Sebastian Yepes

Dealing with Fence Fear

A dog who is tremendously cautious or afraid of a new electric dog fence system can be described as having fence fear. Some dogs may show fence fear because of the correction, boundary flags or the warning tone. How you deal with fence fear depends on the cause of it and how severely the dog reacts. When a dog is afraid of an electric fence, it should be taken very seriously. 

Fear of the Flags or Warning Tone

Changes in a routine or surroundings can cause some sensitive dogs to become fearful. Dogs such as this may even be frightened by the mere sight of the training flags. They may be very cautious going near the training flags. This may make the process of training them a daunting task. After all, if the dog doesn’t go close enough to the warning flags to hear the warning tone, you can’t proceed to step two. 

If your dog won’t get near the flags, he will never hear the tone. You won’t be able to teach him that he should turn and go back whenever he hears the sound. In this case, you simply need to wait it out. You should never try to lure, call or force the dog into the correction area. This is because it will break the trust you have with him and confuse the dog. Instead, you will need to wait until the dog wanders into the boundary area of his own accord.

The good news is that most dogs who are afraid of the flags will quickly get over it by themselves. Just wait, and start to play near the boundary zone more often. This will help your dog to become more comfortable with the flags being nearby. After your dog seems to be ignoring the flags and playing nearby, try to casually walk over to the boundary zone. Should your dog follow, your dog can walk into the area and hear the warning tone. This will let you teach him to turn and retreat.

The same basic procedure can be followed if your dog is fearful of the warning tone. As the tone is not harmful or painful in any way, you can be sure that if your dog is reacting strongly to it that it is not because he is physically uncomfortable. The best thing you can do is to make your dog more confident by showing that you are calm and confident yourself, while you show him to turn and retreat in order to turn off the warning tone. Because you are his master, the dog will instinctively mirror your attitude. 

Fear of the Static Correction

With the right dog fence collar and system, most dogs will have a normal response or won’t even react at all to the mildest correction setting. However, some very sensitive dogs may react strongly even to the lowest correction level. A fearful reaction can cause a negative association with the receiver collar, boundary flags, or even the entire yard. 

Before productive training can continue, fence fear needs to be handled. Pay attention to your dog’s reaction during their first static correction. See if you notice any submissive or stress reactions. This means that training would need to be slowed down. 

Your dog may beat fence fear if you can build confidence in his ability to avoid and turn off the correction. However, after the dog has had a stressful reaction, you will need to back up and slow down the training. The will avoid making the fear worse with another correction and a reaction.

Contending With Fence Fear

  • Stay confident and calm. Avoid babying the dog or giving him any special attention if he is afraid. This is of the utmost importance. The worst thing that can be done is to encourage the fearful reaction by babying the dog. You can even go ahead and try out the lowest correction on your own arm to see for yourself. It is a very mild static shock, such as what you would feel from touching a doorknob.
  • Encourage playtime and praise within the safety zone. The idea is to override the negative association with the correction with a positive association of having fun in the yard. Be sure that each training session ends with a fun, quick-paced victory lap around the containment zone. You should spend a lot of time playing, praising and giving treats to your fearful dog in the safety zone. This will help to reinforce that the containment area is a positive thing and encourages your dog to be a happy and cooperative participant in his training. 
  • Feed your dog within the safety zone to further establish a positive association with the yard. Dogs love to eat! Food can help excite, relax and motivate a dog. When you feed your dog in the safe area of the containment zone, this will help condition your dog to associate positive things with being in the yard, wearing the collar and seeing the training flags. 

While you play with and train your dog, be sure to offer him small pieces of protein-rich delicious treats. These snacks should be used to reward your dog for turning and retreating after hearing the warning tone. You should feed your dog his meals within the containment area. 

Begin near the house or the center of the area and slowly move closer to the boundary line each time you feed him. Each time that your dog comfortably eats his meals in the containment zone while seeing the boundary flags, he will start to form a positive association which will help him to get over his fear and confidently use the fence.

  • Go back to step one. Rather than correcting your dog as in step 2, move back to step one. Train him using the tone-only mode. This will give your dog some time to forget about the negative reaction and help him understand the fence. Don’t underestimate the benefits of giving him lots of protein-rich treats.

Slow down his training. Make the playtime before and after longer than you make the training sessions. This will help to tip the scales in favor of the positive association between praise and play in the yard. Be sure that your dog doesn’t get more than 1 static correction per training session. After the correction is received, the collar can be turned back to tone only mode or the session can just be concluded with playtime.

Photo by Sebastian Yepes on Unsplash