Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Invisible Fence - Part Deux (Doh!)

We've had a couple of weeks to get used to the Invisible Fence we had installed around a part of our property and today was our second visit from the trainer. We haven't been brave enough to let our dogs off leash in the yard, but we have been walking around the perimeter with them, letting them test the tone/buzz if they saw something they wanted on the other side of the flags. For the most part, they've been great about it. But there were a couple of moments...

One day when we had the dogs out to do their business, Kirby insisted on peeing on the other side of the flag. (Apparently whatever he smelled over there was just too good NOT to pee on.) He crossed the line and trembled as he proceeded to lift his leg. My husband thought maybe the collar wasn't working so he stuck his finger under it and it WAS working. Apparently Kirby just has an iron will and a high threshold of tolerance for electricity pulsing on his neck. Of course, because Kirby did it, Remy had to go pee on top of Kirby's and he proceeded to do exactly the same thing. His neck was twitching. Of course, both leg-lifting sessions were cut short as we brought them back inside, but it did make us wonder if the settings were high enough.

Despite the appearance of a high tolerance, Kirby did seem to get the message, because he hasn't gone within 5 feet of the flags ever since.  Remy got his next "test" a few days later when my husband was walking him around the yard and a deer went bolting by just outside the flags. Remy ran up to the flags and stopped. Amazing.  Could the message be getting through?

We also had the indoor unit blocking off a small area inside the kitchen doorway. Both dogs "tested" this a bit more often, but after a few days Remy just walked outside the flags whether he had his collar on or not and Kirby avoided that doorway altogether. (This unit is now residing under our kitchen island to keep the dogs away from the food prep area.)

This morning the trainer came back out and plugged each of the dogs' collars into his computer, which tells him how often each dog "tested" the boundaries, either inside or outside. Kirby tested a handful of times. Remy's tests ran into double digits. (He is much more adventuresome than Kirby and also in that young adult "I'm testing my boundaries every day with you" phase anyway.) So I was a little nervous when the trainer said it was time to let go of the leashes outside and see what they'll do.

As the trainer and I walked around the yard, the dogs both enjoyed a happy romp (and a couple of wrestling matches) dragging their leashes behind them. Kirby trotted along and avoided the fence line entirely. He didn't even stop at his "pee through the pain" spot. (Methinks he learned a valuable lesson with that incident.) Remy did well until we decided to test him by going outside the flags. The trainer and I turned the other way and walked up the driveway, glancing back and being careful to avoid eye contact with the dogs (you don't want to call them over the line). Both dogs stopped at the flags. Great!

Then we walked around behind the big barn and up toward the neighbor's house (the one Remy runs to whenever he gets out...seeking Susie, the little chihuahua/dachshund who lives there). Suddenly Remy broke through. We could hear him yelping as he ran toward Susie's house, but he was not deterred and he timed-out the collar (the system is designed to give a continuous buzz after the dog breaks through, which turns off when the dog comes back inside. But the buzz does have a time limit.) The trainer finally caught Remy and brought him back. Time to up the settings.

I was worried that we had just taught Remy he could break through and eventually the collar would turn off. The trainer wasn't overly concerned (I guess this happens) but said he didn't want to leave the training on a down note and he stayed a little beyond his time to re-do that lesson. He reset Remy's collar up another notch and we went back out again and moseyed around the yard a bit more.

All was well, the dogs kept to the boundaries. Eventually we tried going outside the perimeter again. At first Remy howled from behind the line because he wanted to go with us. Finally he couldn't stand it anymore and he broke through again, this time, though, he stopped about 15 feet from the invisible fence and started yelping. The trainer quickly grabbed his leash and brought Remy back inside the boundary, which immediately made the pain stop. It was at this point I think Remy experienced an "ah ha" moment. (I think he had shifted from the Bart Simpson "bzz-ow-bzz-ow-bzz-ow" approach to more of a "Doh!" moment in the Homer Simpson tradition.*)

Back inside the perimeter we lavished Remy with praise for his return. (Despite the fence having a negative/corrective aspect to the training, the company's training methods use positive rewards when the dogs avoid the fence or turn back away from it.) Treats were given for extra reinforcement and everyone seemed happy to just stay inside the invisible fence for a while.

Our next (and hopefully final) training session is next Tuesday. In the meantime, our assignment is to let the dogs run around the yard -- supervised -- dragging leashes so we can stop them should another break through occur. The trainer seemed pretty confident it wouldn't. He does this all day and he said he recognized from Remy's behavior that he "got it." That doesn't mean he won't try again -- he might try at another spot in the yard -- but he's much less likely to want to go through that again. On the next visit we'll do the final tuning on the collar settings and then, hopefully, we're good to go.

Or stay, as it were.

* For the record, I do think Remy is smarter than Homer Simpson. :-)

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