Step 1: Introduction To The Boundary
In the first step of training your dog to understand an electric fence system, the goal is to teach the dog to associate the warning tone with the training flags and to turn and retreat whenever they hear that warning tone. In the first training step there is no correction. Rather, we use only positive reinforcement to encourage the dog to turn and retreat anytime they hear the warning tone. By teaching the dog what is expected without the correction, we can add the correction in Step 2 without confusing or stressing the dog.
Disable The Stimulation
To prepare for Step 1 training you will need to disable the correction on your dog fence system collar so that the collar beeps the warning tone but does not deliver any stimulation. Depending on the system you have chosen you may need to change the setting on the collar itself, change the correction setting on the transmitter, or place the rubber training caps over the collar probes to block the correction. Refer to your dog fence training manual to find out how to set the collar to tone-only mode or how to cover the probes.
Tip From The Pro:
If your dog fence system does not offer warning tone only setting or contact point covers you can wrap the contact points with black electrical tape or masking tape. The tape insulates the probes and blocks the shock so your dog will only hear the tone but not receive the correction.
Fit The Collar
Once you are certain the collar is in tone-only mode or the training caps are in place on the probes, you can fit the collar to your dog. Electric dog fence receiver collars should be worn high on the dog’s neck – right below the ears – with the receiver box at the front of the dog’s neck, under his head. The collar should fit snuggly without being too tight. You should be able to fit one finger in between the collar probes and your dog’s neck. The probes should make contact with your dog’s neck at all times. If your dog has long fur, you may need to use longer collar prongs (some kits include long prongs, some require you to purchase them separately) and/or trim the fur on your dog’s neck to allow for good contact. Once the collar is properly fitted, allow your dog to wear it for a few minutes while moving around, then check to make sure the fit is still correct.
While it is imperative that the collar probes make proper contact with your dog's skin it is also important not to have them too tight, and you should be sure to remove the collar whenever your dog is not using the fence system. Periodically check the collar to be sure the fit is still good, especially if your dog is still growing. A collar that is too tight or left on the dog's neck too long and without periodic adjustment can cause a rash or a skin condition called pressure necrosis (Link to pressure nercroses page). If you see red sore spots on your dog's neck remove the collar immediately. Wash the area well, and discontinue collar use until completely healed. Be careful to refit the collar following the above guidelines and leave the collar on for no more than 12 hours/day.
Tip From The Pro: A good rule of thumb: if you can freely spin the collar around the dogs neck, it is too loose. The collar will not function properly if it is too loose because your dog will not feel the correction. If he can't feel the correction, training will be impossible!
Begin each training session with playtime. This few minutes of playtime brings the dog’s focus onto you and starts the session off on a positive note. By spending a few minutes playing with your dog before training you will keep the dog interested and eager to train.
Tip From The Pro: Dogs love food - especially people food - particularly meat and high protein treats that they don't often get. Coupled with play time, high protein treats like roast beef, chicken or hot dogs can seriously aid in the training process and ease your four-legged friend's stress level as well. Coupled with some fun playtime, small bits of high protein treats will excite your dog and give him something to look forward to before training. Food works wonders with dogs.
Attach a long leash to your dog’s regular collar. Never attach a leash to the receiver collar because you want to avoid putting any pressure on the contact points on your dog’s neck. Allow your dog to lead you around the yard on the leash. As your dog approaches the boundary zone training flags the collar will issue the audible warning tone. If your dog does not head for the flags, slowly walk towards them stopping about a yard away and let your dog wander closer on her own. When the tone sounds, use the leash to quickly lead the dog back away from the flag line while giving the ‘no’ command in an authoritative voice. It is important to instill a sense of urgency in this initial recognition. You want the dog to retreat from the flag line as quickly as possible when he hears that warning tone. When the dog has backed away into the safe zone reward him with praise and a treat. Remember, this is all new to your dog so give plenty of praise and a treat even if you have to help the dog understand what to do. Repeat this process at every training session using different areas of the yard at least 3 times a day for the first 2 days.
Tip From The Pro: Take a Victory Lap! Start and end every training session with what we like to call a victory lap. If you run, your dog will follow. Just do a quick skip or jump and a fast-paced fun lap around the safe zone away from the training flags and the dog fence wire before and after each training session. This is a fun way to keep your dog aware that the yard is safe. While your dog may hesitate at first, just start walking without hesitating your dog will follow and keep up at your pace.