of this is actually my fault. Thank you.

ADMIN – Hi Gayle, if the contact points on your dog’s dog fence collar can be unscrewed you can wrap a resistor to the contact points to reduce the static correction strength. Radio Shack has a inexpensive resistor that you can use to reduce the correction by 50%. The Radio Shack part number is 2711129.

Mark June 1, 2013 at 10:36 am

I have a Shepard /Boxer mix. He is perfectly trained on my in-ground petsafe system inasmuch as 99% of the time he respects the boundary, even if we try and tempt him over. HOWEVER, he is an emotional lad…when a family member is away more than a day he seems depressed and if another one leaves (say driving down the drive) he will cross the boundary. This has happened twice in these exact circumstances and none other. I know he is getting the correction as he yelps loudly as he crosses. Can you offer any suggestions or do I need to be satisfied with 99% success? Thanks!

ADMIN – Hi Mark,

He sounds like a very sweet dog.

It is definitely an issue that you will want to address. We are never happy with less than 100% containment, it just takes one time for the dog to get lost or hurt. Also the occasional breakout can often lead to more frequent breakouts, and it is much easier to nip the issue in the bud that let is continue to grow.

I would make the boundary wider and increase the correction strength. (If you are at the maximum, switch the collar to something stronger like the PetSafe Stubborn, particularly since he has Shepherd in him and that breed often needs a stronger correction than what the basic inground system can provide). You can also do a little remedial training, focusing on Stage 3 – using temptations that are similar to what is currently triggering his breakout behavior.

Boredom and loneliness may also be issues. You may want to consider some kind of puzzle based toy when you leave such as a Kong, or a bone for him to chew on.

Shirley Uribe May 13, 2013 at 9:46 pm

We have a farm type fence (wooden posts and rolled wire fencing) around our back yard.. Our house serves as part of one side. total size about 45×100 feet. Our beagle digs out under the fence.

Could we attach the wire to the fence we already have? It’s Wisconsin with lots of ice and snow.

ADMIN – Hi Shirley,

Yes, you can attach the wire to the existing fence. That works just as well as burying the wire.

Sue Wilson May 10, 2013 at 10:54 pm

We currently have a inground fence/collar system for our adult lab mix. She was shocked once by it when first trained her when she was around 6mths. old, she has never left the yard since with the collar on. We have now added a lab/walker mix to our family and she is 3mths. old, bought another collar as she was starting to roam. Put flags up and she trained easily, got too close, turned around and ran for house. Few weeks later, shes walking right through it, in fact caught her sitting right on top of it, head yerking like shes getting zapped and not caring a bit!! Any suggestions on what to do?

ADMIN – Hi Sue,

For the new dog, I would wait until she is around 6 months old to start the training. At 3 months, they are generally not mature enough to understand the training.

From what you describe she is getting the correction, and she is just not feeling it enough to move. I would increase the correction strength, make the boundary a little wider, and restart the training from scratch.

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