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Are Invisible Fences Harmful to Dogs?

Should You Use an Invisible Fence?

I have been getting a lot of questions recently regarding the use of electric fences. I understand why dog owners want to use them. Sometimes they can lack an aesthetic appeal in certain neighborhoods, can be very costly, and very labor intensive. So the common solution for a physical fence, tends to be an invisible one. And they may seem like a good solution upfront, but in the long run, can have a lot of negative effects that you may not be considering. Many people experience these things after it’s too late. So here me out. I am going to list three reasons why invisible fences are not an ideal solution for your boundary issues. But first…

When I say invisible fence, I mean any type of electronic boundary device that delivers a punishment to a dog for crossing. This includes your installed underground wires, and your self-installed pods that deliver the dog a zap when they get too far from it. And honestly, it would also include a shock collar that you zap your dog with manually when he gets too far away. 

It creates reactivity and aggression issues in dogs

Dog’s are fight or flight animals. And most dogs are going to trust their flight response before standing and fighting. Of course, even the gentlest dogs are going to bight when scared and cornered. This can happen in any fenced in years, yes, but most people and dogs are not going to jump a fence with a dog in it. But when there is no fence, there are few options for the dog. There is nothing to keep a person, or a dog, out. When a dog feels like he cannot run, and a threat enters his space he defends himself. When he sees a threat approaching his space, and knows that it can freely enter his space, and he can’t leave, he will defend himself.

Can you imagine if your front door was wide open and anyone could enter your house freely, but you could not leave?

Dogs do not understand why they get corrected

The same issue that I have with using aversive equipment like collars and pinch collars. When we use corrective equipment on a dog, they rarely know what they are being punished for. In fact, they often make the wrong association with that punishment. So if your dog runs toward the invisible fence because he sees another dog, kid on a bike, someone walking by, and then gets the zap, he won’t always associate the punishment with the boundary, but what he ran towards. So then the presence of those triggers in other environments, like at a park, on a walk, and definitely in the yard, can cause very problematic reactivity.

They are not 100% effective

I have heard enough accounts to know, that some dogs, regardless of breed and size, when motivated, will run right through that zap and keep going. Then they are gone, and cannot even get back into the yard. Sometimes those invisible fences are relied upon so much, that you don;t even know your dog is gone, until it’s too late.

So what now?

I think he absolute best option for your fencing issues, is to get a physical fence. But if there is some reason that it’s not doable, than there are options. Some people use a tie-out, which may not create the reactivity, but all the other issues remain. You can go out with your dog and leave him on a long leash, which isn’t always ideal either. 

There are also ways that a trainer can help train your dog to respect the boundaries in the yard without the use of punishment, but using positive only boundary training. Even then however, it is literally impossible to train for every single eventuality the dog could face, which would lead you to not want to leave the dog unattended in the yard anyway. At that point, it may just be easier to install a fence or go out with a leash. So why not just install a fence? It will be the greatest gift you ever give yourself, to give your dog.

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