Electric Fences

ELECTRIC_FENCES_FeaturedAn electric fence is a wireless, in-ground or ‘invisible’ fence that is installed around the perimeter of a property, creating an invisible boundary. A dog contained within the boundary of the fence wears a ‘shock’, ‘remote’ or ‘e-collar’ around his neck (and sometimes around his groin or at the base of the tail) which consists of a transmitter designed to deliver a 'static correction' should the dog stray too close to the boundary. Flags are placed at intervals around the perimeter as a visual marker.

When dogs first learn to stay within the 'fence' they inevitably receive a series of electric shocks, which supporters of these fences claim is harmless. Of course, any kind of aversive such as shock has to be relatively strong in order to be effective, and while the dog might learn to quickly associate one flag or part of the property as a no-go area, his natural curiosity will inevitably lead to subsequent shocks should he get too close to other untested areas during the ‘learning’ process.

But the likelihood of shocking the dog is only the first of many reasons why electric fences should be avoided at all costs.

Why Should You Say NO To an Electric Fence?

  • Some dogs are so traumatized after just one shock experience that a fear memory is imprinted in the brain forever. While this sometimes provides enough motivation to avoid the boundary in the future, it also absolutely leads to countless other fear-based behavior issues and breaks down the human/animal bond significantly.
  • Some dogs will refuse to go into their yards, while others have suffered electrical burns from the very collars fence companies claim are 'safe and humane'.
  • Many dogs break through the boundary to get to something on the other side regardless of the pain they experience or because the fence has malfunctioned in some way. Many of these dogs end up getting lost, hit by cars or picked up by animal control officers (dog wardens) who regularly find these dogs wandering around the neighborhood.
  • Once a dog has gone through the boundary and been shocked, he is almost guaranteed to avoid coming home because he knows it means another shock.
  • Dogs contained behind electric fences tend to become more reactive and in some cases more aggressive toward strangers and even family members. A recent study found that dogs without previous aggression problems attacked family members when the system was activated.
  • Similarly, delivery personnel or any guest or family member can be an unwilling victim of a dog’s pent up frustration.
  • Any dog that is left outside for long periods of time is likely to develop a fence running habit, barking at cars, people or other animals as they go by, but this behavior is a lot more prevalent in dogs that have an uninterrupted view. Fence running is an unhealthy activity that exacerbates frustration, irritation and aggression and regularly becomes a fixed action pattern the dog performs in other contexts and environments, such as on a walk.
  • Dogs that live within the confines of an electric fence are also at the mercy of other animals and people that may wander onto their property, and with no visible boundary, these dogs are at greater risk of being stolen. Pedigrees have a high resale value while mixed breeds are regularly stolen to be used as bait in dog fighting circles or for medical research.

Electric fence companies would like you to believe that their 'fences' are the perfect solution for containing your dog, offering 'safety, comfort, and peace of mind,' but do not be fooled by clever marketing. While the idea of allowing your dog to experience more unsupervised 'freedom' might be an attractive option for you, the simple truth is that electric fences rely on pain to deter dogs from escaping and the risks of anxiety and aggression issues, theft and increased legal liability are too high.

Positive Alternatives to Electric Fences
While no fence can offer a hundred percent protection, a solid fence will do a much better job keeping your dog in and others out. If you do not have a physical fence around your property, keep your dog inside your home and take him out for regular toilet breaks and walks or invest in a solid fence around, or smaller 'dog run' within your property. It is a much safer, more humane and effective containment option than an electric fence will ever be.

Scientific Studies About the Effects of Electric Fences:


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19 thoughts on “Electric Fences

  1. Joseph A. Nagy, Jr

    You mean electronic fence. Electric fences are physical fences employed by farmers to keep cows, horses, and other large livestock from crossing the boundary.

  2. momof2

    I can understand the concerns with this but the underground fence has been a life saver for my dog. He has not been traumatized, he does not chase cars, he is not aggressive by ANY means. Please do not lump all pet owners as horrible mean people because they had to resort to an underground fence to keep their dogs safe (short of making my home a compound by completely fencing it in..) as I stated my dog would likely be road kill by now. He would always dart out of the house any time the door was opened. I do NOT keep him outside unattended, but the fence allows him to be in the front yard and watch the neighborhood happenings. It allows him to be able to play with my children in the front yard (our back yard is fenced in). It took him one time of receiving a "shock" on the lowest setting to learn to respect his boundaries. AND I am a knowledgeable pet owner who knows how to train and treat her animals. The ONLY command I have not been 100% successful at is his recall, and YES he has been through obedience training and at home training. I'm sure I'll get all kinds of bashing as I notice this is a so called "positive training" site, but not all dogs are cookie cutter pets and not all dogs train the same way. My breed is a Catahoula mix and if you know anything about them they are highly stubborn and need a strong owner. Since I rescued him he's made a 180 degree change for the good and is a completely different dog. I know that not all pet owners are as diligent as I have been, but I take offense to being lumped in with them because I am not like them.

  3. Take5forFIDO

    While I agree with Victoria Stilwell in about 95% of these cases, there are definitely some exceptions to the rule. Because you are a conscientious, diligent and well-informed pet guardian, it is unimaginable that you would do anything that might hurt your dog. I say you're doing right by your dog, knowing his limitations and still finding a solution for as much freedom for him as possible, while still providing his safety. Good for you Momof2. Thank you for having the courage to speak your truth on this matter. I invite you to "like" my Facebook page, if you are so inclined. Would love to share your input on some of our articles and such. Thanks! Hope to meet you there. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Take-5-for-FIDO/224106837615281

  4. momof2

    Thank you Take5forFIDO! I appreciate your comments. I honestly thought that by posting my views here I would be opening a door for a bashing. I didn't care though because I felt I had to make the comment that not all pet parents are irresponsible. I can and do acknowledge that there are those that misuse these tools, but there are also those that are responsible. I will check out your fb page. Thanks!

  5. chris

    With all due respect, justifying the use of aversives of punishment-oriented methods due to a dog's breed is never a good idea because ANY breed can learn with positive reinforcement, force-free methods. The thing you have to understand is that force-free training is not a recipe with step by step guide, it is a set of principles within which there are hundreds of different ways to get behavior, change behavior, et cetera. Sure, every dog does learn differently, but that doesn't mean force-free training doesn't "work" for one dog- you just need to find which techniques work for that particular dog and what really motivates them.

    Again, not meaning to sound rude, but just because you have a Catahoula does not mean you must be forceful. It always irks me when I see people saying, "If you have a ________ dog breed you must show him who is boss and "gentle" methods won't work. Unless your dog has neurological problems, some type of force-free training will work.

    To see one story of people who owned a Catahoula and used positive methods but didn't experience success with the original methods and techniques they used, but once they realized what worked for their own dog they experienced great success, you can read this short article: http://www.clickersolutions.com/articles/2001/catahoula.htm

    Saying that some breeds need a heavier hand is generally untrue and definitely unscientifically based. What they need is someone who understands all the principles and not just recipes of force-free dog training. And by the way, no one said you were a "horrible mean" person. The article just stated how many dogs do experience many problems when shocked and how electronic fences are very risky. It didn't say that EVERY dog is irreversibly traumatized and becomes explosively aggressive. However, the great amount of cases in which dogs do become very stressed and sometimes aggressive (even dogs bred to have high pain tolerances and trained by experience trainers) shows that these e-type collars and fences have many risks associated with them, and that there are other, less aversive and more humane methods that have a more proven, consistent track record.
    Thank you for your time.

  6. Ashley

    My cat was attacked (and later died from the injuries) by the neighbor's dog who saw the cat in my yard and ran through her invisible fence to attack the cat. Even after this happened, those neighbors still did not replace the invisible fence with a real one, and several years later that same dog ran through the fence and was never seen again. With an invisible fence you are counting on your dog's fear of pain being greater than his desire to get to whatever is on the other side of the fence, and all too often the latter wins out.

  7. Patty Ann Vamvas

    I have to agree these fences make a dog agressive as I see the changes in a dog we pass on a regular basis. She charges the e fence then barks, growls and bristles at my dog and I on our walks

  8. Patty Ann Vamvas

    E collars just as bad. My neighbor uses them and then doesn't put them on regularly...3 large boxers with lots of energy. They come into my yard and my peke is dog reactive. The owners excuse is they only want to play. I once had to pick up my dog and another time one started to go into my deck where my dog stays on cool days or mornings while I am outside in the yard. His kid also runs around the yard and lets these 3 high energy large dogs chase him and go after his hands. Next time in yard animal control gets called. You have 3 large dogs you need to properly care for them and their control.

  9. Kyra Collins

    We live on acreage & have wire no-climb horse fencing for our pack of Jack Russell terriers. There are timbers buried horizontally under the fence to deter diggers, and we ran a single strand of electric horse tape 2" wide about 6 inches from the bottom of the fence. We only plug this in when we have a new foster dog who is challenging the fence, and they zap themselves, usually a maximum of twice, before simply leaving the fence alone. After that it is unplugged. We have not misplaced a dog yet (except when himself left the gate unlatched), the dogs are not afraid of the fence, but they do give a one foot margin. Our fencing is visual, the tape is visual, they sniff it, it bites. Nothing else in the yard bites except that tape. I agree they are traumatized when it happens, but there is no ongoing trauma as far as we can see and we have dogs of our own who have lived with this set up for years and simply leave the fence alone and never get repeat zapped. Better than having 9 Jacks roaming free in a rural neighbourhood with cats and chickens and livestock available for their delectation.

  10. Patricia Brandt Graf

    The worst part is when people put up those fences out in the country or areas of new subdivisions then the coyotes wander into the yard attack & kill the dog. Cause coyotes travel in packs.

  11. Patricia Brandt Graf

    Walking her around the perimeter of the property on a leash and trying to teach her the boundaries of the yard. Also taking her for walks outside of your property and letting her smell everything around your neighborhood. We also try to exercise our dogs with the chuck ball launcher, that wears her out.

  12. Carol Van Gorder

    I've been in dog rescue for years and every dog/foster lost that I've helped look for got out of a "traditional" fence. Outcome for many was not good. I've had an invisible fence for 20 years (put in by a company with an excellent reputation). I've had a total of six dogs (three now) and it only took a couple of low grade shocks and that was it! My first three dogs lived to be 13, 14 and 15 years of age. The dogs are never outside without us and we are always warned if their battery is low or the line has been cut. People with fences get lazy and do not maintain them. If there is a way out, a dog will find it! Not to mention how many learn to jump them. Bottomline, the right kind of fence is the one any RESPONSIBLE owner has!!

  13. Linds

    Some years ago now, a great dane was lost and killed because the owners relied on a fence collar/system. The dog got out, the dog was killed. It happens. Just one good reason to not use them, because they are not reliable nor failsafe in keeping your pet safe. In fact they give a false sense of security.

  14. ejhaskins

    Of course SOME dogs simply do not wander. I remember in the Bad Old Days walking past house with open gates and the dogs just coming to the gate and no further to bark or simply staying on the veranda.
    Three of my present dogs do not wander -- I know because on occasions *someone* has left the gate open all night. And not just that -- Sallee and her mother before her knew how to jump the fence -- but only did when another dog came up to the fence.
    OR, in other words IF your dog doesn't break through the electric field and is no traumatised by it, it is quite likely that your dog would not leave home even if the hidden electric fence wasn't there!
    I consider the fence more to keep strangers and other animals OUT-- and there is no way that hidden boundaries can do this.

  15. Smiller

    I don't agree with electric fences but saying that dogs are "regularly stolen" for dog fighting rings and medical research seems a little far fetched.

  16. Fuffy Booth

    I am a groomer and I hate invisible fencing. I was a mobile groomer in Long Island, NY and one of my clients had 3 dogs that I would groom every 3 to 4 weeks. My client had just lost her elderly Newfie/lab x and had decided to get 2 more dogs... a Lab and a Newfie. Their yard had a fence around it and they also got Invisible Fencing in case the dogs got out while the gate was open. It was a big piece of property and they thought it would keep the dogs safe. It didn't. The Lab puppy get shocked by the collar and ran out of the gate, into the street and got killed. Then, if that wasn't bad enough, their 3 year old Golden got shocked and no one noticed until I went to get him into my mobile grooming van and a strange thing happened. He jumped up in the van, onto my drivers seat, up onto the grooming table and stared at me. I immediately knew something was wrong. He had never done that before. His way of getting into my van was this... first he'd put his front paws on my step up and wait for me to pick up his butt to help him in. Then he'd go to my drivers seat and put his front paws on the seat. Again I would pick up his butt to help him onto the seat. Same thing to get him onto the grooming table.
    I got into the van and it was then that I smelled him. I'd know that smell anywhere... it was Infection. I couldn't tell where it was coming from at first because it just permeated my van. Tho, I did check his neck first because those prong collars look like torture devices to me. I found where the prongs had just shocked their way into his neck and where the prongs went into his skin it was just oozing infection. I took a 15 blade and shaved all around it and cleared it out the best I could and then I took him back into the house. I told the staff supervisor that he needed to go to the vets now...not tomorrow, not later this afternoon, NOW! She ran to the phone and started calling. I leashed up the Newfie pup and led him out to start his grooming. I was in the van maybe 10 minutes and someone drove up, ran in to get him, got him in the car and took off. I was so worried. I finished with the Newfie and took him back into the house and Dorothy ((the staff supervisor)) told me the vet had just called and wanted me to know that I had saved Simba's life.
    I was so relieved and so angry at the same time. I wanted to take that collar and smash it with a hammer. I didn't have to worry though because that collar never went back on any of them.

  17. Peggy

    Why can't you put up solid fence? It is a safer and kinder alternative. Because you have never had your airbags go off in your care should you have them removed? No of course not because an accident can happen at any time. Just because you have never been struck by lightening would you stand in a thunderstorm with an umbrella? I could go on with these examples of things we do to avoid or reduce the risks of accidents but I am sure you get the point. If there is a risk you should mitigate it as quickly as possible and E fences do come with a risk. Catahoula's do not need a strong owner they need a smart owner just like every other dog. If you have yet to teach recall try a new method and practice every dog can learn with the right motivation and proper use of positive reinforcement.

  18. Small Church USA

    Positive Alternatives to Electric Fences? PUT UP A REAL "Electric Fence" -- NOT an "invisible fence"! I grew up with electric fences as a necessity in life on the farm -- whether it was temporary to "move cattle" from one grazing area to another, or more permanent to keep them from reaching through barbed wire for "greener pasture" -- perhaps corn -- on the other side! We had cases where it was the way to keep hogs from rooting under the fence too. Soooo many, many years ago when we discovered we had a fence climbing Irish Setter, a simple electrified smooth wire place along the top was all it took to "teach" her to stop climbing the fences! Fast forward several years later, after having taken down the "electric" wire from on top of our fence, we opted to run a single smooth wire along the inside of our back fence to keep our dogs away from the new Rose of Sharon bushes which they loved to pull limbs off of and dig around. We tried other ways, but the single electrified wire about 18" off the ground is all it took to "train" them to stay out. So again, I suggested instead of the INVISIBLE FENCE, put of a REAL ELECTRIC FENCE! We've used them very successfully for dogs for 30+ years! AND I've been to more than one breeder who had electric fences along their fences separating dogs.

  19. kadellagroove .

    My german shepherd and i have recently moved to a farm. There is a 5,000 volt cattle fence on the property. Now, she and I have done extensive training in our 5 years since I rescued her. In that time I've used more aversive training techniques (in the beginning) and then gradually phased to a more positive only, clicker trained approach. I recently bought an e-collar because, even though I'd prefer to remain positive only, the dangers on the farm and very real both for her and other animals (she has a high prey drive). So, I thought, the e-collar may be a good tool given the challenges of the new environment. I couldn't really think of a way to positively train her to avoid the 5,000 volt fence and figured a battery powered e-collar would be the lesser of two evils. The reality is regardless of what I do, she will likely hit the cattle fence some day. But It was my thinking that training her using the e-collar, whenever she got near the fence, may prevent her from getting the full brunt of that fence. Thats not the only issue but its the main one.

    Basically, I didn't get the collar to train her really much. Just a few various things specific to farm life which I couldn't really think of any other way to teach her.

    but, I'm open to suggestions.

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