What's the best way to train my dog to SpotOn if he is already trained to an invisible fence?
- Alyssa N, Massachusetts
We checked in with SpotOn trainer Rick Alto to help answer your question!
First and foremost, training is key and regardless of the technology, work is required to train your dog to a new and different tone. But you should progress at a much faster pace. With any type of dog training, you need to put in the work to get the desired results.
“I prefer multiple short (15 minute) training sessions where you end on a positive note, with the dog succeeding, before moving on to the next steps in your training.”
Dogs are very adaptable and can adjust quickly with your help. Since all wired and wireless systems use audible tones, the key is retraining to new tones so they become familiar. Other factors to consider are when the wired system was last used with your dog, and how well your dog previously learned the meaning of the tones. Keep in mind that the behavior of moving back towards the safe zone as soon as they hear the tone is crucial, and will dictate the amount of retraining needed.
“To be fair to the dog, I always start on leash as if the dog has never ever been introduced to a containment system and follow the steps outlined in the SpotOn training plan that you are using. The huge difference is that most previously trained dogs will quickly adjust to the new audible tone.”
It’s important to understand the technology differences between in-ground wired systems and wireless containment systems like SpotOn. With a wired system, wherever you lay the wire, that will be your boundary. With all GPS wireless systems, there will be some boundary variations due to the inherent GPS shift of satellite telemetry. To account for this shift (typically 3-10 feet during the day and 3-15 feet under dense tree cover), the SpotOn system requires setting up a 15 feet buffer zone between your boundary and any unsafe areas to keep your dog safe.
Remember, to the dog, this is just a game. The alert tone should initially mean the owner and dog excitedly move back toward the target area, where the dog is showered with treats and praise. The SpotOn system is very fair to the dog and facilitates training by offering two sets of unique tones (alert & warning tones) before issuing an optional static correction. Most other systems only use one tone before the static correction is issued.
When you get into the static correction phase, this is potentially where you can run into problems, particularly if the wired system was not scalable and it administered too high of a level of static correction. Many older wired systems are not as scalable as the SpotOn system, which has static correction levels from 0-30, so that you can start low and select the correct level for your dog.
You must watch your dog, observe for nervous or frantic movements, tucked ears, lowered tail and body, which are often signs of stress. Dogs learn through association and if the association with the wired system was extremely negative, the dog may become stressed. When the static correction is used, if your dog shows any of the signs of stress, slow down, go back a few steps in your training plan and give the dog a break to play inside the containment area before proceeding.
"In order for your dog to learn, you both must be in the right frame of mind. A stressed dog will not learn; however, a happy dog who has associated learning new tones with a fun game will work to please you for your entire training session."
We hope that helps answer your question, Alyssa! Do you have questions for our experts? Either leave them in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rick is a certified professional dog trainer; graduate of the prestigious National K9 School for Dog Trainers in Columbus, Ohio; and a professional member of the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) where he serves on the board of directors and oversees the service dog and legislative committees.
His journey with dog training started when he was 10 years old and his mother brought home a standard poodle named Sam, who had been retired from the show ring and needed to learn ALL the basics. Friends and neighbors remarked at Rick’s innate ability with dogs and referred to him as the local “dog whisperer.”
After a 36-year career as a special agent in federal law enforcement, Rick decided to “retire” and pursue his passion and fulfill his dream by entering the world of dog training full-time.
As a dog trainer, Rick is dedicated to positive and effective training solutions that are balanced and fair for the dog. Rick is equally committed to furthering his education, allowing him to offer you the best possible training solutions and methods.