Outdoors Column: A Dog’s Frustration

We have been using a radio-controlled collar on Billie, our poodle for a couple of years now. It has a fixed base that sends a signal to the collar within a range of about 100 yards. If the collar nears the broadcast range, it sends out a beep letting Billie know he has gone about as far away from the house as he is supposed to. If he continues away from the house, it sends a mild shock, reminding him to come back into his designated area. The shock does not hurt but is annoying. I speak from experience because I tried it. I did not want Billie to be afraid of the collar.

The training was very fast and easy. When I set it up, there was snow on the ground. I painted a dotted line on the snow where his boundary line lay. I then walked him on a leash around his area several times. In no time, he learned how far he is supposed to go. When he leaves with us, we take the electronic collar off. This causes much excitement. He knows when that happens, we are going to go for a ride, perhaps to the bank where he gets a treat or to Lake Wapello where he can hang his head out of the window and bark at deer. When we get back home, he is just as excited to get the electronic collar back on. This, to him, indicates he can run around outside, anywhere he wishes, within his boundary.

My concerns about the possibility of him running over the line in pursuit of squirrels or rabbits was unfounded. His limits are tested on a daily basis, and he does not cross the boundary. There are few things more fun than chasing squirrels and he will chase them right up to the line and no farther. I know this must be frustrating for him, but he respects the boundary, even when we forget to put his collar on.

His biggest frustration has to be the deer. The deer in the area all seem to be attracted to our house. They also appear to be trained as to where the dog’s boundary line lies. They frequently come to within twenty-five feet of Billie’s limit, stop, and eat grass. Billie will charge toward them, barking like a vicious attack dog while the deer ignore him. Jag, the terrier has no boundary limits, but does not care if the deer are in the yard. Barking is usually the limit of his involvement with the deer. He knows he can not catch them, so he rarely tries. 

A few days ago, just after sunset, Jag was sitting in his chair on the porch and started barking. Billie knows this is the signal that something needs chased. He looked out of the west window toward the lake and saw four deer in his yard. He whirled around and let me know, he desperately needed to go outside. I opened the door, and he went flying out. To get off the porch, one must first go to the east end. While racing down the length of the porch, he saw three more deer on that side of the house. He charged at them but being just past his boundary, they stood their ground. After of couple of minutes not being able to scare them off, he decided to attack the deer on the other side of the house. They moved back a few feet when they saw him coming but did not run away. They only ran off when Jag got out of his chair and came down to help.

The collar works better than I could have hoped, even if it does cause a considerable amount of frustration at times for the dog.