During our training of the pointing breeds, I’m often asked if an in-ground or “pet containment” fence is a good way to keep a hunting dog from wandering away from home. I say “Yes,” but then remind people to follow a few common-sense training rules. Many of these rules mirror the principles we use in training bird dogs at our kennel. After all, training is training, regardless of your goal.
Most dog owners are familiar with these fences, which have become quite popular in the past decade. The concept is simple: A buried wire runs around the perimeter of the area where you want to contain your dog. The dog wears an electronic collar, which delivers a light electronic correction if the dog tries to pass the perimeter.
Today’s fences are more affordable and reliable than ever. Failures most often result when a dog owner doesn’t properly train the dog to respect the boundary. If you install a fence, strap a collar on your dog and turn it loose in the yard, you’re bound to be disappointed.
There are three ways a dog will respond to the correction. First, a dog may panic and bolt through the perimeter.
Second, it may freeze when it feels the correction. Third, and this is the response you want, is that the dog will return to you in the “safe” part of the yard. Your job is to be sure the dog responds the third way every time.
If you’ve been properly using an electronic collar for hunting, your job is partly done already. Your dog probably sees the collar as a signal it’s going to go somewhere or do something enjoyable. But even if your dog has never worn an e-collar, it’s not a problem. Here’s how to start training.
First, with the collar’s power off, put the collar on your dog every time you take it out. Do this for at least a week. This teaches the dog that it can’t go out without its collar. During this time, reinforce the “Come” or “Here” command using a check cord and treats. As with all dog training, repetition is the key. Train the dog to come to you every time you command it. Next, with the dog wearing the e-collar (still with the power off), lead it around the perimeter, which you’ve marked with perimeter training flags.
Whenever your dog tries to wander past the boundary, give a tug on the check cord, thus teaching the dog that the proper response to the flags is to stay within the boundaries. This action is a “silent” or nonverbal command. Praise the dog repeatedly. This helps establish the dog’s safe zone. When you’re sure your dog understands the meaning of the flags, you can turn the collar on. Repeat the exercise, but now if the dog wanders too close to the flags, the collar will come into play. To be fair to the dog and help it learn, I recommend a collar that delivers both a warning beep before correction starts and allows you to adjust the correction level, such as the collar that comes with the SportDOG Brand In-Ground Fence.
If the dog ignores the warning, the system first delivers a low correction, which will progress through four levels unless the dog gets back to the safe zone. As always, when the dog returns to you, be generous with the praise. Your dog is quickly learning that staying in the yard is much preferred to the uncomfortable electronic correction.
Electronic fences are a great aid to hunting dog owners who live in urban areas or have a hunting dog that is also the family pet. There are many models of fences to choose from, depending on your type of dog and the size of your yard. To find out more about these products, visit our Pet Containment section.
Always check your local and state regulations related to dog training and the use of game birds on private and public property.