Why I Really Hate Electric Shock (Invisible) Fences

Why I REALLY Hate Electronic Shock (Invisible) Fences by Pamela Dennison
© June 2003. May not be reprinted without written approval.

I have decided to write this article so I don’t have to keep repeating myself. Once you have tried the electronic fence and created neurotic or problem behaviors, you cannot go back and erase them. You are now in for major retraining, so please consider carefully before purchasing these antiquated and inhumane devises. Many of you may say, “But my dog only had to go through the fence line once and then always stayed in the yard. What’s the big deal?” Or “but we have it set to beep, so what’s the big deal?”

There IS a big deal and one that you may not recognize at first as relating to the electric fence. How many times do you have to be stung by a wasp to be terrified of wasps? I doubt more than once, but then, how do you then feel about wasps? Are you terrified? Do you run around frantically, screaming in a panic, trying to get away from it? Does your heart rate go through the roof? Is this pleasant for you?

We’ll start out looking at this from a behavioral standpoint. Your dog goes through the fence line and a child, dog or car happens to be passing by. He gets zapped by a very painful electric shock. He may very well now associate the pain of the shock with the child, dog or car. There are two options of how he may behave around those things now: he may become terrified and depending on his personality, will take that terror and either become shy and fearful or aggressive. There is a third option – he may have made no bad associations. However, why take the risk?

Okay, you have been stung by a wasp and now become freaked out whenever you see one. I decide that your fear is a bad thing and want you to love wasps. How easy will it be to then change your mind about them in the future?

Your dog goes through the fence line and gets zapped by a very painful electric shock as he notices the signal flags marking the property border. He makes the association between the intense pain and the signal flags. From now on, he will freak out at the sight of any kind of flag. (Yes, this really has happened.)

You have an electric fence and you don’t see any outward sign that there is a problem. However, a cat wanders into your yard and while your dog “respects” the electric shock fence and stays in the yard, you come home to find a dead cat. (Displaced aggression from the electric shock fence.) Your dog may start to become neurotic about weird things or become timid, fearful or aggressive. He may start to become aggressive toward the other dogs you have. He may now be fearful about leaving the property at all – even in “safe” areas. He may also become fearful of new places – especially if you use one of the “dummy” collars and leave it on all of the time. Think about it: He has a real or dummy collar on and you take him to a new location – maybe even a training class. He is now freaked because he doesn’t know where the boundaries are and is terrified of being shocked. He moves around slowly and cautiously because he doesn’t know where the “safe” places are. (Yes, this happened to one of my students.)

Associative learning is happening 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, whether we want it to or not. Add to those associations intense pain, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Okay, let’s now look at the logistical problems with electric shock fences. Notice how I don’t use the term “invisible fence?” It is too easy to forget what they actually do – shock your dog with an electric current – when one uses the generic terminology. I don’t want you to forget what this device does.

You have an electric fence. It may keep your dog within the boundaries, but does it keep out rotten kids that want to torment your dog, other dogs – good ones and “bad” ones, cats, skunks, squirrels, bears, coyotes, fox or deer? Of course not. If your dog decides to chase these things and braves the electric current running through his neck, do you really think he’ll come back and risk more electric current? I think not!

Let’s say you leave your dog outside, unattended and it starts to rain. You don’t know it is raining because you are involved with something else or you aren’t home in the first place. These collars malfunction quite often and then whammo! You now have either a dead dog or one with so much neck damage, that you are now spending thousands of dollars in vet bills. Plus you will now have a completely and utterly freaked out dog whenever it rains.

You bring your dog inside and his electric collar is still on. Your dog walks past the microwave or other such appliance. There have been cases where appliances have set the collars to shock the dogs. The dog feels intense pain as the shock rips through his neck. Voila! He is now freaked out with common appliances. Or perhaps part of the fence line is close to a room he is in and he gets zapped with an electric shock. Now he is completely freaked out because there is no safe place for him to be in.

I hope I have made my point against electric shock fencing. Below are some links for you to get some further opinions about these cruel and brutal products.

If you don’t have time to train your dog, get a stuffed animal.

Comments from Lisa G. about Invisible Fencing.

UK Parlementary Statements: Animals (Electric Shock Collars)