Monday, March 21, 2011

The Case Against Electric Fences

by Michele Wolin

Underground electric/invisible fences are not good for dogs. There are so many problems with these fences that they are simply too much of a risk to use  -- despite the claims of the companies selling them. They often don't work for various reasons; I personally know two people who had dogs who got out of their invisible fences and were hit by cars. In fact, some area rescue groups won't even adopt to people who plan to use an invisible fence.

Here's a brief summary of some of the problems:

1) Some dogs will go through the fence if there is an enticing enough reason (e.g., a squirrel, another dog, or some other enticing animal.), despite the shock they receive. (Labs in particular can be impervious to pain.) Once they're out, they may not want to return because of the shock.

2) The batteries in the collar can fail, or the system can stop working for various reasons; once again, the dog is now able to get loose.

3) The dog doesn't know why it's being shocked, which can lead to several possible problems. Some dogs become fearful (you absolutely should never use these with dogs who are already sensitive, shy or fearful) and shut down, and some refuse to go into their yards at all. Some become aggressive; if the dog goes running up to people or dogs walking by the yard, and then gets shocked at the boundary, the dog will start to associate the shock with the people/dogs walking by, and then may become aggressive towards people/dogs. The shocking can also lead to a dog becoming anxious and nervous; some dogs don't react that way, but why take the chance? And if the dog develops problems with fear, aggression, or anxiety as a result of these shocks, it is very hard to undo the damage.

4) Even if the fence successfully keeps your dog in, it doesn't keep other dogs from entering your yard, and some of these dogs may be aggressive.  Also, think about coyotes, if you're near the park and have a small dog. Think about people who can enter the yard, take off the collar, and walk off with your dog. You should never leave your dog outside unattended.

Here are some links if you'd like to learn more, or you can Google "problems with invisible fences." (opens a PDF)

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