Invisible fence for dogs: Good, Bad or Ugly?
Lots of people ask for an opinion about invisible fence systems. Do they work, are they necessary, will they make a dog aggressive?
If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you are already familiar with my general stance that it is never so much about the tool as it is about the person doing the training. As the old saying goes “It’s the fool, not the tool.”
Perhaps you’ve heard that electronic containment is cruel or it will make a dog aggressive. Some may insist that a physical fence is the only acceptable solution.
I tend to be a realist, basing opinion on what I see and experience rather than bending to the hype of what I hear others say. Reality is there are many residential locations that have codes against fencing or if they allow it, the regulations favor appearance over functionality of keeping a pet contained. My guess is this is how invisible fencing got so popular in the first place. It answered a need in the marketplace for owners with limited options but major concerns over a pet’s safety.
If given a choice, I also lean toward a well constructed physical fence. It is undoubtedly the most secure plus does the best job of keeping unwanted visitors out of the yard as well. However, when that isn’t an option I have no problem with electronic fencing. I understand people wanting the added security it can provide.
But here’s the hitch and what I do take issue with:
First, it has to be trained properly like anything else. There is no magic with any tool used in training a dog. They all take time and committed effort. Installing an e-fence and then just letting the dog self discover the boundary line is completely unfair and pretty much a recipe for having a dog who is afraid to go out into the yard. Equally inhumane is dragging the dog into the line to ” show him”. Instead, take a few weeks to teach the dog what the flags mean and how to withdraw safely when the warning tone goes off. THEN after those weeks of early training proof the process by supervised, set up situations that teach the dog about the consequences of various choices.
Secondly, my biggest frustration with any fence is people using it as an excuse not to provide enough attention to the dog. I don’t care if it is e-fence, 8 foot high chain link or the most beautifully constructed solid fence on the market. IF you allow your dog lots of unsupervised hours in the yard, don’t be surprised if behavior problems start up.
It is not e-fencing causing aggression. It is territorial or barrier frustration that is not addressed and dealt with effectively. Either of those issues will escalate into an aggressive response. There may be those who want to scapegoat e-fence but once we admit that the root cause is not the type of containment we can get busy working on the real problem…encouraging dog owners to spend focused, meaningful time with their dog rather than leaving them unattended outside for hours on end.
The recipe is pretty simple. Time well spent exercises the body and the brain, thereby reducing pent up energy and frustration, which in turn eliminates or greatly reduces most behavior issues.
The “space myth” may be one of the most frequently touted beliefs about dog behavior. The idea that somehow enough yard space ought to solve any problem…statements like: “..BUT we have a BIG yard for him to enjoy.” or ” she just needs more room to run.” make me cringe. Seriously, when is the last time you saw a dog lounging in the hammock reading a book or spinning around a 2 acre parcel working vigorously through a well designed exercise routine?
It just doesn’t work that way. Healthy, energetic dog’s left to their own devices are going to do things that most of us disapprove of. That list of behaviors includes barking, digging, lunging, chasing, and chewing. Unattended dogs are likely to do these things whether they have a big yard or not. The square footage is far less relevant than the quality of the time the pooch actually spends in that yard.
So regardless of what type of fencing (or no fencing at all) here’s what I’d like you to remember:
* You need to walk your dog. Daily if possible or at least multiple times/week. Walks include some part of it structured time, walking nicely beside you on a loose leash or off, but not just aimlessly dragging you here and there sniffing everything and peeing at each opportunity.
*If you have a big yard, that’s great, but use it WITH the dog! It can be simple stuff like fetch or frisbee, or more creative with some agility options like jumps or tunnels. Just 20 minutes a day spent with your dog doing those activities will go a long way toward preventing behavior problems, including aggression.
* Don’t leave your dog out in the yard for long, unsupervised periods of time. It’s fine for him to go out to potty or lay under the tree if he’s already been exercised, but putting a dog in the yard for hours while you leave the premises or attend to lots of activity inside is a bad idea so just axe that one from the repertoire.
* If your in the yard doing small tasks (weeding a garden, reading a book) multi -task your time and teach your dog to stay laying on a towel or blanket nearby. Your dog will actually be learning a valuable skill while exercising his brain.
So that’s my view on it. As long as you’re not using your yard as the daily babysitter, I really don’t care that much what type of containment system you chose.
What do you think? It doesn’t sound that difficult does it? I mean gee whiz, otherwise what did you get the dog for? (and please don’t tell me “to play with the kids”…we all know how quickly kids get bored with anything they’ve had for more than 2 weeks.)