Retraining a Dog on an Invisible Fence
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?
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.