In our modern day dog world, with the availability of so many creative restraint tools and containment systems, it can be difficult to recognize the difference between a dog who is truly trained and a dog who is effectively deterred.
Training your dog to respect home boundary can be fun and super-rewarding! It is a tremendous gift to both you and your dog because it promotes more freedom and security in your lives. Contrary to popular thinking, you can train boundaries without the use of a physical barrier or an invisible fence (electric stimulation) system. Fences provide a certain convenience because they, in theory, allow you to “check out” of the picture sooner rather than later. This brings me back to my initial point about the difference between training and restraining.
If you mistake your effectively-contained dog for a trained dog, you risk being lulled into a false sense of security that could put your dog, the public, and ultimately yourself in danger. I’ve found that dog owners who become over-reliant on a containment system tend to lose touch, over time, with their dog and the boundary. Their dog may be attempting to break or successfully breaking boundary, encountering things coming into the boundary, discovering items within the boundary and essentially managing the area as she sees fit without guidance. I’ll say here that I am not opposed to fences but if you rely on one and overlook training, you may end up with a dog who continues to invest energy in challenging the “system” in some fashion.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you do rely on some form of fence containment:
- When you set up your boundary be sure to include a route for public access that is outside of your dog’s boundary area. The UPS driver, Girl Scout, Jehovah’s witnesses and your dog will all be more secure if they don’t have to manage chance encounters in your absence.
- Keep training in the picture. Don’t leave all the work up to the fence. Spend time regularly with your dog walking the perimeter and defining the boundary together. Let her know that she is respecting the boundary for you, not the fence or because of a potential correction.
- If you are using an invisible fence, make sure that your dog isn’t breaking boundary when you’re not around and inspect your equipment often.
- Remember that fences don’t always keep things out. Invisible fences offer zero external security and physical fences are not impervious either. Raccoons can climb, skunks can dig and kids can open gates. Small dogs are especially vulnerable when left unattended in a boundary due to the potential for predators like a fox, coyote or owl to pick them off. Stay tuned into your dog and yard! Don’t leave your dog alone for extended periods of time.
- Inspect your dog yard daily for signs of any problems. Digging projects in process, the presence of foreign materials, damage to outdoor furniture — your dog could be getting into things you aren’t aware of until it’s too late.
- Keep the boundary clean, comfortable and safe for your dog! Daily poop clean-up is also a chance to spend time with your dog in the yard.
- Don’t make your dog just a “yard dog” — even if your containment system is failsafe a dog still deserves a life outside of a yard! A system that is really convenient for you could become torture for your dog if it means he never gets to experience life anymore.
- Don’t let your dog bark incessantly. No matter how entertaining you think this is for your dog, it is a nuisance behavior that indicates boredom, not to mention that it will drive your neighbors crazy.
- Train your dog to be accepting of guests on home boundary in your presence, with your guidance. Do not shoulder your dog with the responsibility of managing encounters in your absence unless she has been trained for a specific purpose and is equipped to handle these encounters properly.
- Post your boundary with a sign if necessary to alert outsiders of your dog’s presence.
Planning and continued maintenance can greatly reduce the potential for a boundary system that ends up working against you and your dog. Use common logic and always strive for good training to replace the need for clever restraining!