You have a large yard that would cost more then you have to fence entirely or your neighborhood is a ‘fence-free zone’ and you are not allowed to build a fence. Maybe you have a fenced in area or kennel for you dog but would like to know that he is safe and secure when the two of you are working in the rest of the yard. Whatever the reason, it is time to find out whether an electric fence is the solution for you and your dog.
What is an Electric Dog Fence and How does It Work?
There are two main parts to an electric dog fence: an underground wire that runs the length of the fenced area and a receiver worn on a collar by your dog. Once installed, your dog is trained to stay within the confines of the invisible fencing system. As your dog approaches the underground fence, a warning beep will sound on the collar, alerting your dog that they are approaching the edge of their ‘yard’. If they continue to approach, a mild electric shock or static is given that intensifies with proximity. This is called ‘operant conditioning’.
Different systems may vary on how the collar warns the dog of the impending fence but most work on both an audible and electric shock system.
Pros of Electric Dog Fences
There are many pros to installing an electric fence:
- Cost Effective – an electric dog fence costs far less then a typical fence
- Aesthetics – electric dog fences are invisible so do not mar the design of your yard and/or garden
- Safekeeping – electric dog fences can be used to keep dogs out of an area as well such as around a pool or garden
- Zoning laws – electric dog fences are an excellent way of containing a dog in a ‘no fence zone’
Electric dog fences have many uses and are effective solutions in many situations.
Cons of Electric Dog Fences
Although there are many reasons why an electric dog fence may work well in your situation, before installing, there are several negatives to them you should be aware of:
- Safety – electric dog fences do not stop other dogs or intruders from entering your yard.
- Sensitivity – some dogs are more resistant and do not care if they are shocked. The odd dog will learn that if they run fast enough through the electric dog fence, the shock will soon go away. This means not only are they escaping the yard, but doing so at a full out run – not a great solution if they are running into the street!
- Disincentive – once the dog has escaped the yard, the shocks transmitted by the electric dog fence will actually keep the dog from returning.
- Ethics – many people are against the use of electric dog fences as they feel the electric shock is inhumane even though the shock is mild and does not cause injury. This is a moral decision each person has to make on his or her own.
Using Electric Dog Fences as a Containment Solution
Installation is a simple although time-consuming and physical task. If you do not feel like you are up to it, there are companies that professionally install electric dog fences and train both you and your dog to live in harmony with the fence.
Once installed, the next step is training the dog . This is the most important step as the fence is only as good as the training the owner and dog undertook to learn how to use the fence. If you do not want to work with your dog, it is better to opt for a proper, above ground fence no matter what the cost.
The basic training steps are as follows but always read the instruction manual that comes with the fence.
Most electric dog fences come with flags that stick into the ground above the wire to physically show the dog where the fence line lies. Make sure these are installed as accurately as possible. Next, you do not want the collar to shock your dog to begin with so if you can, turn this feature off or wrap the prongs with masking tape. You do want the collar to beep so turning it off does not work for this step.
Put your dog on a long leash and allow them to wander around the lawn. When they approach the flags, the audible ‘beep’ will sound. At this point, pull on the leash and say ‘no, Fido, no!’ in a forceful voice. You want them to retreat quickly from this part of the yard so move swiftly and encourage them to come towards you. Once the dog is back in the ‘safe zone’, praise them enthusiastically. Repeat this several times each session (sessions should be done several times a day for a week).
In this step, remove the masking tape or turn the shock feature back on. It is normal to want to set the intensity of the shock low to introduce them gradually to the collar. It actually works better to do the opposite. If you turn it up high, it will only take a few times to teach them to avoid the flags whereas if it is only a mild shock, they will not learn to avoid the area entirely.
Keep the dog on a long line and allow them to wander. You never want to encourage them over the line so you must wait until they get near on their own accord. If the warning beeps sound and they respond as you have trained them so far, they may not feel the shock. Be patient. Eventually they will step close enough to feel the shock. Once that happens, pull the dog back into the safe area while saying ‘no, Fido, no’ again. When they are back in the safe zone, praise them lavishly and let them know they are wonderful.
Repeat these steps several times until he no longer steps over the boundary.
Once he knows the consequence of stepping over the boundary, try using distractions. Throw a ball or toy over the boundary and see what he does. Have a friend walk their dog along the road and see how your dog reacts. Walk over the boundary yourself and see if he follows. If he stays on the safe side of the electric dog fence, you are pretty close to fully training your dog to stay inside the safe zone.
Play with your dog in the yard and begin to leave him for a few minutes at a time in the yard on his own. Always try to do this where you can keep an eye on him and make sure he does not get himself into trouble.
Electric dog fences are not for everyone or every situation. If you have questions or concerns, speak to your vet, trainer, or call one of the companies that produce the fences for more information.
Electric dog fences can be a simple and easy solution but it is up to you to decide whether or not it is the solution you are looking for in your yard.