Dog Fence Breakouts
Anytime your dog crosses the boundary line and leaves the containment area, it's referred to as a breakout. Once a dog is properly trained on the dog fence system breakouts rarely occur. Breakouts fall into two categories: passive breakouts and active breakouts.
Passive Breakouts occur due to a failure in the system. Dogs are smart and perceptive. The same understanding of cause and effect that allows them to understand the dog fence system boundaries also allows them to discover when the fence is not operational. If you forget to charge or replace the collar batteries, suffer a wire break, or forget to turn your dog's collar on, it won't take her long to figure out that she isn't hearing the tones when she approaches the line. Then she'll realize that if she isn't hearing the tone, she won't receive a correction! And eventually she'll decide to test her theory and saunter over the boundary line uncorrected. Passive Breakouts can happen with dogs that have been successfully using the system for a long time because the dog is not hearing the tone nor receiving the correction as she approaches and then crosses the perimeter line.
Active Breakouts occur when a dog decides to cross the boundary line despite receiving the correction. This type of breakout is most likely to happen during or soon after the training period is complete. In this case the dog does hear the warning tone and receive a correction but consciously decides to leave the containment area anyway. Your dog may breakout despite the correction because he did not fully understand the training or because the correction level setting is too low.
It only takes one breakout for a dog to get lost or hurt, so we are only satisfied with 100% containment. If your dog is leaving the containment area, the first order of business is to find out why.
Collar Fit & Function
Improper Collar Fit
Most dog fence breakouts are a result of poor collar fit. The collar contact points need to be making contact with your dog's skin in order for the dog to receive the correction. Ideally we would check the collar fit every week or so, but we get lazy and forgetful. Meanwhile the collar may be stretching a bit, or your dog's fur may have grown in and need trimming again to ensure the proper fit.
If you find that the collar is not properly fit, make the changes needed to properly fit the collar, then go back to Step 2: Correction of our training protocol and revisit the training outlined there with your dog. Anytime there is a breakout we want to go back and retrain starting at Step 2. The more breakouts your dog has, the harder it becomes to retrain them on the electric dog fence system so it is really important to nip the breakout in the bud.
Improper Collar Function
Once you're satisfied with the collar fit take a moment to check that the collar batteries are charged and test the collar yourself by walking it towards the boundary listening for the warning tone and watching for the indicator light to signal a correction. Use the test light tool (if your kit included one) to test the static correction on your collar.
If you find that the collar is not functioning properly, diagnose and solve the problem using the troubleshooting guide in your owner's manual. Then return to Step 2 of the training protocol and complete Steps 2 through 4 to ensure your dog is completely trained up on the fence system.
Correction Level & Boundary Width
If you find that the collar fit and function is fine then you'll need to do a little more detective work to diagnose the cause of the breakout and handle it accordingly. Put your dog out in the containment area with his collar on and functional and watch him closely. Pay particular attention to his behavior when he crosses the boundary line. Does he saunter casually or bolt across the line? Does he yelp or show any other sign of receiving a correction? Does he cross back into the containment zone without issue or does he seem to receive a correction again when he enters back into the yard (if he enters back into the yard on his own)?
Your Dog Does Not Feel The Correction
If your dog saunters over the perimeter line, pausing there to scratch an itch and then continuing away out of your yard, there is probably an issue with the correction level setting. Assuming the collar is functioning properly, the correction level is too low to get your dog's attention. In this case you'll want to go up a level on the collar and return to Step 2 of the training protocol for a refresher course. Some high-pain tolerance breeds like Rotties, Shepherds, Etc. benefit from a stronger collar (like the PetSafe Stubborn Dog). Having been bred for guarding and fighting, these dogs can have a higher than average tolerance for pain making collars suited for average dogs less effective for them.
Your Dog Ignores The Correction
Your dog may exhibit signs of feeling the correction (like yelping, jumping, or wincing) when he crosses the perimeter line, but continues across anyway. If this is the case, you've got a dog for whom the benefit of getting out is greater than the discomfort of crossing the perimeter. In this case you'll need to take a 3-fold approach to solving the problem.
First, increase the correction level setting by one level at a time. Second, increase the width of the correction zone. Making the correction zone wider will meant hat your dog will have to spend more time in the correction zone to get to the other side. This coupled with the increased correction should be enough to dissuade your dog. Third, and most importantly, conduct a refresher training course. Go back to Step 2 of our training guide and repeat Steps 2-4 to make sure your dog understands the rules and boundaries.
Re-Entering The Containment Area
Remember that the boundary wire emits a signal in a radius around the wire. This means that no matter which way the dog is approaching from (inside the perimeter or outside the perimeter) he will activate his collar as he approaches the wire. If your dog breaks out of the invisible fence, you'll want to remove his collar before you bring him back into the containment area so he does not receive a correction for coming home. Driving your dog back over the boundary line with his collar OFF is the best way to bring him back into the containment area. Second best is walking him back on leash (also with the collar off of course).
Breakouts have a negative and cumulative effect on the dog. This means that the more breakouts your dog has, the harder it is to retrain him on the fence system. If he breaks out and then gets corrected coming back in he is sure to be even more confused!