Invisible fencing, electronic collars and boundary training, oh my!!

Never use an electronic collar or SHOCK COLLAR on your dog! Never, never, never!

electronic collar fence boundary dog trainingWell at least that is what you find on the internet when pet owners ask questions about containment or keeping their dog from bolting out of a gate. Innocent people ask innocent questions seeking information to a problem they are having. Then well meaning, but highly opinionated people provide answers like the one above.

The problem with opinion is, it is only based on one’s experience. I am always curious when those hysterics are expressed, what actual experience does the person have with an electronic collar or successfully training dogs to honor boundaries?

I also understand the advice of installing a physical fence for making sure a dog is safely contained. You can’t beat a physical fence for containment purposes. It keeps your dog in, and other things out. That is certainly the safest scenario. But it isn’t always possible. There are residential areas that don’t allow for physical fencing.

The next solution is management. The “NEVER, take your dog out without a leash” solution. Sounds good in theory…but seriously? How many have been guilty of “I just wanted to let him out for a quick pee, and he has always comes right back…..until this time.” People are human, they make mistakes, exceptions or an oops happen from time to time. The reality is, a leash EACH and EVERY single time you take the dog out doesn’t happen in most households. Not to mention leashes break or slip from the hand on occasion. It is the “*#it happens” principle that is true in everyone’s life.

Next comes the “Train the dog” response. The “you do not need to resort to an electronic collar and shocking the dog…” answer.

Now this is where I take some contention and wonder how much experience does the adviser really have? How come using an electronic collar is equated with not training? The collar doesn’t DO anything by itself. It takes a human teaching the dog about the boundary line to create success.

Then I begin to wonder, how many dogs have they taught a rock solid recall to? How many Siberian Huskies do they have that are off leash reliable under their training belt? How many goofy labs that Love Everybody!! have they taught not to cross the street when the neighbor kids are out playing ball with their own happy go lucky pooch? If it is so easy, please show me how to do it a realistic time frame and with results that stand up to realistic day to day distractions.

Seriously…some of the answers floating around out here in cyberspace get me in a bit of a tizzy! Has anyone ever figured out what happened to common sense?

I have a fenced property. About 7 acres to be exact. But I also have an opening at the drive entrance that does not have a gate. Since the business is here, there is a need for people and service vehicles to come and go all day long. I’d love to have one of those automatic gates…but it isn’t in the budget.

I also supervise my dogs when they are out. They aren’t allowed to play unattended outside for hours at a time. If they are out, I am generally out there with them.

And I train my dogs. I do teach solid recalls, I proof with distractions plus I work and maintain the skill through the dogs lifetime. I’m not too much of a slacker.

However, I also use the electronic collar to teach my dogs that they should not cross the boundary at the driveway opening in the fence line. After a period of teaching them to stay away from that line, I then proof the training by using an aversive level on the collar (one that I would typically describe as Too High) to make sure they are aware that crossing the line is not pleasant.

In my mind the fact that my dog’s go through 2 to 3 taps on the e-collar before they understand, offsets the pain they would endure of getting hit by a car. Or the pain my family would endure by losing a dog to that highway. Been there, done that and don’t need to repeat the lesson.

The combined time of those 2 or 3 taps needed for the proofing is approximately 1.5 seconds. If that is cruel and unnecessary…well then I will stand guilt as charged. I figure I am saving my dog’s life. I figure the same thing when they flinch when they get a vaccination or when they whimper or cry when they have an ear infection and I must clean and medicate their ears. I don’t like it anymore than the next dog lover, but I believe it is my responsibility to keep my dogs safe and there are moments when a bit of discomfort  goes with that.

The picture above was the real deal. Granted I had to reset the scene to get a photo but…I was putting out the recycle bins and turned to find Diva, my 10 month old Duck Toller pup sitting right there at the boundary line. She didn’t follow me across and she didn’t sneak out to grab the ball she had dropped either. I taught her that through training, practice, rewards and the use of an electronic collar.

So my conviction remains steadfast. Investigate the source when you are seeking information to your training  questions. Are those responding with passionate pleas experienced  or not and most importantly, can they offer you a solution that fits your needs?

What has been your experience?  I don’t think using an electronic collar to proof boundary training is the horrible cruelty some make it out to be.


  • Thank you for this article. We have adopted an adult lab that had always been inside a fence. We have a great backyard and a decent front yard but no fencing. Our neighbors have several cats, and while our new pooch is never harmful, she does love to chase them and play and more than once we’ve had to retrieve her from neighboring yards with apologies. I have never used a training collar on any previous dogs I’ve owned (but I had those sweeties as pups and they were taught from the get go — I’ve met my match in our new adult dog who doesn’t quite learn as quickly). My fiancee has used a collar and we’ve had much debate on whether to purchase a training collar. This article helped me quite a bit with the decision. She is such a smart dog, I’m sure she will be just fine after a short lesson. Thanks for being honest!

  • I am planning on using the boundary collar to train my dogs not to eat another set of couches. LOL I am going to lay the boundary line around my furniture and let them get a little shock now and then when I am not at home. While at home i have taught them its not ok but its not possible to do it while at work. They are smart dogs, but i would like to think i am smarter. Its debatable.

  • I used the electronic collar and boundary fence to train my two dogs exactly where the end of their property was. Their training has been severely tested over the years by other dogs that run loose, deer, coyotes, dirt bikes, and the extremely hated four wheelers. They haven’t crossed that boundary line (we have more than an acre of yard) without permission in two years.

  • Great article–I’ve recently had multiple queries for help training where establishing a boundary was necessary and building a physical fence either wasn’t allowed or realistic for the owners.

  • Boundary, Boundary, Boundary!
    ~I am lucky enough to have a nice size back yard with a 6 ft. fence. It sure is nice to let my dogs out the back door, on their own, on these very cold, snowy days. However, I also have a nice front yard where there is no fence, where I do a lot of gardening, have a few nice shade trees and can actually let my dogs out to enjoy some different smells, scenery and maybe even a visitor or two. I can do this because I have taught my dogs the boundary lines. If they get too close to the edge or look like the may crossover, I tell them “Yard”, which is the “concept word” I have taught them using the electronic collar, with practice, praise and consistency. Mind you, I can allow any one of my 3 dogs the freedom of being “off-leash” with or without their electronic collar, in fact they can go out 100% naked, and I know they will remain safe, within the boundaries I have set, as well as come-when-called.
    ~As a side note, I have also taught my dogs (as well as client dogs) the concept “Curb”, using the electronic collar appropriately, which means “Potty” on that grassy strip (most housing developments have them) between the road and the sidewalk instead of someone’s front yard. I don’t like stepping on dog poop in my front yard, how about you?

  • Because we live in the country our dogs are never on leashes unless we go in to town. Our property is divided by what was once a quiet country road. Progress has brought more traffic and faster moving cars that rarely slow even when we stand on the side waiting to cross. The e-collar is our dogs life preserver as far as I am concerned. The dogs understand the road is something not to be crossed even as they witness the daredevil squirrels heading to the other side.

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