Ask the Expert: Help! My Dog Keeps Running Through Our Wireless Fence


Dear Experts,

Why does my dog breach the GPS fence?
- Mary G., California

    Dear Mary, We checked in with SpotOn trainer Rick Alto to answer your question: Dogs will try to breach their SpotOn Fence for a variety of reasons. There’s not one simple answer, as each owner and dog are unique.  The main reasons why a dog runs through an virtual fence are training related, as owners are often too anxious to get to the end result, before the dog is ready to advance to the next training step. Like with anything in life, the results that you get are based on the work that you put in. 

    "There are no shortcuts in dog training. Dogs learn through association and with repetition and consistency.  Training sessions need to be fun for the dog, because your dog initially sees this training activity as a game where they are being rewarded with treats, praise or toys for playing by the rules."

    The SpotOn training plan works, but you need to put the effort in — with multiple daily training sessions that last no longer than 15 minutes. While every dog and experience is different, here are a few troubleshooting tips for SpotOn.

    1. Is the system powered on?
    2. Is the system fully charged?
    3. Is the collar working? If you are using static correction is being used, start at a very low level and use the included contact point tester in the training mode.
    4. Is the collar tight enough? The contact points need to make a good connection to the skin when Static Correction is being used.  If you can fit more than two fingers under the collar next to the screen, then the collar is not tight enough and your dog may not be feeling the static correction.
    5. Are the correct contact points for your dog's fur type installed? You will need to use the longer contact points for thicker, denser fur; otherwise the shorter, standard contact points will suffice.
    6. If you are using the optional static correction and your dog is breaching the boundary, then the static correction may not be set to a high enough level. But you must start low and adjust gradually as you train. Each dog is different, so the appropriate level for each dog will also be different. Click here to watch a quick video on setting static correction. The distraction and value that the distraction has with your dog will also impact the "just right" correction setting. Click here to learn about adding distractions while training.
    "You need to plan for the dog's ultimate distraction and the correction must have a sufficient aversive effect that your dog does not want to experience it again, but not so high that your dog will not ever go near the boundaries. Noticing the static with a head tilt or shake of the neck is not typically a sufficient enough deterrent.  It must surprise your dog and your dog should, through training and conditioning, always succeed and move back towards the safe area where the static goes away and thus rewards the dog.”

    When your dog hears the alert tone, he should be moving away from the boundary and returning to the center of the yard 95% of the time. This conditioned response should be tested, as this is your first line of defense. Next is the Warning Tone and finally, a vibration or static correction (if you are using that feature).

    "Many people become impatient and don't want to proof (test) the dog sufficiently, prior to moving on to the next training steps.  Dogs do not have rational thought and think in pictures or through association (If this, then that) and need repetition and consistency to attain the conditioned response."

    If you are not using the static correction feature and your dog is breaching the boundary, go back into re-training and concentrate on proofing or testing the conditioned response to the Alert & Warning Tones and vibration.  If that proves challenging, then it may be time to move to the more traditional static correction as your dog is telling you that the Alert and Warning tones plus vibration alone do not have sufficient meaning or a deterrent effect. The static correction gives the tones more meaning.

    Lastly, after your dog fully understands what is expected of them and has succeeded with no distractions, the next step is to increase distraction during training. Practice in an environment that is as realistic as possible - with the anticipated distractions. For example, if a neighbor’s dog is the distraction, train while the dog is outside. Gradually increase your distance from your dog with a long line while training, always ensuring that they succeed in returning to the safe area, as failure is not an option.  Check out this blog if you need more help on training to ignore distractions.

    “In all aspects of training, you must take it in baby steps and crawl, walk and then run.”

    To learn more about how our wireless, GPS fence compares to more traditional wireless, electric and invisible systems, check out this page.

    Rick Alto

    ExFed Dog Training 

    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.

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