How to Train Your Dog to Use an Invisible Fence

Medium
2-4 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

A rural pet owner with a large unfenced yard has two beautiful, large farm dogs.  The dogs' job is to guard the property, protecting the chickens and goats from predators, and the home from intruders. The quiet gravel road that goes by the property is rarely traveled except by locals, and the dogs are good about staying home with their family. But one day a rabbit in the field across the road catches the eye of the younger dog, who bolts across the road after the rabbit, heedless of the property line, or the road. Unfortunately, a guest looking for a local farm, and unfamiliar with the area is traveling down the road at precisely that time, and strikes the family farm dog with her car, killing him instantly. The driver is distraught, the farm family is devastated, and sadly, a dog is tragically lost due to a preventable accident. An invisible fence that would have given the farm dog a defined barrier and prevented him from bolting out onto the road might have prevented this sad outcome.

Defining Tasks

Some pet owners are unable to have a fenced-in area for their dogs, either due to cost or geographical constraint. This is especially common in rural areas, where large yard sites are often the norm, and there is a requirement for dogs to defend livestock and property. 

An invisible fence can be installed underground, or a transmitter set to allow a certain radius from a central point. The invisible fence can be set at the border of your property or yard site, or wherever you want your dog contained. The dog wears a radio collar that receives transmissions from a radio transmitter that is signaled by the invisible fence. The collar first produces an audible signal to the dog as he approaches the boundary of the invisible fence ,to let the dog know he is at approaching the boundary. If the dog proceeds to the boundary of the invisible fence he will receive a signal stimulus correction as he crosses the invisible fence line. The stimulus correction is usually similar to a static shock, and serves to deter the dog from crossing the invisible fence line, thus giving the dog a boundary and keeping the dog safely in a contained area. 

However, simply turning your dog out to learn how the invisible fence works by trial and error will result in many incidences of negative reinforcement, which can be frightening and confusing to your dog, and may take several unnecessary incidents in order for your dog to learn the boundaries of their invisible fence and stay contained within it. Responsible use of an invisible fence includes teaching your dog what the boundaries of the invisible fence are, and how to understand radio signals warning of impending corrective stimulus so they can react appropriately to avoid triggering the fence.

Getting Started

You should always choose an invisible fence system that has a  signal prior to the corrective stimulus, so your dog can learn to avoid being corrected. Most invisible fencing systems come with flags that can be used to mark the boundaries of the invisible fence to assist training by visually marking the boundary of the fence, allowing your dog to see and define the area he is to stay within. Use of a long leash to help your dog explore his yard, but allow controlled recall and guidance as your dog approaches boundaries, may be employed. You will also need a second non-metallic collar to use with the leash, as using the transmitter collar for leading is not appropriate and metal collars can interfere with radio signal transmission. 

Have lots of treats and toys to reward and reinforce appropriate containment behaviors.  Do not leave your dog unattended in an invisible fence during training, so as not to result in unnecessary negative stimuli corrections that can confuse your dog or allow successful attempts at evading the invisible fence.

The Response to Signal Method

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Step
1
Set to signal only
Set your invisible fence radio collar to signal only, so that only a signal is provided to the dog when they approach the invisible fence line and no corrective stimulus.
Step
2
Approach fenceline
Take your dog on a walk with a leash and a separate non-metal collar, within but near the perimeter of the invisible fence line.
Step
3
Move away when signalled
When the collar signals your dog with an audio signal that he is too close to the boundary, correct your dog by moving him away from the invisible fence line. Provide treats as a reward for moving away from the fence line when signaled.
Step
4
Turn on correction
Once your dog is familiar with the signal and has learned to move away from the invisible fence line, turn on the lowest level of static correction.
Step
5
Practice responding to signal
Continue to walk around the perimeter of the fence line. If your dog ignores the audio signal and goes past the boundary, he will receive a mild corrective stimulus.
Step
6
Create distractions
Provide distractions, such as another dog or something your dog will be motivated to gravitate towards, on the other side of the fence.
Step
7
Allow corrective stimulus
If your dog moves across the invisible fence line he will receive a corrective stimulus. If he ignores the correction, you may need to turn up the volume of the corrective stimulus as necessary, until you dog responds by staying within the boundary in spite of distractions. Reward your dog for retreating when signaled.
Step
8
Practice off-leash
Move to off leash training. Continue supervision. When your dog retreats from the fence in response to the audible signal, give him a treat. When he approaches the fence line too closely he will receive corrective stimulation. Make adjustments to stimulation as necessary.
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The Recall and Flags Method

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Step
1
Teach recall
Teach your dog to come when called using a long leash.
Step
2
Set up flags
Install the invisible fence and set up flags at the invisible fence line.
Step
3
Approach perimeter
Take your dog on a walk with a long leash and a separate non metal collar, within but near the perimeter of the invisible fence line. Walk a good distance away from your dog inside the fence line.
Step
4
Recall when signal alerts
When the collar signals your dog with an audio signal that he is close to the boundary, call your dog. Reward him for coming to you and leaving the perimeter of the fence line.
Step
5
Provide distractions
Once your dog is familiar with the signal and has learned to move away from the invisible fence line, provide distractions, such as another dog, on the other side of the fence.
Step
6
Allow corrections
When your dog goes to move across the invisible fence line and receives the signal, call him. If he ignores you and proceeds across the fence line he will receive a corrective stimulus. If he ignores the correction you may need to turn up the strength of the corrective stimulus as necessary, until you dog responds by staying within the boundary in spite of distractions.
Step
7
Remove leash
Allow your dog off leash. Continue supervision. When your dog retreats from the fence in response to the audible signal, give him a treat. When he approaches the fence line too closely he will receive correction. Make adjustments to stimulation as necessary.
Step
8
Remove flags
Once your dog has a good idea of where the fence line is and responds to approaching it by retreating once he hears the audible signal, you can remove the flags from the perimeter. Continue to monitor until you are confident your dog knows where the perimeter is and responds appropriately to the signal to retreat back within the perimeter.
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The Positive Reinforcement Method

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Step
1
Mark fence line
Install an invisible fence and set up flags at the invisible fence line.
Step
2
Initiate play
Take your dog out in the yard with his favorite toy. Play within the yard with your dog and the toy.
Step
3
Direct away from signal
If your dog ventures to where the collar signals your dog with an audio cue that he is too close to the boundary, call your dog and reward him for coming to you with play.
Step
4
Allow correction
If your dog ignores you and proceeds across the fence line, he will receive a corrective stimulus. If he ignores the correction you may need to turn up the level of the corrective stimulus as necessary.
Step
5
Allow distractions
Continue to play with your dog as he stays within the yard. Allow distractions on the other side of the fence. Call your dog and encourage him to come play. When he hears the signal warning him he is approaching the fence line, allow him to be corrected if he transgresses the fence.
Step
6
Practice, play, remove flags
Once your dog has a good idea of where the fence line is and responds to approaching it by retreating once he hears the audible signal, you can remove the flags from the perimeter. Continue to monitor until you are confident your dog knows where the perimeter is and responds appropriately to the signal to retreat back within the perimeter.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Lucy
German Shepherd
1 Year
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Question
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Lucy
German Shepherd
1 Year

This is our second week training with our new fence and she's caught on wonderfully w/in the first 2 days. My question is however, we have a lake house and I am wanting to install a second system there. Is this a pipe dream for her to learn 2 different boundaries? I would think not but I haven't been able to find any training tips for it. Recommendations

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
392 Dog owners recommended

Hello Mandy, Lucy should be able to learn both boundaries just fine. At the lake you will probably need to work on the training for longer since she will not be there to practice all the time.. After she initially learns the boundary there during one vacation, repeat the training the first several times you go back to the lake to help her commit it to long term memory. If you find that she has a hard time remember the boundary after the first few training sessions because a lot of time has passed between visits, then spend fifteen minutes reminding her where the boundary is each time you go to the lake, right after arrive. After that she should remember and be able to honor it as well as she does the one at home. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Poppy, Minnow, Teddy and Casper
Shepherd
9 Years
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Question
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Poppy, Minnow, Teddy and Casper
Shepherd
9 Years

Shepherd cross, Poppy, terrier, Minnow belgian shepherd x2, Teddy, long-haired and Casper short-haired

9 years, 5 years, 4 years and 18 months respectively

We have four dogs, details above, ranging from a 9.5kg terrier (bodeguera andaluz) to two belgian shepherds, one slightly larger than the other, but both between 25kg and 29kg. Our other dog is a shepherd cross, about 24kg and the oldest of the four.
The terrier is a determined escaper, but never goes far - she just seems to be getting away from the big dogs and is a bright and determined 'free spirit.' The oldest of the dogs is obedient and generally placid, but will follow the others if a gate is left open, for example.
The two belgian shepherds are able to leap over the five foot fence of their large run, and easily clear the 3ft fence that defines the 'corridor' between the house and the dog pound. Since they realised they could escape, they are doing so with increasing frequency and staying out for hours at a time.
My question is in two parts:
1. Is it possible to set levels of correction for dogs of such different sizes and
2. As the 'corridor' is only 3-4ft wide, would the dogs be confused by unnecessary correction if they are simply running down it?
Many thanks

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
392 Dog owners recommended

Hello Lynn, Some systems can accommodate multiple dogs, individualized correction levels, and small dogs also. It just depends on the system. Check out the link to one system that seems to be able to accommodate your needs: https://www.extremedogfence.com/product/extreme-dog-fence-max-grade-ultimate-performance-system/ I have not personally used the system so I suggest reading reviews also. I don't completely understand your setup but it sounds like you are planning on setting up the electric fence in the area over the fence as a backup if they jump the fence, which would be a narrow area? If so then instead of putting the electric fence on the outside of the physical fence, I suggest burying the electric fence inside your physical fenced area, one foot in front of where the physical fence starts all the way around, so that the dogs learn not to approach the physical fence at all, so they do not jump it to begin with. Having the physical fence by the electric fence also makes it easy for them to remember where it is and teach them to avoid the fence and any fence jumping attempts, plus is gives them a larger area to be in to be able to avoid corrections. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Rue
Lab mix
3 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Rue
Lab mix
3 Years

Rue 3 years old and Dixie (Heinz 57) is 1 year old. They are shelter pups and very good dogs. We live in the country and the dogs have run free for almost a year. We just installed an invisible fence. I walked the dogs around the perimeter. I am not sure what to do after that. They are outdoor dogs so do I leave the collars on? When we left for dinner the dog followed us right out. She did get shocked but does not understand what is happening. When we leave should we tie them up? What about at night?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
392 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jennifer, First, make the electric fence boundary line visible for them. Colored flags are typically placed on the boundary perimeter all the way around the fenced in area for this - the same type of flags that are used by utility companies to mark where underground wires are or property boundaries are. Keep these flags up for a couple of months so that the dogs can have a physical reminder where to go and not go and will understand that they went too far when they get shocked. Second, continue walking them around the perimeter, reward them when they stay inside the perimeter. Hold your hand out toward them, with your palm facing them like a stop sign to indicate that they should stop, and walk through the boundary line yourself- leaving the electric fence area. If they try to follow, tell them "Ah Ah" and walk toward them to make them back back up into the area they are supposed to stay in. If they cross the boundary line while doing this the collar will also correct them, but your actions should help them understand why they were corrected this time. Practice this daily until they no longer try to leave the electric fence area. Third, they should wear the collars at all times while outside right now. Inconsistency will only confuse them. Fourth, they should be confined while you are gone while they are still learning about the fence. If they are crate trained I suggest crating them in your home while you are gone right now to keep them safe and cool. At night I also suggest crating them inside until they learn (it takes many dogs 1-2 weeks to learn to stay in the boundaries well, sometime less). If they tend to naturally sleep up against the house and not wander at night they may be fine sleeping on a porch. You don't want them wandering around outside where they will get shocked and panic if they don't understand why yet though, especially since the flags will be hard to see at night. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittendenr

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