Step Three: Testing Compliance


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.


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.


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.


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.

Next: Step Four (Introducing Off Leash)

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara April 27, 2018 at 10:54 am

My dog is extremely timid now that she has been shocked and sits on the front stairs and shakes when I take her out. How high should the shock be for a small dog and will she ever unlearn this?

ADMIN – Hi Barbara. The first step of training your dog does not use the correction at all, just the warning tones. The correction is not used until level 2 of training and then, ONLY on level 1 at first, increasing the level if needed only. Please visit the Training Page to see the 4 step training program complete with some training videos:
As it sounds like your dog has become fearful of the pet containment area, you will want to do the right things to 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. 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. 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! Once her confidence is up again, begin with step one of training working slowly through the steps at her pace.

Rick April 15, 2016 at 11:52 am

How close does the dog have to get before it gets the warning or shock? If I put the wire in the gutter that is about 6 feet over the top of the patio door will they be able to go in/out with warning ??

ADMIN – Hi Rick. If you are running the wire through your gutter, it should be well high enough up that the dog can use the doorway without receiving a correction. You will want to test this with the collar and the tester tool before putting the collar on your dog. If you are receiving a correction, try turning the boundary width down a bit.

Becky H. September 29, 2013 at 3:34 pm

We have an 8 month old mixed breed dog who constantly jumps over our chain link fence. We are planning to install an electric fence to reinforce the boundary. Should the electric wire be placed at the base of the chain link fence or should it be 1-2 feet inside? I’m worried that if the electric fence boundary line is even with the existing fence, the only time she will receive the correction is when she’s already jumping the fence.

ADMIN – Hi Becky, you can attach the wire halfway up the fence for the best result. Then you can set the collar to activate 3 feet from the wire. If that is not enough, you can increase to 4 feet, 5 feet etc until you find the right distance that prohibits the dog jumping out.

Katie June 23, 2013 at 3:22 pm

We have three miniature dachshunds and plan to purchase the small dog in ground system. Our back yard is fully surrounded by a garden with a paver stone border. Our front yard does not have an outside border. Our plan is to tuck the wire under the pavers in the back yard and bury it in the front yard. The trio is already trained that the pavers are the border of our yard, anything beyond those pavers is a no-no zone. This has worked fine most of the time, but one of our dogs frequently waits until she sees us turn our attention elsewhere, then quietly sneaks into the no-no zone. Since the pavers work well so long as there is a verbal reinforcement, I have no doubt that our escape artist will quickly pick up on the fence. My question is- how long should we spend on step one in the back yard? Would you still place flags between the pavers when starting training or just continue to use the pavers as a designation of the border? We will have to use flags in the front yard, but I want them to remember the pavers as being the designation of the no-no zone in the back yard.

ADMIN – Hi Katie,

Since you have already established the edge of the pavers as a no go zone and already have a clear visual demarcation, you could skip the flags and only spend a couple of days on Stage One for the backyard. You could of course use the flags too, I think they will help establish that something new is happening, and will help anchor the message about the front-yard flags, but they are not necessary in your situation.

Linda June 23, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Do you recommend that the dog stays inside during the entire training period except for the actual training sessions. I have a 16mo old lab/shepherd mix and he is very energetic. I cringe at the thought of keeping him inside all the time because he does like to go out and blow off steam. My yard is already fenced but I am thinking of installing a system in order to keep him from jumping against the fence and potentially knocking it down.

ADMIN – Hi Linda,

Yes, I would recommend the dog is put inside, or put on a line outside, or there is some other method preventing the dog going the boundary line during the training period. If you allow the dog to go near the boundary between training sessions, it send very mixed signals, and makes it harder for the dog to learn the system.

I know this is a pain, but after two weeks you will have him fully trained. If you already have a fence in place, and are just trying to stop jumping, you can accelerate the training, because this tends to be a much easier lesson for the dog to learn with the clear visual boundary of the fence in place.

Joseph NZIRORERA May 18, 2013 at 5:09 am

Hello, Thank you very much for this scholarship opportunity! I have recently completed my undergraduate course and now hold a Bachelor’s degree and will be attending Veterinary School starting this fall. I would like to apply for this scholarship and was wondering if you require the applicants to mail in their official school transcripts for award consideration? Thank you for your time.

ADMIN – Hi Joseph,

We don’t require you to mail in your transcript. We will only ask for the transcript from the winner.

Mike November 10, 2012 at 8:39 pm

will my low voltage lighting wiring affect the signal from the fence?

ADMIN – Hi Mike, any utility cable has the potential for creating interference. It is best to lay the wire out on the ground first and test before burying the wire.

Vicki Shumaker September 14, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Thank you for all the helpful hints. We will be installing a dog fence tomorrow and I appreciate the information.

ADMIN – Hi Vicki, thanks for your feedback!

Sara September 12, 2012 at 2:07 pm

I have a newfie/pyrenees mix that is very timid. I started with step 1 training, lead her to the flags where she hears the beep, and that’s it, she goes on strike, I have to drag her the rest of the way. She cowers and shakes, runs back to her house or under the porch and won’t come out. Any suggestions?

ADMIN – Hi Sara, believe it or not, timidity is quite normal. This is a new experience for dogs and some simply will be this conservative early on out of an abundance of caution. I’d recommend that you suspend the training until your newfie mix is more relaxed in the yard. Here’s several things you can do to help: 1) coax her to play in the yard and give her treats, 2) have the whole family play outside to entice her to play with you all, 3) go for a walk first to ease her nerves before playing in the back yard. Over time, she’ll loosen up and you can resume the training. Make sure you do not pull her along the leash or force her near the flags. This will be unproductive and may increase her anxiety toward the fence. Our goal is to show her that the yard is a fun place to play.

Pete June 26, 2012 at 5:56 pm

We own a cabin we use on weekends and short vacation breaks only. We want to fence approx one acre. Our dogs ( 1-2 yr old, 35# and 50# labradoodle mixes,) stay in sight of us most of the time with one exception. When a neighbor walks down the road, they cross our property line, go onto the road and chase. How do recommend we handle training when we are only at that home for a few days at a time, at most, one week? We do go there often, every other weekend or so in good weather. Thanks for your input and assistance.

Admin- Hi Pete,

1) For installation, you can install the boundary wire at the front of your property in a single sided boundary layout(see our diagrams under installations). The boundary wire will block your dogs from crossing onto the road.
2) For training, set the training flags up at the boundary and introduce the flags and warning tones to your dogs. Ideally you will want to train 2-3 times daily(5-10 minutes) with each dogs. Since you are not at the cabin everyday, you can train your two dogs only the days you are there. Not training daily at the location will only extend the total training time but your Labradoodle will still lean the boundary’s.
3) A great system for your Labradoodle is the PetSafe PIG0013619. The system gives you a slim line rechargeable collar and comes with 500 feet of wire that can cover 1/3 acres.

Suzanne Martin December 15, 2011 at 2:52 pm

I am considering buying a fence and have a question about the wire…I’d like to bury just a portion of it and keep the rest above ground…actually laying on the ground in our woods. Is that a recommended way of laying wire. We are moving in the spring and I would like to NOT have to bury all the wire now. Many thanks – this forum is very helpful in figuring out which system will best suit our needs as well as many wonderful training tips!

ADMIN – Hi Suzanne,

Laying the wire above ground in a wooded area is fine. The main reason we bury wire is to keep it safe from the lawnmower – if the area is not mowed (like a wooded area), then the wire can happily live on the surface. I would weigh down the dog containment fence wire or staple down the wire every few feet so that it does not move. (PS – in wooded areas, the wire usually buries itself as the leaves fall and then decompose)

John December 4, 2011 at 5:26 am

Hey, so I have a 1 year old pit and 3 other small dogs. My pit is the only one I’m trying to train because she’s getting way to big and she scares my neighbors even though she’s friendly and won’t do anything. All my dogs run around freely since we have quite a bit of land but I’m worried that if I train just my pit she’ll go back to her old ways and ignore the markers once she sees my other dogs running around wherever they want since they’ve always ran around as a pack. What should I do?

ADMIN – Hi John,

Once trained, the pitbull will understand that she can’t go through the boundary even if the other dogs do. This is not an unusual arrangement, and the dog will get used to it quickly. If it is a particular concern that the other dogs will lure her through the boundary, then we should incorporate the other dogs into the third stage of training, where you introduce temptations.

Catherine November 15, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Hi, I have a 1 year old Siberian husky that is extremely smart! When he on the leash and hears the beeping he will retreat like he’s supposed to. But the second he gets off the leash he just bolts through the boundary like its not even there. We have cows a little ways out side of the boundary and he likes to play in their pasture, so from day one there have always been distractions on the other side. And since it’s been getting colder lately and his hair is getting longer and thicker, the shock doesn’t seem to faze him at all! Should I shave some of his fur when the collar goes so it makes contact? Please help!

ADMIN – Hi Catherine,

You can continue to trim his fur with scissors to help make good contact. However, you may need to contact the manufacture to special thick fur probes for your Husky.

For your training issue. I recommend you utilize at lead a 10 to 15 foot lead and let you Husky drag it around as you follow closely. You’ll want to grab the lead and yell “no, no, no” and assertively pull him back into the yard. I recommend you proceed with this training daily until he is compliant.

Jay Milton June 14, 2011 at 2:33 pm

My dogs are smart – smarter than me apparently because no matter what I do, they have devised about 25 different ways to climb over, tunnel under and even go through the ranch/horse style fence that surrounds our five acres. I have a feeling that because that fence will provide a physical barrier in addition to the beeping and correction, that they will figure it out very quickly. Do I still need to do the full three stages of training, or can I sort of move ahead more quickly if my dogs seem to pick it up right away.

ADMIN – Hi Jay

I would still do all four parts of the training. But, you will be able to progress much faster if you have a physical fence. In most cases you can do it in a week (instead of two weeks). I would do two day on Stage 1. Then progress to Stage 2. After that take your lead from the dogs reactions as to how quickly to progress through the 3rd and 4th stage.

It makes it much easier for the dogs if you give them a bit of guidance. And, it is much easier to fix any problems now before they become habits.

Rich June 6, 2011 at 2:44 pm

My old fat beagle seems totally unaffected by the shock. We switched his collar with our young golden lab, who had been shocked, and he still seems unaffected. Could he be too fat to receive a shock???? We are in stage two of training. Thanks

ADMIN – Hi Rich,

The most common reason for the dog not getting the correction is that the probes are not properly contacting the skin. Does your beagle have lots of skin folds around where the collar is? We see this as an issue with some hounds that have lots of skin folds as it makes it difficult for the collar probes to make good contact with the dogs skin.

What we typically do in this scenario is to get your fingers under the collar probes and work it to where the collar sits as flat as possible to the dogs neck. You may need an assistant to help with buckling the collar.

You can also try using the long-prongs even if the dog is a short-hair beagle.

Glenn December 30, 2010 at 8:32 pm

I’m getting ready to train a six month old lab with the fence. I have a lake in the back and I have to keep him out of it with the fence while I’m away but I need to take him to the lake in the evenings to train him. Can a “gate” be created in the fence and can the dog be trained to enter through the “gate” when it is opened?

ADMIN – Hi Glenn,

You can teach your dog to go through the fence when you give him permission. The key is to create some kind of routine for going through the boundary. (e.g. taking off the collar, putting on the collar, then going through the same spot every time when you give a certain command)

See our Invisible Gate training section for more details.

Tony November 24, 2010 at 5:10 pm

I am at stage three with my dog (six month black lab). He is fine in the front but is skittish in the backyard probably due to the fact I have trained him more in the front than in the back. He seems to be periodically spooked in the back yard and today when we were out back no where near the wire his collar started beeping a few times and then stopped. He was scared but we continued a little further and it happened again. He did not get a correction but I am now worried that he might start getting confused or not want to go in the backyard at all. I went outside with the collar after he went inside and it did not go off at all. Is there something that can periodically set off the collar and if so should we avoid going in the backyard with the collar?

ADMIN – Hi Tony,

If there is something accidentally setting off the collar in the backyard – I would stop doing the training in the backyard until you can get that issue resolved – until then stick to training in the front yard. Having an inconsistent correction makes training the dog very difficult.

To track down the source of the phantom signal – see if you can replicated the issue by holding the collar. The most common thing that can cause an errant signal are metal parallel and close to the dog fence boundary wire picking up the signal and then acting like boundary wire themselves. This can be caused by a sheet metal fence, metal siding, and buried utilities that are parallel and within 6 feet of the the dog fence.

Lynn M November 23, 2010 at 2:12 pm

We are considering an invisible fence, so I’ve been reading this information carefully – thanks for being so thorough! My concern is that my dog can become very – VERY – focused when it sees a squirrel or rabbit in the area. She seems to enter a tunnel-vision state that causes her to tear off after the critter. She does not listen when we try to call her back – her focus is so intense she’s likely to get hit by a car when she tears off across the street. While we’d love to get an invisible fence, we are concerned that the distraction of a squirrel or rabbit would be so great that she wouldn’t heed the correction at all. Any suggestions?

ADMIN – Hi Lynn,

Even high prey drive dogs can be trained to resist temptations on the other side. Where you are particularly concerned, I would encourage you to test the dog before letting him loose. In this last step, try and simulate the triggers. I know it is hard to find a compliant squirrel or rabbit, but perhaps you can lay down a scent trail, train the dog in the early morning when the squirrels and rabbits are most active, or use some other “bait” on the other side of the boundary such as you neighbor’s cat.

It is not as hard as you would think. Dogs, have a much stronger desire to avoid the correction than to get the reward of chasing a critter. The important part is to do a bit of training so dogs learn the lesson that the boundary fence rules apply no matter how excited they get and that they only way to escape correction is to turn and retreat.

Adam Kahn October 30, 2010 at 2:54 pm

I’ve just recently installed your electric fence and our dog is seriously timid anywhere near the fence. She was adopted about 6 months ago and her prior owners had an electronic fence. As soon as she saw those flags, she knew what they were. I did the stage 1 test/training (no shock, just vibration and beep) it went off one time and she just isn’t the same dog. She doesn’t want to go outside and when she does she literally stays as close to the house as possible. Not going anywhere in the yard. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. FYI- we installed the efence, b/c she has escaped from the regular fence many times (after multiple times reinforcing it too). Now she doesn’t run off which is just great, but I want our happy dog back. Tell me this will pass?

ADMIN – Hi Adam,

Dogs over reacting and avoiding going anywhere near the beep and flags is a perfectly normal reaction. After training most dogs will not go anywhere near the dog fence boundary flags out of an abundance of caution. After all they have just learned that going near the flags is bad and they do not want to even be near the flags.

But you will see over the next couple of weeks your dog will start being more adventurous. She will start roaming further and further from your house and closer and closer to the flags. A couple of dos and don’t that will help them along the way.

DON’T force her to go near the containment flags, that will just make them associate more bad things with the flags.

DON’T remove the flags straight away, they will help your dog learn exactly where the boundary lies. Leave them until your dog has a bit more confidence in the boundaries, at least a couple of months.

DO play with your dog in the safe areas. This will get them to associate the safe area with fun. If you need to, put the dog on a leash and confidently lead them into the safe area (but give the flags a wide berth)

DO sit in the safe areas as a family. Your dog will see the family in the safe area and will want to join the rest of the pack and will take comfort from the fact that the whole pack is sitting there in safety.

DO feed your dog in the safe area or give them a treat/toy in the safe area of the dog fence. Again this will help them associate the safe area with good things.

You want to create lots of positive reinforcement around playing in the safe area, and worry less about her getting near the boundaries now. She will become braver over time just switch to lots of positive reinforcement and give the dog a bit of time.

jonny March 25, 2010 at 12:28 pm

My dog was shot 2 weeks ago so he has been on a leash while he is recovering. He has learned where his boundary is before I put the fence in. He has gotten shocked twice and now will not go anywhere on the leash. I let him roam free while I watched and if he gets close to the flags I can yell ‘no’ and he stops before he gets shocked but once he is shocked he’s ready to go back inside. My question is can I move to the distraction stage now to test him or let him get used to the idea of roaming the yard without being on a leash first??

ADMIN – Hi Jonny,

Sorry to hear about your dog. Is he well enough for the training? Often, it is best to wait a bit until the injury is fully healed.

I would spend a bit of time playing with the dog off leash. Also give him activities to do outside, like chewing on a bone or playing with a toy. It is perfectly natural for a dog once corrected to over compensate and stay far away from the boundary or want to stay inside. Given a bit of time this will fade away and the dog will be more comfortable in the yard. You have got the dog trained to have the right instinct, to turn and retreat when they get the correction or hear the beep.

I would go straight into the distraction stage now.

lindsay March 19, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Here is my problem. My dog is very well behaved on leash and won’t go anywhere near the flags, in fact she has only been corrected one time. Off leash is a different story. Today her leash accidentally came off and she bolted and ran through the line, was shocked and kept on going. How do I handle this situation?

ADMIN – Hi Lindsay,

Sneaky! Occasionally it happens that a dog will learn to avoid the flags when on leash, but not learn the generalized rule that the flags are bad all the time. What we do, it put the dog on a very long leash or rope, so there is tension on the leash and they can roam completely free. Another trick that works is to let go of the leash so they are completely untethered, but if they go through, grab a hold of the trailing leash and use it to force them to retreat.

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