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You have a lovely big yard, in a beautiful countryside setting. It is however, on the border with a local farm. In that farm is plenty of livestock. Your canine companion happens to have a taste for chasing livestock. He recently escaped from the yard, and then caught and killed one of the farmer's animals. After having to pay for the replacement animal, you know this isn’t something that can happen again. There won’t be forgiveness from the farmer next time.
So, you need a foolproof way to keep him confined to your home and territory. You didn’t want to use an electric fence but he’s managed to get around every other deterrent. Training him to use the fence will not only keep him safe from the farmer, but it could also keep him safely away from busy roads with dangerous traffic.
Training your dog to use an electric fence isn’t always easy. It will take patience and perseverance on your part. You’ll need to use boundary training to let him know where his territory begins and ends. You’ll also have to gently introduce him to his deterrent. If you combine this training with positive reinforcements for coming away from the fence, then you could see success in a relatively short time frame. If he’s young he should be a fast learner. You may need just a month for training to prove successful. If he’s older and used to going wherever he wants for many years then you may need up to three months for it to fully do the job.
Succeed with this training and you can relax when you haven’t got an eye on him. He won’t be able to get in any trouble with other animals and other dogs. You’ll also have an effective way to keep any other pets in too.
Before your work can begin you’ll need a few bits. An electric fence will obviously by the first essential component. For one of the methods, an electric collar will also be needed. You’ll also need a generous supply of treats and toys.
Set aside 10 minutes for training twice a day. You don’t want him getting distracted by whatever is on the other side of the fence.
Once you have those things, just bring a leash and a positive attitude and you’re set to get to work!
The Routine Method
Secure him to his leash and walk him around the perimeter of the fence in the morning and in the evening. As you’re walking, keep him close to your side and remain calm and quiet. You’re drilling into him where his territory begins and ends. Do this for one week.
Now let him off the leash and walk around the permiter of the fence again. Stay quiet, but keep a close eye on him. You will need to react as soon as he shows any signs that he’s about to cross the threshold.
As you’re walking around, give him treats whenever he takes a step away from the fence. You can even give him a treat when he looks away from the fence. At this point, you want to reward any signs of staying clear of it.
If he does get too close to the fence, or looks like he’s about to cross it, grab him quickly. Lead him by his collar back into the middle of the yard and hold him there for 30 seconds. This time out period will let him know he’s done something wrong. After the 30 seconds is up, return to the fence and continue walking around.
This boundary training could many weeks, so be patient. The key is to react every time. Eventually, the combination of positive and negative reinforcement will let him know how to behave around the fence, and he’ll soon naturally keep clear.
The Collar Method
Walk him on the leash around the perimeter of the fence each day. This will get him used to his new territory. The more consistently you do this, the quicker he will learn. If you don’t have time to do it every day, have someone else in the house do it as well.
Secure the collar
You can get collars which are linked to the fence. They will beep when he gets within a certain distance of the fence as a warning. Then if he gets too close they will give him a light shock. You need to train him to react to that warning beep.
Take him out without the leash but stay close to him. As soon as the beep goes off, kneel down and call him over while you hold out a treat. Really do everything you can to encourage him to come to you. Get animated and playful.
As soon as he comes away from the fence, give him the reward. He needs to get a tasty treat every single time he moves away. Over time, his natural reaction will be to move away from the fence when he hears the beep.
Supervise from inside
After a week or two, when you think he’s got the hang of it, you can supervise him from inside. If he comes in to you after the beep, give him a treat and some praise. If he goes towards the fence, run over to retrieve him and go back to the previous steps for a little while longer.
The Environment Method
The fence will be much more successful if you can remove some of the temptations. If you can’t remove them, simply making them harder to see could make a big difference. A bush, for example, that goes up to his head height could make life a lot easier.
Secure him to a long leash in the yard that is tethered to near the house. Make sure the leash gives him plenty of space, but not enough to quite get to the fence. Leave him on this every time he’s in the yard for the first couple of weeks. This will naturally teach him where his territory begins and ends. Then when he’s off the leash he won’t think of going any further anyway.
Lose the leash
After a couple of weeks it’s time to put the training to the test. Make sure you stay around to supervise him to start with. Also don’t let anyone else in the house play too close to the fence when he’s just come off the leash. Everyone needs to be leading by example.
Whenever he’s playing away from the fence, give him attention and praise for the first few weeks. You can also give him treats. If he gets too close to the fence, cut out all attention. He’ll soon associate the space near the fence as a lonely space where he won’t get any tasty rewards or love from his owner.
When you do see him getting too close to the fence, tempt him away with a treat and have him perform a trick. You can have him ‘sit’, lay ‘down’, ‘roll over’, anything you like. The point is you distract him and channel his energy into something productive instead. He’ll soon forget all about wanting to cross the fence threshold entirely.
By James Barra
Published: 12/01/2017, edited: 01/08/2021