Dangers of Electric/Underground Fencing and Shock Collars

My Feelings on Electric Collars on "Invisible, Underground or Unseen" Fencing:

Dogs are pets. Dogs are social animals. Dogs belong in our homes. A dog who is outdoors all day is miserable. Chances are if you hear a dog barking non-stop, that dog is outside alone. In a natural setting, a dog all by itself is a dead dog. Dogs need to live with their pack.

Dogs who are tied outside tend to be more aggressive. They are routinely frustrated by things just outside of their reach, eventually that frustration can become aggression. This frustration can also come along with underground fencing systems. The dog can routinely see people or things they want to get to, but are frequently shocked for trying to get to them.

I understand the appeal of underground fencing; low installation cost, unobstructed property views and the ability to fence large areas. However, I have seen for myself the lesser known dangers that come along with them. The decision to install one of these “fences” should not be made lightly. Please remember that no fence is fool proof and you should always be present to watch your dog.

Dogs *WILL* run through the line if the temptation is great enough. Then they will not take the shock to come back.

  • Once the dog learns that they can run through the line they will often do it again. Once that happens, the fence is useless. Shelters and animal control officers routinely pick up loose dogs wearing e-fence collars!

  • These “fences” do not stop anyone or anything from coming in your yard! Dogs can be injured by other dogs and wildlife such as coyotes and fisher cats, while being too terrified to leave. In this area this is a very real problem.

  • People have been known to remove the collar and steal dogs. As seen in the media this year, stolen dogs are often used as “bait” dogs for fighting dogs in training.

  • If someone enters your yard with this type of fence and is injured by your dog, you can be held liable for not properly containing your dog. This precedent was set in NY last year.

  • Dogs can become barrier aggressive with these fences. This is one of the most common “side effects” I see with these fences. Dogs run up to the line to greet a passerby, the dog either hears the warning tone or actually gets shocked. The dog then begins to associate the passers by with the punishment and actively works to keep them away to prevent being punished.

  • Many dogs begin to develop sound sensitivities to other electronic devices (there is a warning tone before the dog gets shocked). Dogs then panic at the sound of cell phone voice mail indication beeps, as well as the low battery chirp of smoke detectors.

  • Fence collars malfunction, shocking dogs who are nowhere near the line. The dog now does not know where they are safe and this can lead to anxiety attacks.

  • Certain appliances can set collars off. A client of mine noted that her television had triggered the warning tone in the house. This is terrifying to dogs.

  • Some dogs do not make the association between a boundary and the shock. These dogs become afraid of the yard, often refusing to go outdoors and beginning to have accidents in the house.

  • If fence lines travel under drive ways and the car is parked on the line, the car’s battery and cause the collar to shock the dog!

  • I was attacked by a very large dog when her collar malfunctioned! I was her perceived source of pain and it is instinctual for a dog to lash out at a source of pain.

  • Pedestrians and drivers of cars do not know your dog is contained by e-fencing! Drivers may swerve or slam their brakes thinking they are trying to avoid running over dog. Traffic accidents are easily caused this way.

E-collars, e-stim, remote training collars are all nice ways of discussing shock collars. I DO NOT stand by the use of electricity in training animals. I personally think it is inhumane and a short cut. Short Cuts Always Have Pot Holes!!!

Just as with invisible fencing, aggression problems can occur with these collars if the dog associates the shock to a particular person or item. Bigger problems can occur when the dog does not understand why the shock is occurring. A good trainer must always keep in mind that we can never be 100% certain that the dog is associating a punishment with a behavior. Poor timing can lead to a dog thinking that landing on the floor after jumping is the punished behavior not the jumping up in the first place. It seems obvious to us, but we already know the rules.

Always ask yourself two questions;

1) Would I like this being done to me if it was not being explained?

2) Would I do this to a toddler? Very few dogs' mental equivalence will ever exceed a small child's. Treat them with the same compassion.

At all times, we must remember that no fence is a substitute for close observation by responsible owners!