You’ve heard about electric or invisible fences, and maybe you have friends who use them. But is it the right tool for you? While there are pros to the fence, like cost-effectiveness and aesthetics (especially if you aren’t allowed by community rules to put up a physical fence), there are some things you should consider before installing an electric fence for your dog.

What to consider

Electric fences use a collar that shocks the dog when they get too close to the fence line. In learning this, the dog stays within the set boundary. Some trainers use words like stimulation, tap, vibration or balanced, or even say they practice positive reinforcement training while using these collars. But there are no bones about it: your dog is behaving in an effort to avoid a painful stimulus.

The fence may keep your dog in, but it won’t keep others out! So if you’re worried about people or other dogs wandering onto your property, an electric fence won’t help.

Although your dog may not run away, you could still be at risk for losing your pet. With the high demand (and consequently high price) of certain breeds, and nothing physical to protect your pup, you run the risk of having your dog stolen from your yard.

The stimulation level on the shock collar can be turned up high enough to deter most dogs from bursting through the fence, but there are some persistent pups who will still try to escape if the motivation is just right. And once the dog has crossed the border, they may get shocked for coming back into the yard.

If your dog is shocked every time they see a stimulus, they may develop an aversion or aggression toward it. For example, your dog may be friendly toward other dogs, so they come up to the fence line to investigate when someone walks their dog by the yard (the stimulus). But, your dog receives a shock or is afraid of being shocked for their investigation. This could eventually frustrate your dog or form a negative association toward the other dog. It may start as avoidance but could easily manifest into fearful or aggressive behavior toward whatever they were initially trying to investigate.

Electric fences provide no visual barrier, so your dog can see exciting things going on around them but won’t be able to investigate. This may cause distress and compulsive behaviors like running and barking up and down the property line.

Photo by Syed Ali on Unsplash

The bottom line

While there are thousands of customers who successfully use electric fences every day, if you’re thinking of installing one, do your homework! In the right situation, electric fences can be a training tool that works for some, but it may be inappropriate for others.

If your dog has any behavioral problems like reactivity or aggression, or has a sensitive or anxious personality, you may want to look at other options. Consider erecting a physical fence or hiring a trainer to help you set barriers and boundaries using positive reinforcement methods.

Aug 23, 2016

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