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Hi,
My brother and I hike quite a bit and he has a large mastiff family type mutt who is sweet as he can be but has a tendency to wander. On our most recent hike he wandered off and disappeared and pretty much scared us to death (was hunting season) and we literally were running around in the woods on a night with zero moon and found him around 22:00.

Of course we can use a leash, and god knows we have been trying for years to get him to heel/stay close by but neither us nor the two trainers we have tried have been able to make any headway. We just think that a leash or having us yell "Heel" every few feet is less fun for us and less fun for him (we think) so we were wondering if there is something like an invisible fence device that can give him the freedom to run off 20ft or so but remind him to stay relatively close if he strays/lags too far.

Thanks in advance!
 

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I hate to say.....but a Mobile Invisible Fence is a fantasy.

This type of device is known as training and call back for a return.

More off leash call back training is needed. As a suggestion, instead of yelling for the dog, try a whistle. The sound will carry farther than your voice, plus it will save your vocal chords. You don't need a "silent" dog whistle. (BTW, these are not silent) Any whistle will work, just choose one and stay with it in training.

My mini-schnauzer didn't respond consistently to the "silent dog" whistle. I dumped it and tried a Bobby whistle. His call back is nearly perfect with the Bobby whistle. He has been over 200 yards and out of my sight with a return call from the Bobby whistle.

Second task is to begin the call back training. Many books and videos to use as guidelines. Start with short distance in the house with plenty of rewards. I started with the whistle sound, if the dog would look, then treat. Soon, the dog would come to me, treat. Then the distance was slowly increase with treats and praise. When we ventured outside, this whole process restarted but with the dog on leash. Anyhow, the point is gradual small increments. Now, my dog returns, automatically sits to receive treat. The treat is random between play, snack or pet. He never knows what he will receive.
 

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How about a long line? I'd suggest Biothane since it's lightweight, doesn't tangle easily & is easy to clean. You can get one in 20 - 30' length, which will give him a bit more freedom to wander without being able to disappear completely.

Obviously you can continue to work towards a better off-leash recall, but this will work immediately & can be used during training, or permanently.
 

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He needs recall training as Knute suggested. You can make it a game to call him to you, reward, then have your brother call the dog to him, reward, etc., etc. back and forth. Start off fairly close together and slowly increase the distance and start adding distractions. Don't go too fast. Make sure his recall is solid before moving on to the next step.

Practice this every time you take him out. Have him on a long lead and when he gets half way, call him back and reward. Then start doing it when he gets almost to the end. Call him back and reward. Eventually (we're talking months) you will be able to have him off leash and he will either stay close on his own, or at least come back when called. Even at that point, practice randomly calling him back to you and reward.
 

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H3ll would freeze over before I let a dog off leash on a hike - no matter how perfect his recall. Jump a deer or a rabbit and end up in the next county. Come across something like an abandoned snare or trap. Wander far enough to reach a road and traffic. Some helpful person sees him, assumes he's abandoned and takes him, if you're lucky, to the nearest shelter. Meets a family group, knocks over a child, who ends up hurt. Hunter sees movement, assumes deer or whatever's in season. Bang.

Leash, flexi, longline. Or leave him home.

I once reclaimed a rescue dog when the clueless adopters did that with one of my dogs the day after I left her with them.
 

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Unless, and until, his recall is 99.99% perfect (dogs, just like humans, are never 100% perfect), he needs to stay on a leash or line.

This webinar on recall training is coming up soon. Fenzi Dog Sports Academy - WP400: “Come!” Relationship-Strengthening Recall Games

If you'd rather have a free resource, then this blog post has good information on teaching a recall. Recall Training: The One Cue Every Dog Should Know

I don't put as much effort into it as I should, so my dogs are rarely off lead in public.
 

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I use an e collar which I have trained the dog to respond to in an enclosed area. I make coming to me the best thing ever.
Both dogs hike with me and both wear an e collar. At this stage it is only there if a (d***ed) deer pops up in front of them.. I can get both dogs back instantly.

That is your "portable under ground fence." You MUST train the dog for this. DO NOT just slap the collar on with no previous training. Training is in an ENCLOSED area and the dog is conditioned to come the instant he or she feels the nick from the collar. When the dog comes to you it is IMPERATIVE the dog is rewarded HEAVILY (both voice and the best food you have.. steak if necessary). I watch my dogs when I hike and they respond to whistles to come back to me. I never let them get out of sight. Ever. This is bushwhacking, NOT on trails.

I will also add that on most hikes the e collar is on and NOT used. I use whistles to keep the dogs within sight.
 

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I use an e collar which I have trained the dog to respond to in an enclosed area. I make coming to me the best thing ever.
Both dogs hike with me and both wear an e collar. At this stage it is only there if a (d***ed) deer pops up in front of them.. I can get both dogs back instantly.

That is your "portable under ground fence." You MUST train the dog for this. DO NOT just slap the collar on with no previous training. Training is in an ENCLOSED area and the dog is conditioned to come the instant he or she feels the nick from the collar. When the dog comes to you it is IMPERATIVE the dog is rewarded HEAVILY (both voice and the best food you have.. steak if necessary). I watch my dogs when I hike and they respond to whistles to come back to me. I never let them get out of sight. Ever. This is bushwhacking, NOT on trails.

I will also add that on most hikes the e collar is on and NOT used. I use whistles to keep the dogs within sight.
Yes, and (just like the limitations of an 'invisible fence') the punishment must be more aversive - to the dog - than the reward, in order for this to be an effective method of "training".
In other words, even if the dog is trained to return to you upon the application of the 'nick' (a PC way of saying 'electrical shock applied to the dog's neck') if they are bound & determined to chase off after that dratted deer/whatever, well... they're going to be well outside the range of your little hand-held 'nicking' device before they've even felt the zap. Unless you have it set to 'phasers on stun' (or at a level that the dog's head explodes), there are those dogs who will simply give chase, regardless of your little 'nick'.
So, my advice to the OP is this - unless you're comfortable setting the shock collar to a level that will take your dog DOWN, should he decide to bolt off, use a physical attachment (long line or leash) while working on recall training. Once you have a solid & bomb/deer proof recall you won't need either.
And, trust me, standing there pushing a button to 'nick' (SHOCK) your dog while he obliviously races away from you after something WAY more rewarding, is a pretty lousy feeling. But being able to call/whistle for your dog & have him come running back to you - that's worth its weight in gold. This can only be achieved without the use of aversive equipment.
 

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We just think that a leash or having us yell "Heel" every few feet is less fun for and less fun for him (we think) so we were wondering if there is something like an invisible fence device that can give him the freedom to run off 20ft or so but remind him to stay relatively close if he strays/lags too far.

Ah yes, fun for the dog. It is important, isn't it. Crucial really.

If you're concerned about FUN -- and you probably should be -- well then, DON'T shock the dog. Find another way that's in keeping with the fun aspect, and doesn't punish your dog for simply being a dog.. I mean, obviously, getting zapped in the midst of a nature walk just ain't a dog's idea of a good time. I'm sure.

In other words, positive reinforcement training of 1) an acceptable "zone" and also 2) recall under high distraction.

There you go. Fun.
 

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Yes, and (just like the limitations of an 'invisible fence') the punishment must be more aversive - to the dog - than the reward, in order for this to be an effective method of "training".
In other words, even if the dog is trained to return to you upon the application of the 'nick' (a PC way of saying 'electrical shock applied to the dog's neck') if they are bound & determined to chase off after that dratted deer/whatever, well... they're going to be well outside the range of your little hand-held 'nicking' device before they've even felt the zap. Unless you have it set to 'phasers on stun' (or at a level that the dog's head explodes), there are those dogs who will simply give chase, regardless of your little 'nick'.
So, my advice to the OP is this - unless you're comfortable setting the shock collar to a level that will take your dog DOWN, should he decide to bolt off, use a physical attachment (long line or leash) while working on recall training. Once you have a solid & bomb/deer proof recall you won't need either.
And, trust me, standing there pushing a button to 'nick' (SHOCK) your dog while he obliviously races away from you after something WAY more rewarding, is a pretty lousy feeling. But being able to call/whistle for your dog & have him come running back to you - that's worth its weight in gold. This can only be achieved without the use of aversive equipment.
First of all, ALWAYS train a reward based recall. ALWAYS.

NEVER use it the way described or train it this way. This is what happens (and the sort of comment you get) when someone who "thinks they know" does not truly know.

E Collars of yore had one setting and it SHOCKED the dog. Currently I have an older TriTronics 500 with a mile and a quarter range and has 18 settings. The Pro 900 E Collar Technologies I have is a shorter range double box and has 100 level settings. Setting level is determined by the dog's drive and can be changed instantly.

I have one dog that has tremendous hunt drive.. and will sight chase deer in an instant. She was trained to the e collar recall years ago. The setting that returns her in full chase with the Tritronics? level 2 low or medium. I know because I have seen it. I had another dog that required level 6 medium.. under those circumstances. As a reminder to stick close I whistle. ONLY if the dog does not respond, I use a nick.. and trust me at level 1 or 2 low I feel a buzz.. not even a "shock." YES I have put the collar on my wrist (bottom side ) and on my fingers to feel the "shock." Low levels is is not even as much "shock" as a dog gets from static electricity sniffing something in a dry house after walking across the carpet!

The other dog with 100 possible levels I use level 12 in the woods.. if a deer pops up under his nose I put it up to 24. Here is the scenario. I whistle just to keep him in sight. He responds to the whistle. I have NEVER had to nick this dog for not responding. He will range far. I need to pay attention to where both dogs are. If a deer flies up under his nose? I can instantly increase the stim control (which I do) and ONLY stim if he does not instantly come off at my call. You know how many times I have used this? ONCE and the deer literally jumped up from its bed 10 feet in front of him. I called, and then stimmed.. and he was off the deer and back to me.

There is no need to use a sledge hammer when a tap on the shoulder will do. BUT YOU MUST TRAIN IT FIRST!

IF the dog does NOT come back when asked you HAVE the means to enforce and that is better than losing the dog and better than the dog running itself to death. I would NEVER be initially "setting the shock collar to a level that will take your dog DOWN" (and honestly I do not think at the highest setting either collar is even capable of this). That is NOT how to use this equipment.

And a little secret.. if you hike where I hike a leash is just simply impractical. There are no trails, there is brush.. it is real bushwhacking and not some place frequented by people (it is private property). Both dogs are much happier being able to range off leash. The can be DOGS and chase squirrels up trees and try to work the stone walls for chipmunks and mice and wood rats with rare but occasional kills. They get to check the bear scat and coyote scat.. see where the owl got a rabbit.. and still be within sight and earshot of me. The collars are on. Better to have and not need than to need and not have.

It is to the point when they see me get the remotes they start acting the fool because were are going for a woods walk. Picking up a Leash will never get a happy response but nothing like the joy of the remotes and a woods walk. Mouse Hunt.jpg
 

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I know how to train a recall, thank you, and I know how to do it without the use of a shock collar, even for the enforcement of the command afterwards. If the dog doesn't come back when you call & you must resort to using the collar, the fact is that if the sensation of the 'stim' isn't aversive enough, it won't change the dog's behavior. The sensation, or the fear of an even more aversive sensation, is what stops the dog. If you're OK with using fear/pain to make sure your dog will listen to you, that's up to you. I've trained that way in the far distant past & have now learned a different (imo - better) way.
And, I'll let you in on a little secret. That picture of your dogs on a hike looks like pictures of my dogs on my property. I live in the middle of the woods & completely understand the limitations of dragging a leash or long line. That's why I spend time creating a wildlife proof recall with my dogs, because if I had to use a shock collar to get their attention when critters were around, they'd have to wear them constantly.
Again, I'm not telling you what to use, or not use, with your own dogs. I'm simply pointing out to the OP that resorting to an electronic device is no guarantee of compliance. How often does our local shelter pick up strays wearing underground fence collars? Frequently. These dogs might be fully 'trained' on the shock collar fencing, but... one day they blow through it & at that point it's pretty much going to be ineffective at containment. For some dogs there is no 'stim' (shock) bad enough to give up the chase. (And I was being sarcastic when I said it would have to 'take the dog down'. Sorry you missed that in the translation)
 

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I like to reshare this video at times. My old dog chased deer on sight. You can see in the video it is an instantaneous reaction. I've never used any corrections or special tools for recall and I've successfully called him off deer, bears, porcupine, other dogs, etc. throughout his entire life. There is no shortcut for training recall. It's just consistency, gradually changing variables like environment, not overusing or misusing the recall cue, and finding the right reinforcers.

 

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I know how to train a recall, thank you, and I know how to do it without the use of a shock collar, even for the enforcement of the command afterwards. If the dog doesn't come back when you call & you must resort to using the collar, the fact is that if the sensation of the 'stim' isn't aversive enough, it won't change the dog's behavior. The sensation, or the fear of an even more aversive sensation, is what stops the dog. If you're OK with using fear/pain to make sure your dog will listen to you, that's up to you. I've trained that way in the far distant past & have now learned a different (imo - better) way.
And, I'll let you in on a little secret. That picture of your dogs on a hike looks like pictures of my dogs on my property. I live in the middle of the woods & completely understand the limitations of dragging a leash or long line. That's why I spend time creating a wildlife proof recall with my dogs, because if I had to use a shock collar to get their attention when critters were around, they'd have to wear them constantly.
Again, I'm not telling you what to use, or not use, with your own dogs. I'm simply pointing out to the OP that resorting to an electronic device is no guarantee of compliance. How often does our local shelter pick up strays wearing underground fence collars? Frequently. These dogs might be fully 'trained' on the shock collar fencing, but... one day they blow through it & at that point it's pretty much going to be ineffective at containment. For some dogs there is no 'stim' (shock) bad enough to give up the chase. (And I was being sarcastic when I said it would have to 'take the dog down'. Sorry you missed that in the translation)
I (of course) have trained recall and I actually have excellent secondary obedience with a very powerful dog on the decoy (deep, confident grips and great drive). He has been trained to recall and he will recall. He has also been trained on an e collar and if the whistle does not get instant compliance, the stim does get it. It is not a matter or wanting to use pain and aversives. It IS a matter of understanding the prey drive in a working line German Shepherd who would run himself to death chasing a deer. The FACT that even in full drive I usually get compliance w/o a stim testifies to the relationship we have.

Out in the woods, off lead, I use an e collar. It is rarely used.. days go by without a single need. As I said, I would rather have and not need than to need and not have. The "other option" could very well lead to a lost and/or dead dog.

In the next comment, Canyx mentions her old dog that could be called off deer. I can also call my dog off deer. Until that day comes and the deer jumps up under his nose and I cannot because he does not even HEAR the whistle or call. That said, I can MOST ASSUREDLY call my dog off deer with an e collar as it will break his concentration of extreme prey drive. It surely beats the alternative (running himself to death, getting hit by a car and all that stuff). A minor stim is neither going to leave a legacy of physical or mental damage (when used correctly).. but an argument with a car or running to death is a whole 'nother story.

The OP has a Mastiff. From the sound of the post the people are not paying attention AND they do not have a good recall. Keeping the dog in sight on a hike and whistling them back when they get ranging too far is 98% of the pleasure of a wood walk off leash with your dog.
 
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