Electric Dog Fence Training

Overview of Dog Fence Training

The most important part of installing a dog containment fence is training your dog to use the fence. Invest two weeks in training your dog to use the fence and you will have a happily contained dog. Without the training the system is worse than useless. Training is easy, all you need to do is commit to three fifteen minute session each day for two weeks.

Here is a quick overview of the training. The most important principle is to teach the dog that when they hear the tone, they need to retreat (and not run through the fence). You will find more detailed explanation for each step of the training by following the links below.

Training is Easy:

1
STEP

Introducing the Dog Fence

We teach the dog that the boundary flags and the warning beep mean that they need to turn and retreat. Setting this foundation means that when the correction is applied in the next step, the dog knows what is expected from them and knows how to turn the correction off.

We now add the correction to training to teach the dog that there is a consequence for breaking the boundary rules. Adding this deterrent will help cement the boundary rules you taught the dog in Step One. Since you have already taught the dog to turn and retreat when they hear the warning beep, the dog should quickly learn how to turn off the correction by retreating from the boundary.

After the first correction we will calibrate the correction strength so that it is strong enough to capture the dog’s attention but not so strong that it overwhelms the dog. It will be important when the dog is corrected that you exercise leadership and show the dog how to turn off the correction if they get flustered. You want to take care not to feed any fear in the dog by indulging nervous behavior.

Preliminaries

Setting the Correction Level

Reactivate the shock on your collar, either by adjusting the controls or removing any probe covers you added.  Set the correction level. For a small and sensitive dogs, start with the correction on the low setting, for a medium size dog start on the medium setting and for a large or high pain threshold dogs dog start on high.

The correction level required by each dog is different and we will just make an educated guess until we have observed the dog get their first correction and we can better gauge the right correction level. If in doubt about the initial correction level, guess high for hard headed dogs and guess low for timid dogs.

Some people set the correction very low, in an attempt to avoid hurting the dog, but the opposite is true. If you set the correction low the dog will learn that it is not too bad and try exploring past the boundary … they may end up on the street and they could really get hurt. Some people set the correction level very high in an attempt to “scare the dog straight,” but again this is counterproductive. If the correction level is too high the dog can get overwhelmed and not be receptive to learning. Instead we want a correction level just high enough to recapture the dog’s attention and refocus it on the dog fence.

Fitting the Collar

Place the collar on the dog, ensuring that the collar probes contact the dog’s skin.  Remember, if the contacts are not touching the dog’s skin, the dog will not receive the correction. For long hair dogs, this will often require you to move hair out of the way so that the contacts contact skin. If the hair is too thick, thin out the hair in the area of the contact using a pair of scissors. When you fasten the collar it should be tight enough to hold the contacts in place. A good rule of thumb is that you want the collar tight enough that you can insert two fingers between the collar and the dog, but no more. Some of the superior collars like the Innotek IUC-4100 and the IUC-5100 have collar check modes that allow you to determine if the collar is fitted properly. If your collar has this feature it is a good idea to use it. A collar being incorrectly fitted is the most common causes of a dog ignoringthe correction.

Playtime Before & After Training

As before, we want to start each training session, begin with a few minutes of play with the dog. This is a good habit to get into before all dog training. A little bit of play before and after each training session keeps dogs eager to take part in training.

Training

As in Step One, you are going to put the dog on a long leash and take them about a yard from the boundary. As before you never want to lure the dog over the boundary, let them wander over by themselves. It may take a few minutes. When they cross and the beeping starts, wait till they receive their correction. This may take a second or so. You will know the dog got the correction because they will visible flinch or recoil. Then pull the dog back into the safe area saying “no, no, no.” When they retreat praise them.

If the dog gets the correction do not baby them. The dog got a static shock and it is no big deal, it was just like the static shock you sometime get on carpet (if you are in doubt try it on yourself – we have been shocked scores of times and it is no big deal, more surprising than hurtful). You are the dog’s leader, if you panic they will panic and they will not learn. If you act like it is not a big deal it will not be a big deal and they will learn that the shock was simply the consequence of crossing the boundary and that it can easily be avoided by staying back from the boundary.

If the dog doesn’t cross the boundary, reward them. Watch their body language. You will often see the dog heading toward the boundary, but then stop when it shifts it’s vision to the flags. You will often see a dog spontaneously turn their back to the flags. You want to reward this type of behavior with praise, a treat, or a quick game of fetch.

Repeat this activity three times a day for another week. Make sure your dog does not get shocked more than once a session. You do not want them to find this training an unpleasant experience. If they get shocked during the session, simply switch off the shock (or wrap the receiver contacts collar in masking tape) and continue on with the training.

When the dog is consistently demonstrating an awareness of the boundary and refusing to cross, it is time to start the next phase of training. In Step Three, we Test Compliance and see if the dog resists crossing even when excited and confronted with temptations on the other side of the fence.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: My dog completely ignores the correction. Should I turn up the correction strength?

A: If during the training the dog has no reaction at all to the correction, the most common explanation is that the collar is not properly fitted. Even at the lowest settings, most dogs will at least react by turning their head or scratching at the collar as if stung by an insect. If they don’t react, it is probably because the collar probes are not actually touching the skin, and consequently the dog is not getting the correction. Check that any hair is moved out of the way and that the collar is tight enough that you can only insert two fingers between collar and the dog’s skin. You may want to thin out he hair of a long hair dog around the neck where the probes contact the skin to make establishing contact a little easier.

Wait until you see the dog’s reaction with the collar properly fitted before increasing the correction level. A complete non-reaction is very rarely because the correction level is too low.

Q: My dog reacts to the correction, but does not seem particularly bothered by it. Should I turn up the correction strength?

A: If the dog shows only a very mild reaction to the correction, for example not moving with urgency and just pausing to scratch at the collar we need to increase the correction level so that it better captures the dog’s attention.

Q: After the correction my dog became extremely fearful and ran back to the house. He will not go anywhere near the boundary?

A: Some dogs will be extremely sensitive to the correction and will become overly timid of the boundary. For these dogs we want to increase the level of reward for playing inside the boundary and decrease the correction level. So devote more of your training time to positive activities like playing in the safe zone. You can also start feeding the dog in the safe zone to help create more positive associations with that area.

If your dog had an overly fearful reaction check that you are not inadvertently nurturing this fear by babying the dog or acting timid during the training. Sometimes we accidentally nurture the fear in dogs ,rewarding and validating the fear by giving the dog lots of attention after the correction.

Q: My dog learned the boundary rules but stays too far away from the boundary. How do I get them comfortable using the entire yard?

Many dogs will stay 10+ feet back from the flags after getting the correction. This is a normal part of learning the boundary line, at first they will be very cautious. Over time they will become more adventurous and get closer to the boundary. You can help this along by leading them on the leash into the safe zone and playing with them in this area. But, you do not need to do this. The dogs will naturally get closer and closer to the flags as they get familiar with the system over the coming months.

Load more information on Step One
2
STEP

Introducing the Correction

We now add the correction to our training, showing the dog that the consequence for ignoring the beep is a shock. We reinforce the lessons of the first step, that the dog must turn and retreat whenever they hear the warning beep and that this is the only way to stop the correction.

We now add the correction to training to teach the dog that there is a consequence for breaking the boundary rules. Adding this deterrent will help cement the boundary rules you taught the dog in Step One. Since you have already taught the dog to turn and retreat when they hear the warning beep, the dog should quickly learn how to turn off the correction by retreating from the boundary.

After the first correction we will calibrate the correction strength so that it is strong enough to capture the dog’s attention but not so strong that it overwhelms the dog. It will be important when the dog is corrected that you exercise leadership and show the dog how to turn off the correction if they get flustered. You want to take care not to feed any fear in the dog by indulging nervous behavior.

Preliminaries

Setting the Correction Level

Reactivate the shock on your collar, either by adjusting the controls or removing any probe covers you added.  Set the correction level. For a small and sensitive dogs, start with the correction on the low setting, for a medium size dog start on the medium setting and for a large or high pain threshold dogs dog start on high.

The correction level required by each dog is different and we will just make an educated guess until we have observed the dog get their first correction and we can better gauge the right correction level. If in doubt about the initial correction level, guess high for hard headed dogs and guess low for timid dogs.

Some people set the correction very low, in an attempt to avoid hurting the dog, but the opposite is true. If you set the correction low the dog will learn that it is not too bad and try exploring past the boundary … they may end up on the street and they could really get hurt. Some people set the correction level very high in an attempt to “scare the dog straight,” but again this is counterproductive. If the correction level is too high the dog can get overwhelmed and not be receptive to learning. Instead we want a correction level just high enough to recapture the dog’s attention and refocus it on the dog fence.

Fitting the Collar

Place the collar on the dog, ensuring that the collar probes contact the dog’s skin.  Remember, if the contacts are not touching the dog’s skin, the dog will not receive the correction. For long hair dogs, this will often require you to move hair out of the way so that the contacts contact skin. If the hair is too thick, thin out the hair in the area of the contact using a pair of scissors. When you fasten the collar it should be tight enough to hold the contacts in place. A good rule of thumb is that you want the collar tight enough that you can insert two fingers between the collar and the dog, but no more. Some of the superior collars like the Innotek IUC-4100 and the IUC-5100 have collar check modes that allow you to determine if the collar is fitted properly. If your collar has this feature it is a good idea to use it. A collar being incorrectly fitted is the most common causes of a dog ignoringthe correction.

Playtime Before & After Training

As before, we want to start each training session, begin with a few minutes of play with the dog. This is a good habit to get into before all dog training. A little bit of play before and after each training session keeps dogs eager to take part in training.

Training

As in Step One, you are going to put the dog on a long leash and take them about a yard from the boundary. As before you never want to lure the dog over the boundary, let them wander over by themselves. It may take a few minutes. When they cross and the beeping starts, wait till they receive their correction. This may take a second or so. You will know the dog got the correction because they will visible flinch or recoil. Then pull the dog back into the safe area saying “no, no, no.” When they retreat praise them.

If the dog gets the correction do not baby them. The dog got a static shock and it is no big deal, it was just like the static shock you sometime get on carpet (if you are in doubt try it on yourself – we have been shocked scores of times and it is no big deal, more surprising than hurtful). You are the dog’s leader, if you panic they will panic and they will not learn. If you act like it is not a big deal it will not be a big deal and they will learn that the shock was simply the consequence of crossing the boundary and that it can easily be avoided by staying back from the boundary.

If the dog doesn’t cross the boundary, reward them. Watch their body language. You will often see the dog heading toward the boundary, but then stop when it shifts it’s vision to the flags. You will often see a dog spontaneously turn their back to the flags. You want to reward this type of behavior with praise, a treat, or a quick game of fetch.

Repeat this activity three times a day for another week. Make sure your dog does not get shocked more than once a session. You do not want them to find this training an unpleasant experience. If they get shocked during the session, simply switch off the shock (or wrap the receiver contacts collar in masking tape) and continue on with the training.

When the dog is consistently demonstrating an awareness of the boundary and refusing to cross, it is time to start the next phase of training. In Step Three, we Test Compliance and see if the dog resists crossing even when excited and confronted with temptations on the other side of the fence.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: My dog completely ignores the correction. Should I turn up the correction strength?

A: If during the training the dog has no reaction at all to the correction, the most common explanation is that the collar is not properly fitted. Even at the lowest settings, most dogs will at least react by turning their head or scratching at the collar as if stung by an insect. If they don’t react, it is probably because the collar probes are not actually touching the skin, and consequently the dog is not getting the correction. Check that any hair is moved out of the way and that the collar is tight enough that you can only insert two fingers between collar and the dog’s skin. You may want to thin out he hair of a long hair dog around the neck where the probes contact the skin to make establishing contact a little easier.

Wait until you see the dog’s reaction with the collar properly fitted before increasing the correction level. A complete non-reaction is very rarely because the correction level is too low.

Q: My dog reacts to the correction, but does not seem particularly bothered by it. Should I turn up the correction strength?

A: If the dog shows only a very mild reaction to the correction, for example not moving with urgency and just pausing to scratch at the collar we need to increase the correction level so that it better captures the dog’s attention.

Q: After the correction my dog became extremely fearful and ran back to the house. He will not go anywhere near the boundary?

A: Some dogs will be extremely sensitive to the correction and will become overly timid of the boundary. For these dogs we want to increase the level of reward for playing inside the boundary and decrease the correction level. So devote more of your training time to positive activities like playing in the safe zone. You can also start feeding the dog in the safe zone to help create more positive associations with that area.

If your dog had an overly fearful reaction check that you are not inadvertently nurturing this fear by babying the dog or acting timid during the training. Sometimes we accidentally nurture the fear in dogs ,rewarding and validating the fear by giving the dog lots of attention after the correction.

Q: My dog learned the boundary rules but stays too far away from the boundary. How do I get them comfortable using the entire yard?

Many dogs will stay 10+ feet back from the flags after getting the correction. This is a normal part of learning the boundary line, at first they will be very cautious. Over time they will become more adventurous and get closer to the boundary. You can help this along by leading them on the leash into the safe zone and playing with them in this area. But, you do not need to do this. The dogs will naturally get closer and closer to the flags as they get familiar with the system over the coming months.

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3
STEP

Testing Compliance

We test the dog using temptations on the other side of the boundary to make sure that the boundary rules are observed even when the dog is in an excited state. The dog learns that the boundary rules must be observed even if there is a playmate, or food on the other side of the boundary.

In 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.

Preliminaries

Think 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.

Training

The 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.

Toys

If 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 Members

Most 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 Dogs

Most 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, Cats

Many 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: My dog always wants to follow the UPS Truck over the boundary. What do I do?

A: Try to find some way of simulating that temptation during training. For example, do the training when the UPS truck arrives. If you have a friendly UPS delivery person, ask them to arrive and leave a few times in succession so you can practice. You can also have a friend drive up to the house, have them walk up to the door then leave to create a similar experience for the dog.

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4
STEP

Introducing Off Leash

We start letting the dog play off leash. Starting with short stints, we work our way up to allowing the dog to remain in the yard unsupervised for an entire day.

In this final step, we gradually increase the amount of off leash time that the dog is given until they can spend longer periods unsupervised off-leash. We need to keep a closer eye on the dog in these first few days to make sure we are not getting any breakouts. But, you should be able to quickly move to full unsupervised off-leash time.

Training

Start to allow your dog to be in the yard off leash.  Keep the sessions short and supervised at first, but if the dog observes the boundary then extend the sessions, and start to go inside for short periods and leave the dog unsupervised for a few minutes.  Peak through your window and see what happens.

If you get any breakouts, then you will need to do some more training in Step Two. If there is some particular trigger causing the breakouts, add some training using that trigger as described in Step Three.

Once you are getting complete containment, take a bow! Congratulations on a job well done!

After a month off-leash when your dog is confident of the boundaries we can start working on taking walks through the boundary and removing the training flags.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: My dog is getting bored outside and digging up shrubs. How do I make him stop?

A: As the amount of unsupervised outside time increases, you are going to want to give your dog something to do to keep them from getting bored.  We have a few ideas in our page on curbing boredom.

Q: After a year of being contained my dog has started to go through he boundary?

A: 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 session similar to those described in Step Two.

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Post-Training

Removing the Flags

After your dogs have had time to get used to the system (generally 2-3 months) and remember the location of the boundary, you can start removing the training flags. You will thin out the flags, taking out every second flag one week, again removing every second remaining flag the next week, before removing all flags in the third week.

Click for more details on removing the dog fence flags.

Walks

During the training period, you should avoid your dog crossing the boundary lines at all times. This means you should not leave them unsupervised in the yard. And if you need to take them for a walk, put them in the back of your car and drive them over the boundary or if you have a little dog, carry them over the boundary (with the collar off). But, once your dog has mastered the training (a couple of months), you can teach them to walk through the boundary when they are on a walk.

For information on creating a walking your dog through the fence, see here .

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