Sunday, June 12, 2011

Stymied and frustrated with the dog fence

I'm very frustrated that we're 90% of the way through training Socks to the dog fence, but now we're at a dead standstill, and there doesn't seem to be anywhere I can turn for help. Every time I try to seek help, it seems the whole thing gets brushed off or not taken seriously.

The fence system's manual has a detailed set of instructions to go through over a few weeks. We've gotten through most of it. Right now, Socks is very hesitant to approach the fence boundary, enough that we don't get chances to reinforce that reluctance because she won't go near it, so we can't reward her for coming back from it.

However, twice so far, she's seen something really tempting outside the fence on the road, and each time she blew through the boundary at the end of the driveway moving so fast that the collar never had time to beep. There's a series of steps in the manual to cover this, but it is entirely predicated on the idea that you can arrange suitably tempting distractions that, despite the reluctance you've built up in previous steps, she'll get to the border, while you have her on a line so you can control the situation. This lets you repeat the previous instruction, only now saying, "even when something tempting is outside, you still can't go".

The manual suggests other family members, favorite toys, or neighbors with their pets can serve as the distraction. However, the few times Siobhan and I have tried to do this, it doesn't come anywhere near close. One of us having her on the leash, the other one is not enough temptation to get Socks even slightly interested in going to the end of the driveway, let alone running full tilt down it. While she likes toys, she has no particular favorite, and her taste for toys comes and goes very quickly. Neighbors and their animals come and go at their schedule, not ours, and it seems a bit much to ask a neighbor to come stand at the end of the driveway three times a day for a week or two. I'm concerned that even that wouldn't be enough temptation for the lesson.

I tried arranging to where Socks can be outside on a line on her own and still be able to get to the end of the driveway, in hopes that the random passings of neighbors and their vehicles might be enough to give her a chance to teach the lesson (since I can't spend 12 hours a day waiting with her on the line for those moments and hoping to take advantage of them). But even with an expensive, super-long line and a newly mounted place to clip it, it's not long enough to cover our lengthy driveway. I've never seen a 100' dog line, but that's what it would take. Even if there was one, I hate to pour that much money into a line we only need for a week if it works, when I don't know if it might work.

So we've poured a huge amount of time and money and effort and pain into this system, we're 90% of the way to done, and it feels like we're stuck, totally stopped. Every day that passes while we don't do anything, as if some miracle's going to come along, is a day that the previous training gets muted a bit, and she's not getting her exercise. It feels like, five or six days ago, we gave up, and I just didn't realize. If we can just find a way over this last hump we're done.

Where can I turn to get new ideas, assistance, or any other way to make progress? I don't even know who I can ask. There aren't any experts on hand for this. People who I know don't seem to have any ideas, if they've even really trying. My post to the SportDog forum goes unanswered. Maybe I should just be trying to hire someone to stand at the end of the driveway for us. Where do you hire people for jobs like that? I am really desperate for ideas here.