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How young is too young for an invisible dog fence?

A lot of folks wonder what age a dog must be to understand and respect an invisible dog fence. I've heard the question from both ends of the spectrum — those who want to make sure their puppy isn't too young to understand an invisible dog fence and those who worry their dog might be too old to learn a new skill.

When it comes to age appropriateness, there is really no upper limit — I've successfully trained dogs as old as 12 to respect an invisible boundary. My only advice is to consider the dog's health (in other words, don't try to train a dog who is mentally or physically incapacitated), and to take the training process a little slower than you might with a younger dog.

For puppies, I generally recommend waiting until a dog is 5 - 6 months old before starting dog fence training (although, there are exceptions in the final parahraph of this article). Here's why:

  • Young puppies need supervision when they're outdoors. Let's face it — puppies are trouble magnets. Not only can they get themselves into any number of dangerous situations, but their small size and naivete make them vulnerable to things like predators and even the elements; this is particularly true for very small breeds. Also, the only way to teach your puppy what you expect from him is to watch him closely, reward him when he does things you like, and redirect him when he behaves badly. You can't do that when your puppy is outside by himself.
  • Puppies need leash time. The best time to teach a puppy leash manners is when he is very young. If you use a leash every time you take your young puppy outdoors, he'll quickly begin to associate his leash with fun times rather than looking at it with dread. Also, it's much easier to teach a puppy leash manners when he's small and easily controlled than when he's larger and (likely) more rambunctious.
  • A puppy already has enough to learn. When a puppy is young, he's got a lot to learn — where to go to the bathroom, how to sit on command, not to use his teeth on humans or their valuable possessions. So, spend your first few months with your puppy focusing on basic obedience skills. You can add the responsibility of learning about a dog fence as your puppy starts to mature just a bit.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. If your puppy is a large breed, you can consider starting dog fence training as young as 4 months if your need is really great. This is especially true if you already have a traditional fence and are using the dog fence to protect landscaping or prevent fence jumping.

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