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How Safe is Invisible Fencing? What the Average Dog Owner May Not Know

Invisible Fence With Gate

What is an invisible fence besides a cheap way of confining your dog being pushed as safe and humane? Basically invisible fencing is a wire buried in the ground that interacts with a collar worn by a dog. When the dog approaches the perimeter of the “enclosed” area, the dog receives a shock. Some collars give a warning tone before the dog gets shocked while others do not. Some fences allow you to adjust the intensity of the shock while others may not. In theory, after a bit of training from the human, the dog will learn not to leave the yard or else he will get a shock.

Electric fences are growing in popularity. The reasons people using these or considering these fences have given me are varied with the most popular being: invisible fences are inexpensive; invisible fences are easy to install; there is no visible fence line; these fences supposedly safely and humanely confine the dog to your property. But are invisible fences all they are touted to be? How many people considering or actively using this type of fence are aware of the drawbacks? I am only highlighting the major ones that I have experienced with various clients and consults.

My first concern is the safety of the dog being confined. Is there any protection using an invisible fence? No. The invisible fence only acts on the dog wearing the special shock collar. Loose dogs, wild animals and humans will have full access to your yard and your pet. There is nothing physical to deter them from entering your property. If your property line is not clearly defined, pedestrians (especially in regions without sidewalks) may inadvertently walk into the dog’s territory. If your dog charges the perimeter at a pedestrian, it may be assumed your dog is loose and the pedestrian react one way or another. There is nothing to deter the theft of your dog. Dog thefts are a reality of life and owners must make it less attractive for someone to walk off with their pet. Not to mention the danger of illness such as rabies or injury from fight with wild or stray animals having easy access to the yard. Invisible fences offer no physical security for your dog.

How well do invisible fences confine your dog? Is it as securely as people are led to believe? Invisible fences may not confine your dog at all after time. I am amazed at how many dogs learn to ignore the shock. I love going to a house and being told “Bongo never crosses the fence line” as the dog dashes into the street to greet me, crossing the fence line and ignoring the shock collar. Many owners remove the collar once they feel the dog is trained so there is no more shock. But many dogs learn that once collar is off, nothing is holding them back.

I have watched dogs of clients slowly test the fence and show signs of building up their tolerance levels to the collar. Once a dog builds up a tolerance to the shock, there is nothing holding him in the yard. Fast moving objects can excite the drive to chase, pedestrians or animals close to the property line may bring out the natural urge protect their property. A dog excited to greet someone may cross the line forgetting the shock will happen. A dog that gets spooked by something may accidentally bolt through the fence line. Then what happens if the dog refuses to reenter the yard as the collar warns a shock will come? Dogs will tempt.

Dogs are dogs and cannot be relied upon to remember 100% of the time that they will be shocked if they cross the line. Finally, if you lose power, forget to change the batteries in the collar, some little critter chews through the line or the line just wears out due to elements, you lose your fence. Even dogs that have been maintained “reliably for years” with an invisible fence may decide to escape it one day. You may not realize your dog has learned to tolerate the shock or that the fence is inoperable or you have a dog that just does not care about the fence until tragedy occurs.

Finally, invisible fences are indiscriminant punishers and can lead to behavioral issues not readily apparent to the owner. Some of these issues may take time to develop. What is an indiscriminant punisher? Regardless of the action or intent of the dog, he will get a physical and sometimes painful correction from the collar. The dog gets punished all the time no matter what he is thinking or doing. Invisible fencing works through an adverse correction to the dog approaching the line: come too close and get hurt to some degree. To a dog, when a correction occurs it is for the action he is doing at the time of the punishment.

This is why trainers insist on never calling a dog and then punishing it. In your mind you may be punishing for chewing your shoes. However, in the dog’s mind punishment is for the action he was doing when he gets punished: coming when called. What if the dog was headed to happily greet the neighbor and then gets zapped? In his mind is he being zapped for approaching the perimeter or for greeting a human? We do not know. What if the starts to associate greeting happily with a zap – a negative? He can start to associate being friendly with negative. What if the dog is approaching the perimeter because he perceives a threat on the other side? He then gets zapped. In his mind the zap could be associated with the perceived threat. This can increase his threat level making him more likely to react.

If the dog associates the zap with his actions at the time, there is a chance he may stop giving warning as he approaches the perimeter. Now you have a dog that gives no warning signs before reacting. This is a very dangerous animal, as humans have no way of knowing its intent through body language. An invisible fence is indiscriminant in when it punishes and does not learn how to manage a dog humanely: it just responds to the proximity of the electric collar. I have worked with dogs that have developed fears of being on grass because they associated the shock with grass. Now these dogs are having issues as they refuse to potty on grass and are using decks, patios and even indoors as their potty spots.

Lastly, how cheap are these fences? Veterinary bills and/or a lawsuit can be far more costly than a good, barrier fence or secure dog kennel. Is the lack of security an electric fence provides worth saving a few bucks? Is it worth risking the chance that your dog may be the one to develop behavioral issues? It is far easier to work to prevent undesired behaviors than fix them later on.

In 22 plus years of working with dogs, I do not feel that invisible fences are a safe, humane or fair method of primary confinement for dogs. This type of fencing offers no protection to the dog and minimal protection from the dog to the general public. There are also behavioral issues that can arise through the use of these fences. Sadly, until one has been employed, there is no way of knowing how the dog will react over time to the fence. The safest form of confining dog to the property for its own protection and mental well-being as well as the protection of others is a good, physical, barrier fence.

Karen Peak

by Karen Peak
View Biography

Posted:  Just One More Pet

Just One More Pet concurs with this opinion. Invisible fences are not a safe, humane, fair or loving method of primary confinement for dogs.

The pet products industry and the “me generation” have developed and allowed for products that less than acceptable.  Anything that produces pain for your pet or unreasonable confinement or even unreasonable rules verges on bad pet parenting and being inhumane even if it isn’t against the law.

Most pet parents are loving guardians.  But many have been swept into the thought realm that if something works or makes it easier for them; its okay.  And that is just not the case.

We need to go back to using common sense plus treating pets as we would want to be treated. JOMP believes that is you would not be willing to use, do or go without something… a product or technique on your children or on yourself, it is not acceptable to do or use with or on your pets/animals!

Included on that list (but not exclusive to it) are:

electric or invisible fencing

all shock collars (which have caused death and permanent damage to many pets)

cages or carriers to restrict pets for anything but travelling or short periods (confining your pet in a carrier for hours while you are gone or while you sleep is inhumane)

any collars and training apparatus using spikes

Again, we need to go back to using common sense plus treating pets as we would want to be treated. If you would not be willing to use, do or go without something… a product or technique on your children or on yourself, it is not acceptable to do or use with or on your pets/animals!

Pets like children make messes and make mistakes sometimes… it is life.  Pets/animals like children create extra work in your life.  And like with children, if you have pets and animals your house and yard won’t (and shouldn’t look or be perfect), will sometimes be messy and sometimes even sustain some damage or need repairs.  Again that is life with other being and creatures. If you can not relax and live with that… perhaps you should not have children, pets or animals of any time.

The exchange for the extra work and some messes for you and mistakes by them is love, companionship and joy.  Everything in life is a trade off.  Ask Marion/JOMP~

Girl unsuspectingly walks through invisible fence line while holding neighbors electric dog collar”

Looks real humane, fair and loving doesn’t it?? – Video

Posted:  Just One More Pet

Related Posts:

‘Dogs Have The Intelligence of a Human Toddler’

GoD and DoG

October 22, 2009 Posted by | animal abuse, animal behavior, Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Just One More Pet, Pet and Animal Training, Pet Friendship and Love, pet products, Pets, responsible pet ownership, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pets Left Home Alone – With Anxiety

If Bowser becomes a weapon of mass destruction when home alone, the cause could simply be boredom, anxiety, or fear. To counter the boredom factor, be sure he has plenty of toys to chew, pull, and toss. Help him relax by leaving the radio or TV on at low volume while you’re out. Soothing music and the sound of voices comforts a lonely pooch and may be enough to ease his anxiety. Finally, come and go calmly. If you don’t make a big fuss of your departure and return, he might not, either… DogAge Tip

Leaving your pup in a crate (or cage) for regularly or for extended periods of time is also not the answer.  There is a growing movement against cage or crate training for the purpose of housing your dog regularly or for extended periods of time. Initial crate training to get pups used to a crate or carrier for travel or visitation situations, for their safety, or to give them a comfortable place to retreat to, on their own, but with the door unlocked, should be the goal; not for regular housing.  Recent studies and common sense have shown that regular and extensive cage confinement can cause aggression, nervousness, and increase barking when your pet is finally out of their cage and can cause or exasserbate bladder and kidney problems in future years.

 If you have left your dog caged regularly or for extended periods of time, it will probably take them awhile to calm down and adjust to being out and home alone.  So there may be some incidents of chewing or extended barking; TV or music may help that.

If your dog is very destructive, professional training is suggested.  Other options are confining them to a kitchen or service porch area, with their cage accessable but left open, but where they can walk around and access their food, water and a piddle pad or doggie door if needed.  Soothing music, a small TV on the counter and toys, as well as hiring a dog walker, always help!

Be a responsible and sensitive pet parent.  Crate training and regular confinement has been promoted by pet store owners and crate manufacturers to entice people to purchase pets while requiring minimal effort or adustment and sacrifice on their part, upping pet sales as well as the sale of crates and other related products.  It is not in the best interest of the pet.  It is in the best interest of the owner.

Animals, like children, add love and companionship to our lives, but require a certain amount of adjustment and sacrifice.  Clean and perfect homes and houses become a thing of the past; a small price for best friend.  All relationships require compromise and adjustment if they are to be successful and mutually fulfilling… with pets as well as with humans.

November 7, 2008 Posted by | Animal Rights And Awareness, Just One More Pet, Pets, Stop Animal Cruelty, Success Stories | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Shock Collars, Crate Training, And Needing To Control

Sharing a comment left on one of the pet sites I/we belong to…

Putting a shock collar on a dog is THE MOST OFFENSIVE, NASTY, HORRIBLE thing you can do to your ‘best friend’, or, as I think of my dogs, your child.  I am ashamed to say, that in trying to make my second marriage work, I let my ex put shock collars on my dogs to keep them off the sofa and loveseat.  It will haunt me for the rest of my life. 

My older dog, Joey, is very intellegent.  The first shock from the collar and he knew……..stay away from the living room furniture.  My younger Lab mix is not exceptionally smart…….has a HUGE heart and is loving and loyal, happy and exuberant, and is the most compassionate dog I have ever had.  She did not understand the shock collar.  She freeked out.  Cut her head on the glass coffee table and learned only after SEVERAL shocks that the furniture was off limits. 

Today, the sofa is THEIRS.  I get the recliner……because the sofa is always ‘full’ of my ‘sofa loafers’.  The ex went the way of the garbage… OUT ON THE STREET, where he belongs.   Shortly after I kicked the ‘dog hater’ to the curb, my son tested the shock collar on his arm………………….needless to say, he was suprised to find out that it’s not just a ‘little zap’……..IT HURTS………ALOT!!!  If you EVER think that this device is not a painful, torturing, frightening training device you are wrong…………don’t ever do it.  Your conscious wil come back to haunt you.

And I don’t feel much different about locking your dog in a cage either.  These creatures are your best friends.   Is this how you would want to be treated??  Perhaps it is time to watch the origianl Planet of the Apes, again?!?

So what if your house or yard isn’t perfect?  So what if your dog barks a bit.  So what if you have to clean up some messes and do a few repairs.  That is what parenting is all about.   And in general, they will actually be better if you don’t cofine them and shock them, but instead smother them with love!!

These ideas and methods like shock collars, crate training, etc etc were created by people, who probably shouldn’t have pets, for their own convenience or ease or because they live in areas not friendly to pets and animals.  How would you like to be shocked when you tried to speak out of turn or express yourself or have to sit in a tiny cage all without being able to relieve yourself… so someone who supposedly loves you has it easier or doesn’t need to clean up a mess??  Think about it, isn’t being home all day alone, especially in an apartment or condo punishment enough??  And, a little mess is good for the soul!!  

Just because it is done… or someone calling themselves an expert says it is okay… doesn’t make it so!!!

September 26, 2008 Posted by | Just One More Pet, Pet Abuse, Pets, Stop Animal Cruelty | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Crate “Training” – Blessing or Abuse??

To Crate Train or Not To Crate Train…That Is The Question~

You may think that putting your pet in a crate is mean or inhumane and that it might cause your pet to resent you or to develop some type of psychological damage, keeping in mind that dogs view the world somewhat differently than humans. Or you may think it sounds practical.  But either way crate training is a commonly suggested training method, so something to be given a thought for many.  Yet no matter what your choice, leaving your dog in a crate for extended periods of time or daily is inadvisable, and you should keep the words ‘training’ and ‘temporary confinement’ in mind, if crate training is your choice.

A dog crate is a cage usually made of wire or molded plastic whose purpose is to provide confinement for reasons of security, safety, housebreaking, protection of household goods, travel or illness. And your dog sees the crate as a room of his very own – a “safety zone”, if used correctly. The crate can help to satisfy the “den instinct” inherited from when his ancestors and relatives were den-dwellers. Most pets will feel secure, not frustrated once accustomed to his crate. Your pet wants to please you and you want to enjoy him. The crate can help you in achieving a better relationship with your pet by preventing unwanted behavior when you aren’t available to supervise him.

The positives with the help of a crate are:

  • You can enjoy peace of mind when having to leave your puppy or young dog alone, knowing that nothing can be soiled or destroyed and that he is comfortable, safe, and not developing bad habits.
  • You can housebreak your pet more quickly by using the close confinement to motivate your pet to wait until taken outside, since canines naturally avoid soiling their den.
  • You can travel with your pet without risk of the the dog getting loose and becoming lost or interfering with safe driving.
  • Your dog can enjoy the security and privacy of den of his own to which he can retreat when tired or stressed.
  • Your dog can avoid much of the fear and confusion caused by your reaction to problem behavior.
  • Since he can more easily adapt to staying in unfamiliar places as long as he has his familiar “safety zone” along, your pet can be included in family outings, instead of being left behind alone.

The negatives of using a crate are:

  • Too Much Time In The Crate… A crate isn’t a magical solution. If not used correctly, a dog can feel trapped and frustrated, so other arrangements should be made to meet his physical and emotional needs. Pets can’t and shouldn’t be expected to control their bladders and bowels for extended periods of time.
  • Whining. If your dog whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be difficult to decide whether he’s whining for attention and to be let out of the crate, or whether he needs to be let outside to eliminate. If you’ve followed the proper training procedures, then your dog hasn’t been rewarded for whining in the past by being released from his crate. So, if that is the case your dog is just testing you and he’ll probably stop whining soon. Yelling at him or pounding on the crate will only make things worse, because that is a form of attention, so just try ignoring him again. But if the whining continues after you’ve ignored him again for several minutes, use the phrase he associates with going outside to eliminate. If he responds and becomes excited, take him outside. And, this should be a trip with a purpose, not play time. If you’re then convinced that your dog doesn’t need to eliminate, the best response is to ignore him until he stops whining. Don’t give in (within reason); if you do, you’ll teach your dog to whine loud and long to get what he wants. If you’ve progressed gradually through the training steps and haven’t done too much too fast, you’ll be less likely to encounter this problem. If the problem becomes unmanageable, you may need to start the crate training process over again.
  • Using A Crate For Separation Anxiety. Attempting to use the crate as a remedy for separation anxiety won’t solve the problem. Separation anxiety problems can only be resolved with counter-conditioning and desensitization procedures. A crate may prevent your dog from being destructive, but he could actually injure himself attempting to escape from the crate. You may want to consult a professional animal-behavior specialist for help rather than try the crate to solve this problem.

Dogs are social animals. Place the crate in an area where the family spends a lot of time – kitchen. family room, etc. The top of the crate can serve as extra shelf or table space. At night, move your puppy’s crate into your bedroom so you can hear him if he needs to go out.

A young puppy should have no problem accepting the crate as his place. When you first bring a puppy home, crying is caused, not by the crate, but by adjusting to an unfamiliar household or being newly separated from his mother. Do not reward barking or whining with attention! If you are sure he doesn’t need to eliminate, ignore him until he is quiet, then praise him or take him out of the crate. Do not leave meals in the crate or feed your puppy immediately prior to confining him. Most puppies will spill water left in the crate. Do leave a safe chew toy in the crate for your pet. Close your pet in the crate whenever he must be left alone or can’t be closely supervised by a responsible person.

Never crate your pet longer than you know he can wait to eliminate, and definitely less than 4 hour intervals during the day. If you occasionally must be gone longer than this, place the crate with the door open in an enclosed area such as a bathroom or laundry room, or kitchen area. Place newspapers on the floor of the room to facilitate clean-up. Your puppy should soon stop eliminating overnight and then may be crated in his regular place.

Crate training puppies over 6-months old may be more difficult. Therefore the dog’s first association with the crate should be pleasant. And there are some animals (usually adults) that can or will not tolerate this form of confinement. A few will show no desire to keep the crate clean. Be sensitive to you pet’s needs!!

Crates can be purchased at pet stores, department stores, and from pet supply catalogs, some stores even have used crates for sale that they have taken in trade. Look for a wire crate that includes a removable metal floor pan. Plastic crates can also be used, although some dogs will chew the plastic and it is much more confining for your pet (unless it is only used for traveling).

Also, look for one with a smooth floor for your pet’s comfort and line the bottom with a comfortable pad, once they are house potty trained. Purchase crate large enough for your pet to stretch out on its side and to sit or stand erect. If you have a puppy, it is more economical to buy a wire crate that will accommodate him as an adult, then partition it to the right size. A movable wire or pegboard partition can be made or purchased. Too large a crate can undermine housebreaking because your pet may eliminate at one end of the crate and lie down at the other. For bedding, use an old blanket or buy a washable crate pad. Depending on size and construction, a new crate may cost $45 – $180. This is a bargain compared to the cost of replacing a sofa, woodwork, or carpeting. But the ultimate goal is to use the crate for travel, special need times, and an available spot for your pet to voluntarily retreat to; not as an every day area of confinement. And a few chewed base boards or carpet corners are sometimes the trade-off for having a completely loyal best friend, just like a few scratches in the furniture and spill marks on the carpet are the trade off of small human additions to your family. When you are old it is their love that you will remember, not the small messes and inconveniences.

Use a crate for your pet, if needed and if it works for them, but don’t abuse its use.

  1. Children should be taught that the crate is a special room for the pet and that they should not pester the dog or puppy when it is in the crate or use the crate as a playhouse.
  2. The use of a dog crate is NOT RECOMMENDED for a dog regularly left alone all day, although some individual animals can tolerate it. If it is attempted:
    • The pet must be well exercised before and after crating.
    • The crate must be equipped with a heavy, non-tip dish of water.
    • Your pet should get lots of attention and complete freedom each night.
  3. If you do not have time to take a puppy or dog outside to eliminate and exercise as recommended here, you should reconsider getting a dog as a pet, or at least hiring a dog walker. Crate or no crate, any dog consistently denied the attention and companionship it craves, may still find ways to express bored anxiety, and stress, and regular confinement for long periods of time actually cause stress, anxiety and even aggression in your dog.
  4. Always ask yourself… Is my choice, for using the crate or other decisions, for my convenience or for the well-being of my friend?

I myself am not an advocate of crate training, but it is a viable tool if used correctly. But if used incorrectly, it can be abusive.

Sources: Humane Society articles and Wikipedia

A Cute Photo From CuteOverload

Two species getting along great in their crate!

August 17, 2008 Posted by | Just One More Pet, Pet Abuse, Pets | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments