The following day, having cleaned the garage three times in as many hours due to Maya’s refusal to stop trodding through her own piss and smearing it absolutely everywhere, I decided to find our corkscrew tie-out and stake that puppy to the yard. It made me sad to do so, since tied down to a stake made her look like she did in the photo of her back in Kentucky. But then I’d think of having to hose out the garage repeatedly, and of the many times I had to clean and disinfect the interior door and I just drove away with no more sad feelings.
A day or so later, the wife put up Sadie’s old rope run out, that we used to keep her on whenever we left our old home in Princeton. The rope run had a chain on a pulley that allowed Maya a good deal more freedom. It went up just in time, because she had pulled at her corkscrew tie so much that the only thing keeping it in the ground at all was faith.
Meanwhile the other dogs were allowed free run and didn’t even have to wear their shock collars (“purty collars” we call them) because they know where their radio signal boundaries are and they tend to stay away from those areas. (We know that they know that their collars are what keeps them on their best behavior, and that they also know they can sneak away if they’re not wearing them–cause we’ve seen them do it–but since our nearest neighbors’ dogs also wear the same collar system and frequently try their boundaries when we walk past, they know that the terrifying beeping exists beyond their own collars, so they’ve started towing the line.)
I knew it would soon be time to train Maya with the wireless fence system.
We bought our system back in 2009, a year after we first brought Sadie home at our house in Princeton. In that time, she’d logged a lot of hours as a free roaming dog, but had mostly stayed within the confines of our yard. Our neighborhood there was out in the woods a bit, without a lot of traffic, so we didn’t much worry about her getting hit. However, as she got older and more daring she would travel further, usually chasing after her arch-enemies, the local deer. She also enjoyed running up and down the fence line of our next door neighbor, an attorney, chasing his dogs along it and generally refusing to come back to the house when called no matter how loud we screamed.
We didn’t really want a fence, but we needed a way to keep her in the yard without just tying her out. We knew that the previous owners of our house there had had some sort of Petsafe invisible fence system, because we kept finding their old boundary flags in the woods. We considered this, but weren’t sure it would even work with Sadie, because the wife had some experience with invisible fence systems from her former St. Bernard, Honeybee. The wife had once spent a day wiring up the entire back pasture of her grandmother’s farm in order to let Honeybee run free. Once the system was hooked up and the collar placed on the dog’s neck, Honeybee stepped across the wire boundary, twitched at the shock, looked annoyed and then bounded away. It never worked and we were afraid of sinking dough into such a system only to have it fail for our St. Bernard mix.
Then, on one of our near daily visits to Lowes, I saw a product that I hadn’t before known to exist: a Petsafe wireless invisible fence. This product purported to be a radio transmitter that would establish a half an acre area in which a dog could run free, but which if the dog attempted to leave would cause the accompanying collar to give off a warning beep and then a shock. The kit cost three times as much as a wire-based invisible fence system, but the more we thought about it the more we were of the opinion that it would be worth paying that much more if we didn’t have to hassle with burying damned wires. If it didn’t work, we could return it, no extra calories burned. Furthermore, the system was portable, which would make keeping Sadie in line at the in-laws house a much easier prospect.
While we stood there considering the purchase, a guy who was standing nearby piped up, saying, “Hey, if you’re thinking about buying one of those, I just wanted to let you know something,” he began. We looked over and noticed that the man happened to be our trusted and much-liked veterinarian. He went on to tell us that the wireless fence was a very good product, but if we lived in an area prone to power outages we should be cautious because if the power went out it would shock the dog. He said his parents used the same system, but had also purchased battery backups so their dogs would not be harmed. We thanked him for his advice and bought the wireless fence immediately.
The instructions for the system suggested that it would take a good two weeks of thrice-daily training sessions in order to make an average dog understand where it could and couldn’t go in the yard. I’m proud to say that Sadie had it down within a period of 12 hours and 2.5 training sessions. These amounted to her trying the boundary, which I’d marked with the little white flags the system comes with, getting shocked, and then never going past that flag again. The next time she went beyond her boundary, the warning beep alone was enough to send her packing for the house, so we counted her trained.
When Moose came along, it also took him one training session, but when he got shocked he ran in a circle yiping and yiping and we had to call him back to us because he just kept spinning in the area that was continuing to shock him. He too was counted as trained rather quickly.
I didn’t relish having to do this with Maya, but knew it would be necessary. Especially after we discovered that she was in heat.