I took the dogs for a walk to check the fences the other day. I thought I’d take the opportunity to show you how I train a dog to stay within the property boundaries. The truth is, we have a big place, and our English Shepherds don’t wander but here’s how I train for this.
I teach our dogs about the property lines by periodically walking them around the edge of the property. I start with puppies on-leash so they are successful at this exercise. Puppies obviously have no concept of property lines and will cross willy-nilly if off leash. Once this has happened it would require some kind of correction from me. I was taught to set-up the dogs for success instead, so I think about that ahead of time.
Our perimeter fence is four strands of barbed wire, so it’s easy for a puppy to slip underneath in pursuit of a ground squirrel or other wildlife. I anticipate that this will happen and prevent it with the leash. Flexi-leashes or long ribbons are great for this. I’ll post about long ribbons in my next entry.
I keep a very watchful eye on the youngster as we walk. As soon as the puppy shows interest in something on the other side of our fence, I say “Uh, UH!” When the puppy looks at me, I bend down and the puppy will run to me. I say what a good dog he is for staying on this side. Sometimes I might even have a little bit of a doggy cooking hiding in my coat pocket for this moment.
Having had the puppy on leash prevents the experience of even being on the neighbors land. Yes, sure it happens once in awhile, but I want to keep that to a bare minimum. The more a puppy is rewarded for staying on our side, the faster he should learn the boundaries.
When the puppies are older and I feel they’re somewhat under voice control, I walk the property line with them off-leash. At this point I keep a very watchful eye on them. As soon as the youngster shows interest in something on the other side of the fence and I think he/she might slide under it, I loudly call out: “Uh, UH!” And then praise loudly and happily when the pup turns away from the fence.
Here’s Clara out in front of me walking along our ranch’s perimeter fence. At nearly two years of age, she’s pretty clear where the property lines are but these are good photos for demonstration. During this walk she’s been busy sniffing and exploring our side of the fence. But now she notices something beyond the fence which elicits an “Uh, UH!” from me.
When she looks at me she gets a “Good girl!” Then I usually say something like, “OK” or “Go on,” and we continue our walk.
How long does it take for an English Shepherd to learn the property boundaries you might ask? It all depends. It depends on the dog’s individual personality, how often you walk the line, and how attentive you are. English Shepherds are smart dogs and a little praise or a cookie goes a long way in teaching them “the rules”.
A very biddable (trainable) English Shepherd should really obey the rules. That means the dog may be in full chase of wildlife but should come to a stop at the property line. That’s a very cool thing to see.