Invisible Fence for Dogs

Invisible Fence for Dogs: Good, Bad or Ugly?

Lots of people ask for an opinion about invisible fence for dogs and the system. 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.

Third, it is not an invisible fence 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.

Fourth, 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. 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. An invisible fence for dogs is not

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.)

 

Comments

4 comments
  • Hello,

    I hope this is an appropriate place to respond and ask a specific question.

    I have a 2.5 yr old golden/husky/chow mix. He is a great dog however he came with extreme separation anxiety issues when I adopted him at 8 weeks old. While he would not damage anything he would bark none stop if left alone for any period of time working himself into a lather. We tried citronella and it didnt work he just barked through it. We eventually went with an electric shock bark collar after much research. He became a whole new dog within days. Now when we leave he simply knows to jump on the bed and relax. I mention this because we just ran into a new problem!

    When I first adopted Bear I lived with my parents on a small farm where we had free range chickens. We immediately made sure he was trained not to chase the chickens. However he would chase other small animals, squirrels being the main offender. Last weekend though when visiting the farm he unexpectedly chased and killed two of the chickens. No one was around to witness the first attack however we were present for the second and immediately disciplined him however I am extremely afraid this behavior will continue and also could be an issue with other animals such as cats. He has had a tendency to chase cats in the past but as we do not own any our selves there has not been much opportunity to work on this.

    So after that long winded introduction I am hoping to get some advice on if anyone has ever used a shock collar to help break this sort of aggression, tips for training him to it, etc. He responded very well to the bark collar and also to an invisible fence previously however I do not want to do more damage by improperly using this tool.

    • Hi Eric,

      You have two choices in regards to how you could use the remote collar to work on this issue.
      1. Use the collar to teach a solid recall. Bear has to learn to come when called even when he is in pursuit of something.
      2. You can also use the collar to teach avoidance of the chickens. This will involve using a higher, much more aversive level of stimulation.

      In both cases you should start your training on leash/long line and I strongly suggest you find someone with e-collar training experience to help you.
      You can check our list of recommended trainers here

      Your other option of course is strict supervision and not allowing access to the chickens. Personally I think this is a less realistic choice and dogs can be relatively easily trained to have more accountability around other animals. We recently fixed a case of a cat killing husky. She had several successful kills under her belt when she started with us. After a few weeks she is now able to be off leash at the farm with the cats. It takes a bit of work and no-how but it can be done. Find a trainer who has had this type of success to help you and you should be on your way. If there is no one on our referral list or no one in your area I do offer distance training and can coach you through the process.

      good luck,
      Robin

  • You seem a little naive. I have a 200 acre stead. But neighbors 80 yards on one side. I have a 3 yr German Shepard and I’ve tried everything to teach him not to chase besides a collar or e fence. My neighbor has chickens and cats and kin have dogs they bring commonly. My pup will run over there anytime the dogs are there, he has only got there twice and just sniffed but they have lost two cats and have blamed him and one possibly could have been him the other couldn’t have but I can’t afford to have him just lay on a towel. I bike and he comes with about 10 miles total in a day but I am outside working after work and I want him to just hang out which he will unless he sees anything I just need to know if an e fence as any physical fence would have to be a minimum of 120 feet long and 5 foot as he can jump and not an eye sore and I would rather not put a fence up or spend that. But will an e fence work on a 100lb dog on a dead run?

    • I’m sorry, what part is naive?

      To summarize:
      A physical fence is the ideal solution.
      If that is not possible, an e-fence can work. But you need to TRAIN your dog to understand it. Just installing it and putting the receiver on the dog won’t do the trick.
      It is not a wise idea to leave a dog unsupervised in the yard regardless of type of fence (or lack there of)

      In addition, dog’s need training. A ROCK SOLID recall being one of the top priorities. That will stop your 100 pound dog on a dead run.
      If you are asking how I would achieve that rock solid recall…a remote training collar and a long line would be one of the tools I would use to achieve it. If your curious of how to use the tool you can check out my dvd’s as a starting point for that training.

      best regards,
      Robin

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