How to Train Your Dog to Stay Inside an Invisible Fence

by Lisa McQuerrey
    With time and patience, your dog will learn his boundaries.

    With time and patience, your dog will learn his boundaries.

    BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

    An invisible fence is an electronic containment system used for keeping dogs safely contained inside a boundary line, typically a yard. Dogs wear collars connected to the system that typically emit an audible warning, followed by a shock or vibration, if they get too close to or go beyond the fence. Commercially produced fencing systems are available for installation by professionals, and do-it-yourself options are also available.

    Before you can train your dog to stay within an invisible fence, the system must be carefully installed, calibrated and tested. Most sensing systems use a wire relay system buried along a yard’s perimeter, while some other versions use sound waves from a portable device centrally located in a home. The frequency of the fence is calibrated to receivers positioned on the inside of the dog’s collar. The system can be calibrated at different settings based on the size and temperament of the dog you're containing. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on your installation kit if doing the project yourself, or get the advice of a professional electric fence installer.

    Once the fence is installed, line the perimeter of your yard with small white flags, which typically come with the installation kit. Place the flags at least a foot inside the actual electronic boundary, not less than a foot apart, to ensure your dog becomes familiar with limitations that don't put him in range of getting corrected. Plan to leave these flags in place for a couple of weeks to ensure your dog gets accustomed to the area you want him to stay within. This is an essential part of the training process.

    Put your dog on a leash connected to his invisible fence collar and walk him around the perimeter of the yard. If he gets too close to the boundary, this collar will begin to beep, followed by a shock or vibration if he doesn't correct this path. Your dog will quickly come to associate the beeping sound with a subsequent correction and will turn away from the boundary line before getting corrected in the future. Walk your dog around the perimeter several times a day until he gets accustomed to staying inside his boundaries without your direction or coaxing.

    Once you're confident that your dog is familiar with the boundaries of your invisible fence and is not trying to breach them, allow him to go off leash and observe him from a location where he can't see you. You may find your dog testing the boundaries, which is fine as long as he doesn't make an attempt to cross them. Some stubborn dogs will run through invisible fence barriers, even knowing they’ll get shocked. If this happens, you may need to adjust your settings for a longer beeping period or a more substantial correction.

    If you're not comfortable using a shock collar on your dog for training purposes, some boundary fences use a citronella spray that dogs find unpleasant-smelling. Keep in mind that the primary purpose of an invisible fence is to give your dog plenty of fresh air and roaming room while keeping him safe and protected from traffic or from wandering away from home and potentially getting into fights or getting injured. If you have questions or concerns about the best containment method for your dog, consult your vet for advice.

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    About the Author

    Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

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