I returned to one of my Dog Guard Out of Sight Fence clients in Naples the other day after she told me that her English Bull Dog, Gunner, had started to cross their dog boundary and wander around the neighborhood. This was very strange because Gunner had been doing perfectly for the last six weeks and would only play in the front yard. In fact, he seemed to understand the boundary the very first day be began the behavior training. He recognized the levels of reinforcement and understood that he was to stay away from the perimeter area.
I arrived and met with my client and her English Bulldog, Gunner. She told me that everything was just great and that she had taken down the training flags (small flags marking the boundary and underground wire) from the perimeter about two weeks earlier. From her memory, Gunner began to “wander off the property” about two to three days after that had happened.
“What happened to the audible signal or physical stimulus given off by the collar as Gunner entered the correction zone?”, I wondered to myself. I then asked her about Gunner’s collar that would have given these warnings. “Oh, since it was working so well, I took that off him after the second week”, was her reply.
This is where the problem occurred and completely explains Gunner’s free departure from the yard when the flags were removed. As I have talked in earlier articles, dogs learn in a simple way using an ever increasing hierarchy of repetitive, directed stimuli.
The first stimuli that dogs use to learn is visual. What do they see and what happens when they see that object? During Gunner’s training, as soon as he began to approach the flags (visual), we would direct him back into the middle of the yard and away from the flags.
The second stimuli that dogs use to learn is audible. This is usually the bark or whine. In our training process, we used the “beep beep beep” given off from the collar’s receiver as he approached the perimeter boundary. Again, as soon as he heard this, we instructed him where he should go by guiding him back to the middle of the yard.
Notice that when two dogs get a little “peeved” with each other, one dog will give a little nip to the other dog? The other dog will normally back away and everything is fine again. This is the third way dogs learn; physical. When Gunner gets directly next to the perimeter, the collar delivers a static pulse similar to the sensation you would feel by touching an old fashioned television screen. If Gunner had gone past the flags, didn’t care about the beep, and had walked up to the perimeter, he would have received a physical sensation and our training would have directed him back.
These three processes work in conjunction with each other to create the behavior of instructing Gunner to stay away from the perimeter.
When my client took away the visual stimuli (perimeter flags), Gunner still needed the reminder of the audible and physical stimuli delivered by the collar. With nothing to continue to reinforce the lesson, he simply walked off the property.
After explaining this to my client, placing Gunner’s collar back on him, walking him around the property and up to the perimeter a few times; everything was fine. Although Gunner was performing quite well, he still needed the reinforcement of the audible and physical stimuli.
Simply wearing the training collar provided a unique experience for Gunner. From his perspective, having it on his neck supported the lesson of not going beyond the boundary. Every time he tried, he always received the audible and physical enforcements. The collar was always there when these actions occurred and provided an enhanced, passive enforcement of the rule. Even when he was just wandering around the “OK zone” of the yard, the collar was still on; reminding him of what would happen if he went too far.
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