This post will go over some reasons NOT to use an electric fence for dogs.
I’m actually a fan of electric fences for dogs, either the underground “invisible” fence variety or the newer, wireless versions. You can read one of my posts in support of electronic fences here.
(I know the correct term is electronic fence, but most people incorrectly say electric).
Electronic fences have worked well for my family’s dogs over the last 15 years, allowing our dogs years of off-leash freedom. This allowed them to be a much more central part of our lives because they got to be out with us.
You might wonder:
Why would you need an electric fence?
Why not just put up a physical fence?
For us, there are two reasons:
- It would not be practical to put up a physical fence around the whole property. It’s too much space. This would be too expensive and would also look bad.
- My parents live on lakefront property. It wouldn’t make sense to fence in the back yard with a physical fence because it’s right on the lake.
Still, there are some issues with electric fences, so I thought I’d address some of them here.
Using a shock/e-collar is NOT one of my reasons. There’s nothing wrong with e-collars when used properly. The “correction” is used to get the dog’s attention and is not meant to cause pain. It’s similar to a vibrating cellphone – a bit startling!
If you’re worried about the intensity of the correction, always test it on yourself first (I always do). If e-collars make you uncomfortable, don’t use them! No one said you have to use them! See my post: Using shock collars for dog training.
Some reasons not to use an electric fence for dogs
(Most of these can be avoided with proper, consistent training)
1. Dogs can get out of electronic fences.
There’s always that chance that your dog is going to run right through the boundary after something he can’t resist such as a prey animal or a family member or a cat or whatever it might be. Proper training can help decrease the chances, but in reality some dogs get out of electric fences.
How to prevent this:
- Don’t leave your dog out in the fence when you’re not home so you can check in on your dog.
- Test the e-collar’s battery every day.
- Brush up on training every week.
*There’s always a chance dogs can get out of any physical fence as well. Dogs can climb over, dig under or break through a fence. Plus, a neighbor or contract worker or child could leave the gate unlocked or wide open by accident. In some ways, electronic fences are more reliable than physical fences. Every dog and every situation is different. No fence is 100 percent reliable.
**I hear a lot of arguments about the high numbers of lost/stray dogs that have gotten out of electronic fences. There are no statistics on this but I would argue there are far more dogs that get out of physical fences or slip their collars than there are dogs that get out of electric fences.
2. Dogs can get out and might be scared to re-enter the electric fence’s boundary.
If your dog does happen to cross the boundary, he might be afraid to re-enter because he would likely receive a second “correction” for re-crossing the boundary. This may not be the case with ALL systems (I’m not sure), but the dog might still be afraid to re-cross regardless.
3. Electronic fences can quit working as with any electronic device.
With anything electronic, there’s always that chance for malfunction. The battery could die, there could be a power outage (most have a battery backup but that can malfunction too) or the system could just break for whatever reason.
Sometimes the point of a fence is to keep neighbor dogs or neighbor kids out of your yard for whatever reason. Without a barrier, obviously other animals and people have easy access to your yard and your dog. This could be a problem if your dog is aggressive to strangers or if neighbor dogs/stray dogs are aggressive to your dog.
How to avoid this:
Only have your dog in the yard when you’re able to supervise. Keep him inside when you’re not home.
5. Electric fences require dedicated, consistent training.
Some dogs need two weeks to a month to fully understand the electric fence system. The training process is actually very simple, but it does require time and consistency from the owner’s part like all training. You can’t just slap the collar on your dog and expect him to figure it out.
The training process involves setting up training flags to mark the boundaries and putting the collar on warning tone only. Using a leash, walk your dog to the boundary until you hear the warning tone. Use a command like “get back” and move back with your dog, rewarding him with food and praise. “Good boy!” See my full post on training a dog to use an electronic fence.
What are some other reasons I’ve missed?
Do you use an electronic fence for your dog?
Let me know in the comments!