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Canine Behavior/dog running through electric fence

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Question
My 2 year old Dalmatian just started running through her electric fence while we are away at work. We've also noticed some other body language we've either never seen in her before or only when she's very afraid like in a thunderstorm. The new behaviors are shaking off and bending her body sideways (not in a happy way) for awhile after we've gotten home and she's in the house. We have a cornfield next to us and we thought maybe the sound of the dry rustling corn spooks her, but she will happily run through it if her 'dad' is with her. When we are in the yard she will go also and is happy when she has a ball to chase, but when she has to be by herself while we do yard work she will bark at the field or sit tensely and stare at it. When I come home at lunch she is anxious to get in the house but paces and whines looking for 'dad' and sometimes does nervous lip licking or tongue flicking before she gets into the house. Does this sound like fear of sounds or like an animal has come into the yard while we are away and scared her? The worst thing for us is finding her outside the yard on the country road. We are afraid she's going to get hit. I could increase the perimeter a little, but not sure it will help.

Answer
GET RID OF THE COLLAR THAT SHOCKS HER BECAUSE OF THE ELECTRIC FENCE.  THROW IT AWAY.

A dog that "gets through" the shock (and I challenge you: put this collar around your neck and walk through the fence, you'd better have a strong heart) cannot GET BACK IN.  If she SAW or HEARD something in the corn field that prompted her to go through that fence, she now has a conditioned fear response to the CORN FIELD because her attention was fully on it, she ignored the beep warning, she got shocked (and IT HURTS) and found herself outside and unable to get back "in".

A small fenced in area (20 square feet) around your back yard might cost you up to $3,000 (mine did) or far less (if your husband is handy).  DO IT.  Until then, use a long training leash and GO OUT WITH YOUR DOG EVERY SINGLE TIME ON LEASH.  Ignore fear response, reward (praise) happy and relaxed attitude.  Keep outings short: long enough to eliminate (and praise/reward elimination on leash) and make them fair (at least four times daily).

Eventually (she's young, it might not take long) she will lose her conditioned fear response BUT ONLY if YOU and your husband display a HAPPY UPBEAT ATTITUDE when you are out there with her (unless she appears fearful: then, turn your back, wait for her to come around to make face contact, ask for "sit" and have a "party" when she does it, just not too loud so as not to scare her.)  The electric fence is one of the worst inventions in dog ownership and containment.  It has caused severe psychological and emotional trauma is many dogs I have seen in my practice and, in some cases, has resulted in the irrevocable loss of the dog or its death on the road.

Canine Behavior

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.

Expertise

I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.

Experience

30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for ThePetChannel.com for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, K9Shrinks@egroups.com. Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Organizations
Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Publications
Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Education/Credentials
Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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