Features December 2017 Issue

Do Electric Shock Collars Harm Dogs?

Yes. Animal behavior experts agree that it’s wise to protect your dog from unintended negative consequences caused by electric shock systems by simply not using them.

Do you use an underground electric shock fence to contain your dog? Are you considering having one installed? I hope reading this will change your mind.

More and more neighborhoods prohibit or limit the useof fencing, and as this occurs, the use of these non-visible electric shock perimeters has drastically increased. Manufacturers and retailers claim that these products are humane, effective means by which to safely confine dogs without disrupting the aesthetics of neighborhoods. Companies that sell these products generally target families who:

  • Live on larger pieces of land
  • Don’t want to lose their “view”
  • Are looking for a cheaper alternative to fencing,
  • Live in neighborhoods that prohibit fences or require expensive, decorative styles

dog with shock and prong collar

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Trainers and owners who have had to deal with the behavioral adverse side effects of being shocked on their own property tend to feel very strongly that these products should never be used.

Modern dog behavior specialists generally agree that these products are neither safe nor humane for dogs or humans. Many dog training and behavior professionals have concluded that these products are the source of many fear-based behaviors, including aggression, and are only as effective as the pain and fear they inflict upon the dogs who live behind them.

How Do Electric Shock Collars Work?

A non-visible electric-shock perimeter consists of three components: a cable, a transmitter, and a pronged collar.

The cable is buried beneath the ground, surrounding the area in which the dog is to be confined, or from which he is prohibited to enter. Usually, the location of the buried cable is initially marked with a series of flags inserted into the ground in a line.

The transmitter, installed near the buried cable, broadcasts radio signals that travel the length of the cable.

The dog’s tightly fitted collar contains a small radio receiver, which receives signals from the transmitter when the dog (and receiver) get within a specified distance from the buried cable. The dog’s skin completes an electrical circuit, allowing the prongs, typically half an inch or more in length, to conduct electricity. When the dog steps near, over, or beyond the buried cable, he receives an electrical shock.

How Are Dogs Trained with Shock Collars?

Traditionally, a dog is allowed to wander into (or is actually encouraged to walk into) the boundary area – the “shock zone” – in order to receive an electric shock. The unit on the dog’s collar makes a beeping sound just before the dog enters the shock zone. This is repeated until the dog clearly indicates that he doesn’t want to enter the shock zone (and thus leave the yard), often by freezing, dropping to the ground, pacing and whining, etc. The dog may also yelp, panic, or try to bite.

electric shock collar

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The handler increases the intensity of the shock if the dog does not exhibit overt avoidance-type behaviors. Eventually, the dog associates the sound of the beep with the physical sensation of the shock. The beep is now a signal that warns the dog of the impending shock, and most dogs learn to stop their forward movement when they hear the beep.

Instead of shocking the dog, some handlers walk the dog on leash near the perimeter flags, jerking him away when the beep sounds. After several repetitions, the dog may avoid the flags because, in his mind, flags and beeps cause annoying or painful leash-jerks. If the handler excludes the beep during training, she negates its function: to provide a warning to the dog.

Some handlers may use food or play to encourage their dog to remain in the safe areas of the yard. However, without some sort of painful stimuli being paired with the flags or the shock, at some point the dog is bound to attempt to leave the yard and will be shocked.

Some owners are instructed to simply put the collar on their dog and let him into the yard, allowing him to enter the “shock zone” on his own. Families are falsely assured that this will prevent the development of problematic behaviors because they’ve made no attempt to warn the dog about the shock; it occurs “naturally.”

Once the owner thinks that the dog has been successfully trained to stay in the unfenced yard, the flags are gradually removed, one or two flags at a time, until none remain.

Problems Related to Shock Collars

Adverse Side Effects

The following are signs that a dog is experiencing harmful side effects of a non-visible electric-shock perimeter:

• Pacing back and forth along property lines

• Cowering or running from neighbors or passersby

• Conversely, chasing cars, bicycles, animals, passersby, etc.

• Regression in potty training

• Hesitating or refusing to venture far from the house

• Refusing to leave the house

• Refusing to leave the yard for walks

• Excessive barking and jumping toward people or other pets, especially as they enter or exit the property

• Lying in the middle of the driveway or under or behind vehicles when people try to enter or exit the property

• Refusing to enter or play in certain parts of the yard

• Developing a fear of getting into the car or leaving the property inside of a vehicle

Dangerous behaviors may appear quickly, or may not appear for a year or more following initial training to the system:

• Aggressing toward neighbors, passersby, vehicles, etc.

• Aggressing toward people leaving by foot (examples: children getting on the school bus; owner walking to the mail box)

• Nipping or biting children, especially when playing outside

• Attacking other pets or people who are close to the dog, especially in the presence of passersby

• Attacking someone or another animal upon exiting the yard, or a person or animal who enters the yard

Many (if not most) of my training colleagues have been consulted by owners of dogs who developed serious behavior problems (such as the ones that appear in the list above) not long after a shock-collar boundary was introduced to their habitat. In many cases, the dogs’ owners were mystified. How and why did this happen?

Dogs are motivated by what works for them. They gravitate toward safety and avoid danger. Non-visible shock perimeters take advantage of the dog’s survival instinct: what lies beyond the yard harms (shocks) them, so the dogs try to protect themselves.

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Many of the problematic behaviors related to these products are caused by the initial training process. Others are a result of the constant threat of being shocked, similar to a dog who, after being swatted with a newspaper several times, may become frightened of newspapers in general; if his just owner picks up or touches one the dog stops whatever he’s doing because newspapers are dangerous.

Some dogs are willing to suffer the shock to investigate something outside of their yards. Some may not even notice the shock because they are so highly aroused. These dogs may also develop unsafe behaviors. Boredom may be the culprit for dogs in the first category, and over time they may become desensitized to the shock. This does not mean that the dog has forgotten about the shock – the threat is still there, but the shock has become irrelevant in some situations.

Dogs in the second category tend to be high-energy, highly motivated working breeds, although any breed of any size or age may break through a non-visible shock perimeter, especially if highly aroused. When stress-hormones levels spike, the dog essentially “turns off” to everything else, and his body does not perceive a signal from the brain when he is shocked.

More Arguments Against Shock Perimeters

Here are other drawbacks associated with these systems:

  • Dogs often associate the shock with things that are present or nearby when he’s been shocked, like other animals, family members, or yard decorations, and can react badly to them as a result.
  • Collars can short out when they get wet, increasing the risk of malfunction and injury.
  • Collar malfunctions can lead to constant shocking or none at all.
  • Dogs may get stuck in the shock zone, unable to move, causing intensified, long-lasting pain, increasing the likelihood of injury and a bite to anyone who may reach to pull them out.
Electronic devices on the same frequency (such as garage-door openers) can trigger random shocks.
  • Manufacturers instruct that collars be worn for no more than 10 to 12 hours at a time, but many product trainers advise that dogs wear them constantly, claiming this prevents the development of adverse effects.
  • Dogs may need regular retraining.
  • Dogs who leave the yard often don’t return, even if the collar is removed.
  • The signal only goes to a certain height, and some dogs learn to jump higher and/or will walk out if snow piles up.
  • Dogs may run from the yard in panic during storms, fireworks, when gunshots are heard, etc.
  • An owner may be liable for any injuries or damages, including medical and veterinary bills, counseling and behavior modification, or property damage associated with events resulting from the dog leaving the yard.
  • Homeowner Associations which prohibit fences and other outdoor confinement may be responsible for injuries, deaths or damages caused by a loose dog, and/or injury or death of a loose dog, particularly those which require dog owners to use these products.
  • Many breeders, shelters, and rescues will not place dogs in homes where these products are used.
  • Dogs in multi-dog families may feel the shock at different intensities.

Deception in Electric Perimeter Advertising

Marketing professionals sell their clients’ products by invoking pleasant emotions about the product being presented to the consumer. To achieve this, they sometimes take liberties with facts by skewing them to achieve these ends, incorrectly redefining words like “fence” and “safe,” and taking advantage of individuals’ personal interpretations of the word “humane.”

For a better understanding of how marketing can lead well-meaning families astray, here are the actual definitions of some of the words being used to describe these products.

Fence: A barrier enclosing or bordering a field, yard, etc., usually made of posts and wire or wood, used to prevent entrance, to confine, or to mark a boundary; a means of protection.

Safe: Free from harm; not able or likely to be lost, taken away, or given away; not causing harm or injury, especially having a low incidence of adverse reactions and significant side effects when adequate instructions for use are given; having a low potential for harm under conditions of widespread availability.

Humane: Inflicting as little pain as possible, not cruel, acting in a manner that causes the least harm to people or animals.

Shock Collar Conclusions

Given the ample anecdotal and scientific evidence, it’s clear that electric-shock perimeters have detrimental effects that can cause moderate to severe behavioral and physiological problems in dogs, and also pose a threat to the communities in which they are used.

Frankly, if it’s not visible, it isn’t a fence. If something that is marketed as a protective product works by purposely inflicting pain and/or fear on the subject it’s supposed to protect, it’s neither safe nor humane.

What does this mean for dogs and their families? Simply put, a visible, physical barrier always trumps the absence of a physical barrier, especially when the product in question is so widely known to yield such an abundance of harmful side effects.

Lauri Bowen-Vaccare, owner of Believe In Dog, LLC, is a member of the Pet Professional Guild. Her specialties include reactivity, resource guarding, bringing outside dogs in, outside dogs, and transitioning to a new home.

Comments (28)

And a further point to my last post - we were away on holiday this summer in a dog-friendly, rural cottage, but it had insecure boundaries with a farm next door and a quiet but fast road nearby. We took some of the white flags used to train our dog to the underground fence 18 months previously, and placed them along the insecure parts of the boundary. Even without the collar and the fence, she immediately remembered the white flags mean 'don't cross' and stayed and played happily in the large garden, and we could all enjoy the holiday without fear of her chasing farm animals or getting run over.

Posted by: Vivienne doglover | December 10, 2017 11:21 AM    Report this comment

Our JRT cross is an escape artist and loves to follow walkers ad other dogs. Our garden is impossible to secure being on a steep hillside with boggy areas that can't be fenced. An electric fence/collar was our only option after rescuing our dog from main roads and losing her for hours on end. She learned very quickly and has probably only received 3 or 4 gentle shocks ever. I tried it on myself and they really don't hurt. Now she knows her boundaries she doesn't need the collar and has complete freedom in our large garden, and we have peace of mind. She is gentle and loving and shows no aggression or fear. Used correctly, I think electric dog containment can be highly beneficial to dog and owner.

Posted by: Vivienne doglover | December 10, 2017 11:10 AM    Report this comment

I don't think electric fences and collars should be lumped together. I agree that electric fences are pretty awful. I rescued a dog so afraid of her yard's perimeter that I had to carry her over where the fence was installed, and she subsequently almost jumped out of a second-story window when my smoke alarm went off. It was awful, and I would never have one.

So-called "shock" collars, however, are different in my opinion. I have 2 intact male Vizslas from very strong field lines and have discovered that even an off-lead run can be a safety issue with such strong prey drives. After having a private lesson with my dog trainer and getting good advice from a friend who is an AKC hunt test judge and field trial judge, I got a Tritronics e-collar. I first used it at all levels of stimulation on myself, and none could be called a "shock" the way the article implies. After using it about 3 times at a mid-level range, I stopped having disappearing dog problems, and I have seen no observable behavioral damage. In fact, it got quickly to the point that, when I put it on, he just either stayed relatively close or checked in regularly. I have had the same result with the second dog. Tritronics also includes written and video materials with the collar. All that said, however, I do think e-collars in the hands of someone impatient for instant results can be disastrous, but there are too many good field trainers who love their dogs and use them correctly to be summarily discounted.

Posted by: Mary K. | December 8, 2017 10:52 AM    Report this comment

I never thought I would use a shock collar but I was faced with an eight year old English Setter thrown out of a hunting kennel. She has an angelic disposition and a driving need to hunt. She will work at a fence until she gets through it. Finally, after several terrifying searches I resorted to Invisible Fence. She was very carefully trained to it and has never tried to go through it. There was no change in her disposition.

She also has a real fence to keep out other animals (nothing keeps out coyotes, etc) but she never goes out at night without me. This has been an excellent solution to our problem.

As to collars. We have access to a 250 acres cherry orchard for her needed energy release and there she has an electronic collar. She went to school, does nose work and has an excellent recall but that hunting gene can get us into trouble so better safe than sorry.

By the way my certified search and rescue ES wore a simple V nylon harness for urban tracking and a belled collar for cadaver and water recovery.

Posted by: Keni 123 | December 6, 2017 4:44 PM    Report this comment

I normally do not add my 2-cents into these types of discussions, however, on this one I would like to add my 2-cents in. I use the shock collar on one of my dogs. She was dumped 4 years ago at my house and ever since I have had her, she has jumped my 5 foot chain link fence. I finally got tired of this and installed a system that uses the shock collar. I put her through obedience training, scolder her, and did just about everything possible to get her to stop jumping my fence. She has gotten me in so much trouble with my neighbors that I was threaten with legal action that I have seriously considered taking her to the local SPCA. When I tell them she is a fence jumper, they tell me they will put her down as she is considered unadoptable. I live on a half-acre so ripping my fence out and re-installing a 6 ft fence is out of the question - financially. If she does go out in the yard without her collar she will jump the fence. She has a vicious bark and I am afraid that she will bite someone while she is out of the yard which would only further increase my problems. The author does not provide any alternatives to those of us that would like to use other means of keeping our dogs in our yards. I try and take the collar off so she does not wear it more than the 12 hours as recommended by the manufacturer but sometimes it is not possible. I have 2 other dogs and I cannot restrict their going outside because I have one that will not stay in my yard. Show me some other methods of keeping my dog inside my yard without a shock collar and that does not cost a small fortune and I will take it under consideration. For the author, come follow me for a day putting on the collar, taking off the collar, and on again and off again. It does get very tiresome but until I see an alternative, my dog will wear her shock collar.

Posted by: GaryFF | December 4, 2017 5:17 PM    Report this comment

Forty years ago my 90lb. aunt trained their young 130lb. Newfie to stay on their acreage (8 acres, wooded with deer, etc. and a pond) by walking its perimeter at least twice a day with Kate on leash.
I understand what Mleary is saying, however, it seems to me the real point/problem is that many people want the instant behavior modification instead of actually doing the work that Mleary does with the dogs.
Those hours of "Properly, patiently and compassionately trained" Mleary talked about putting in likely mean that those dogs could now go without the collars at all. They are beautifully and happily conditioned to their space, like Kate was all those years ago - done without a shock collar or underground fencing.

Posted by: rowdiannie | December 4, 2017 5:08 PM    Report this comment

I am a dog trainer. I don’t use aversive methods. That said, while shocks & prongs may not have the same effect on every dog, there are plenty of points made in this article that are right on target. I have worked with sweet, social dogs who have become aggressive to humans & other dogs because of Invisible fences & shock collars. Why? Because when they have happily approached a passing person or dog, they get zapped. They can then begin to associate people or other dogs with discomfort. A dog’s best defense is offense. I’ve had more than one dog client refuse to leave their backyard to go for a walk because they are fearful of crossing the perimeter. Another trainer I know shared a story of a mastiff who wouldn’t go outside to use the bathroom after the eFence was installed. Dogs who continually rush the fence with other animals, cars, people passing by become so overstimulated, they go through the perimeter and chase the thing/person who “caused” their discomfort. I have known people whose dogs have been killed by stray or roaming dogs, coyotes coming into their yard and their dog has no place to go. There have been dogs hit by cars and killed with their eFence collars on, but batteries were dead.
Long haired or thick coat dogs have it bad because they voltage gets turned up higher. When the dog yelps, that is a yelp of pain. That is not a “tickle” or “little vibration.”
If you have a dog that has not had a problem, that’s good. But don’t think that just because your dog is “okay” with it, that’s it’s a wonderful thing.
And just because a dog trainer sells electric fences, doesn’t mean they are great. It may mean that trainer may be used to aversive methods in their other training experience.
There are plenty of studies that have been done that show potential damage to your dog.
Please think before you shock.

Posted by: DebLM | December 4, 2017 10:21 AM    Report this comment

one last comment.... as I mentioned before, one person's opinion isn't likely to sway someone's thought process that much. Regardless of the article, people are still going to choose their own method of containment. Perhaps some will fence in their yards with other options, but the reality is, people are still going to buy them, so perhaps the article could have said, "here are some of the things to be concerned about." "Here are some of the pros and cons (I understand the author doesn't think there are any pros)" "And if you ARE going to purchase one, here is what to look for to make the process as humane and effective as possible: Good quality product, good training, someone with experience and who knows dogs, etc,.." Just my 10 cents!

Posted by: jakemw | December 4, 2017 9:48 AM    Report this comment

Dear happymutts: Thanks for your follow up.. I'd throw out a couple more comments. While I could have said that this information was inaccurate regarding the Pet Stop system, there are other systems out there that don't cause many of adverse side effects described in the article. As a whole, it's a bit inflammatory. Secondly, I think that we look to the WDJ as knowledgeable and trustworthy. I don't think it's unfair to assume that if they were going to publish an article on this topic then they would have done their homework to know how technology has changed and what's available today before printing. I too am a force free trainer in all of my classes and I am NOT a fan of electronic collars being used for any other purpose other than this. I never use them with clients. I think that many could have a more lengthy debate about what's "ethical" and "humane" in this day and age related to dogs... When we put a dog on a leash and collar are we not causing some restriction. If the dog pulls is it not being corrected? If one gets a border collie that is genetically hard wired to herd but keeps it as a family pet and doesn't allow it to do what comes naturally, is this ethical? In fact, all dogs are innately wired to hunt, chase and kill prey but how many of us allow dogs to exercise their prey drive and bite. We ask then to come back when they are called, to stay and not move when there is a lot of commotion happening around them and to walk by our side, which is completely unnatural. There's just more to the big picture but folks like to target electric fencing as the horror or all horrors. I have read the research on the negatives and I know they can happen, but with my own experience of literally thousands of dogs, they are the exception and not the norm as the article suggests.

Posted by: jakemw | December 4, 2017 9:43 AM    Report this comment

This article is totally inaccurate. I have had a E fence on my farm for 15 years. We have 8 acres fenced. We initially had Jack Russells on the fence and a large lab/Akita mix. We have added many dogs since as I have a non profit dog rescue organization. This fence allows some of my dogs and sometimes foster dogs to be out on the farm with us and still confined to a certain area. I say "some" because not all dogs are suited to this kind of fence. I have a 3 pound Yorkie and a 5 pound TFT and they are inside my physical fence. This is called common sense! We train our dogs for a minimum of 3 weeks before allowing them to be free outside. The "electric shock" that the collar emits according to this article is absolute drama. You can test the collar yourself. It is not a great feeling but it does not drop you to your knees either. It is more starling than anything else. I would never subject my dogs to something that I didn't try myself. Training does not include painful leash jerks as the article reads but weeks of walking the perimeter with the the prongs covered so that it allows the dog to hear the beep (no shock) and then turning and walking away from the flags. I tell them "No" and "Back" sternly and walk back into the safe area. And let me add here that my dogs are NEVER walked with a leash attached to a collar... harnesses only. There is no jerking, EVER! Although we have 8 acres fenced I walk my dogs on paths through our 26 acres. There is a safe zone that they are taught to walk through during training. When they are with me they get to the area where we walk through the fence. They sit and I remove their collar and walk them through a path. This has been part of their training and it works perfectly. Without me and with the collar on they never even think about going through that area. IT'S CALLED TRAINING AND TRUST. There are difference size and strength collars for dogs and there are also minimizers that reduce the sensation that you can put on the collars so this article claiming that all the dogs on the fence get the same "shock" is totally false. 3 of our dogs are on 8 acres of fence, travel with us in a travel trailer, run errands with us almost daily. They are happy, well adjusted and not harmed in any way from having an E fence. Our oldest dog is 15. He has been on the fence most of his life. He has NEVER left our fenced area, he is not scared, not afraid to leave in the car, not aggressive or neurotic - none of my dogs are. He is a 60 pound dog that is healthy and happy at 15 partly because he has been allowed the freedom of the farm. As a rescue organization I can say without reservation that dogs die every day in shelters because they cannot be confined. They climb, jump and dig out of physical fences. Should every dog be on an E fence - of course not but for many dogs it allows them a healthy and safe life beyond the confines of a physical fence. It allows my Jacks to hunt and dig safely. Jacks that I took into rescue from people who had them in a small fenced area in town and they were insane. Properly, patiently and compassionately trained to our E fence they can now live the life they are designed to live. This article is misleading and biased. Shame on Whole Dog Journal.

Posted by: Mleary | December 3, 2017 11:52 PM    Report this comment

Thank you for this informative article. As a certified canine behavior consultant and accredited force-free dog trainer I am well aware of the physical, emotional and behavioral consequences of electric shock in dog training. Several board-certified veterinary behaviorists I have met are very clear in their opposition to electric shock on those grounds.

I have read several scientific studies on the subject, and numerous scientific articles on additional studies. To my knowledge there is no advantage in using shock in dog training, and there are many known risks. Some dogs are more susceptible than others and it is unfair to our pets to play Russian roulette with methods and equipment that have proven risks to their welfare, when force-free methods and equipment are proven at least as effective, and without said risks.

It becomes an ethical choice.

For readers, please visit the Shock-Free Coalition (at this link) and join those of us who endeavor to protect pet dogs from harmful devices of all kinds, including electronic shock devices.

Please visit The Pet Professional Guild and seek out the link to the Shock-Free Coalition for more information.

Posted by: 1wyldhaven@gmail.com | December 3, 2017 6:09 PM    Report this comment

I agree with the author of the article...I had an invisible fence...my dogs were properly trained...one of my Dalmatians learned how to kill the battery in the collar...I watched her do it one day...and when collar no longer beeped she would walk out...no shock..no protection from busy road...another problem were other dogs coming into my yard that were wandering....again no protection...my two small Patterdales attacked a dog that entered my yard...they left my yard hanging on to the other dogs neck...pats don’t let go...the shock didn’t bother them...I had to follow the intruder home to get my dogs off...coyotes come around at night...no protection again...I got rid of that type of fencing as some as I could...total waste of money...I now have my entire yard front and back completely enclosed...my dogs are safe...lots of room to run and safe...no batteries to run low...no wandering dogs coming in....no traumatized dogs from the shocks...no dogs hit by cars running through and then being afraid to come back in...my friend lost 2 of her Newfoundland’s like that....nope I don’t recommend invisible fence to any one....

Posted by: IamLulu2 | December 3, 2017 6:08 PM    Report this comment

Why the hate on electric fencing Lauri? Perhaps the author did not know her to train her dogs properly with an electric fence system. I have found them to be extremely effective and have had none of the drawbacks aforementioned as my wife and I took the time to train our dogs properly. If the author does have experience with an electric fence system,which she should to write such a piece, maybe she should find a different place other than WDJ as she has no clue on training a dog.

Posted by: PeteJano | December 3, 2017 4:50 PM    Report this comment

Thanks for your elaboration jakemw and I do appreciate the further information you have provided. I can see there may be newer, different models than the author suggests, and different results depending on the manner of introduction.

In your follow up you were fair to acknowledge that your opinions are based on one system but with that in mind I don't think it was fair to make the general comment in the first place that a lot of information in this article is "completely inaccurate" rather than "completely inaccurate - at least so far as the Pet Stop system is concerned."

I was interested in your further comments in case there was a real counter argument to the conclusion that in general these systems do have shortcomings and aren't humane. I've not seen that position presented persuasively anywhere. I appreciate that you recognized one post was unlikely to sway someone's opinion.

I agree with ProDog777 that suggestions on alternative means for boundary training would have been a useful addition.

Posted by: happymutts | December 3, 2017 3:16 PM    Report this comment

How about Training a dog with the shock collar. This is done. I did it. I don't like it.

Posted by: JoeB | December 3, 2017 3:13 PM    Report this comment

I could not disagree more with this article. I have had electric fences at my last two houses and they work! One shock is all my dogs ever got, too, and they were trained for good. I've had Goldens, Labs, and Golden Doodles.

Some of the stuff in the article is outlandish - at least if you buy from one of the top two or three vendors. My dogs swim with their collars on a daily basis for four months of the year, for example.

The only time I did not have an electric fence my Shi Tzu wandered into the street and was run over. Compare that to all the negatives cited in this inflammatory article . . .

Posted by: seandwyer | December 3, 2017 2:35 PM    Report this comment

We have successfully trained 2 Siberian Huskies to the Invisible Fence(brand) Fence.
We followed the training process religiously, utilizing the audible signal & praise for returning to the safe perimeter. This training to requires 2 people with 1 person handling the leashed dog & the other person showing the dog the visible perimeter, telling the dog dog no as the beep sounds & then returning to the dog & praising them for being ing in the safe zone. This training should be done twice a day for several weeks. Flags are then gradually removed, while continuing the training. There is always one area that u make it ok for the dog to leave the property without the collar on a leash. The dog should never be left unsupervised in the yard . Also we always removed the collar when indoors. We only place the collat on when it was time to play in the yard with us. It is also important to check both the transmitter & collar to avoid unexpected malfunction.
Our dogs never developed any negative behavior issue, nor did they receive unwanted shocks.
Also our dogs never left the perimeter even when wildlife was present.
My suspicion concerning people whose dogs had problems are those that did not follow the training instructions & other recommendations of the Fence company.

Posted by: Denmenap | December 3, 2017 2:13 PM    Report this comment

Hi WDJ; Whether one agrees or not with the points made in the article, there is an important aspect missing and I'd love to see a follow up article to address this. As Positive Reinforcement Trainers, we always need to instruct our clients how to tell their dog what "to do" whenever they need to tell their dog what "not to do". Unfortunately this article did not tell it readers what "to do" instead of using an invisible/electric "fence". An article describing the options and/or boundary training methods for owners who cannot install hard fencing and do not want use invisible/electric fencing, may be very helpful.

Posted by: ProDog777 | December 3, 2017 2:06 PM    Report this comment

JellyBean - let me be clear... I'm not making an attempt to justify anything... I'm simply pointing out that there's more to think about and that the article didn't present a clear picture of all the facts. Simple as that.

Posted by: jakemw | December 3, 2017 1:29 PM    Report this comment

PART II

The signal only goes to a certain height, allowing dogs to jump or travel over snow banks. This is inaccurate. The signal field is completely adjustable and can be modified for dogs that can jump high. It can also be modified in winter months for snow banks if necessary.

Breeders, shelters, rescues - While this may be true, there are MANY rescue organizations, shelters, breeders and veterinarians that refer people exclusively to my company. Education is the key. Like all technology, it's constantly changing. A lot of the information presented in the article is based on old technology and many people simply don't know how today's systems have evolved.

Multi dog households having dogs that experiencing different levels of intensities... Every Pet Stop collar programs independently. Each collar can be set differently for each individual dog.

Let me just say that I know that the article itself has the best intentions. There's a lot to think about when making this type of a choice. All of us want only what's best for dogs. We want them to be safe and happy and able to get the exercise that we need. I have been putting fences in since 2003. I have over 3,000 dogs running on fences that I have personally put in and simply have NOT had clients experience the awful things described in the article. I would know if they did as I keep in close contact with them. I just don't think we should blame what can be a great system for poor training and guidance,

Posted by: jakemw | December 3, 2017 12:55 PM    Report this comment

Certainly... Again, these are my opinions, similar to the "opinions" of the article. I try to base as many of my comments on fact as much as possible. It's difficult to respond without mentioning my own system. This is NOT a plug or advertisement for my product. I simply can only speak on what I am familiar with and what I have faith in, which is the Pet Stop system (NOT Pet Safe). Starting from the top of the article:
1. "electric shock collars work with a pronged collar" - The Pet Stop system offers a variety of contacts, all of which are rounded and also include the option of rubber "comfort contacts" which are completely round and made of rubber.

2. How dogs are trained - dogs are allowed to "wander" into the signal field to experience the shock. This is improper training. Done properly, dogs are taught in a positive way to retreat from ONLY the warning tone for a period of at least 5 days before experiencing any type of correction. Simply allowing a dog to get corrected when he/she has no concept of what is expected is completely inappropriate. Dogs are taught the rules first in a fun and positive way.

No good fence trainer teaches a client to harshly jerk the leash back.

When a dog does feel the correction, it is always started at an extremely low setting. the Pet Stop collar has over 1,000 adjustable settings, some of which are barely perceptible. Owners are often not able to modify the intensity level of the settings without consulting their professional installer first. Their are fail safe mechanisms built into the system that prevent the owner from accidentally setting the collar too high. Again, the whole comment section on training explains exactly how to do the training completely wrong and this often isn't the case with many good pet fence professionals. Are there exceptions? sure, but this can be said for dog trainers as a whole. Many dog trainers who call themselves positive still use methods that others many consider harsh. this doesn't mean that dog training is bad.

Adverse Side Effects: I just want to address the more serious ones, such as barrier frustration, aggression towards others etc... The list the author presents is comprehensive but there is no evidence that these same behaviors would not be seen in a dog that's contained in a chain linked or stockade area. Or tied out for that matter. I've experienced many dogs lunging at me when walking by a property with a real fence. These are specific dog behaviors that aren't caused by an underground fence system but by poor training or an unstable temperament. One of the first things I do when someone contacts me about a fence is to meet with them and meet their dog. During that initial meeting, I evaluate the dog's temperament to make sure they are suitable for a fence and at the same time, I make sure that the owners are understanding the process and able to follow the training program.

3. Most arguments against: Dogs associating the shock with things that are present or nearby. This simply does not happen.

Collars shorting out when wet - The Pet Stop collars are waterproof and do not short out as a result of water.

Collars leading to constant shocking - this is just not possible. The collar can only correct when in the signal field. In addition, the Pet Stop collars have a built in safety shut off. If they have been correcting for more than a specified time, they automatically power off.

Other devices triggering the shock - again, this does not happen with this system. The Pet Stop system uses a DM frequency that virtually isn't used by anything else. I have ever had a garage door opener, cell phone, cordless phone, TV remote or anything even close to that activate a collar.

Dog's staying in the signal field to wear the battery down - This is NOT possible with a Pet Stop system. While some older systems do allow for this, the Pet Stop system is based on TIME in the signal field and not distance. A dog CANNOT stay in the boundary to wear the battery down. Stay tuned for part II

Posted by: jakemw | December 3, 2017 12:46 PM    Report this comment

No matter how you justify electric collars, they have the decided disadvantage that any critter can come onto your property. I knew someone that had a dog that would gladly cross the barrier to chase another dog, and would not enter the property again so the owner had to drive their car across the line and put the dog in the car. This happened often.
I also used to walk my dogs in the neighborhood and there was a large dog that always came at us when walking in front of their driveway. It always stopped but there was always the worry that they wouldn't. I also remember walking in my neighborhood and finding an electric collar on the ground and no way to know where it came from, but knew there was a dog on the loose somewhere.
We inherited a grand dog from my daughter that was fitted with a antibark collar. One night the dog came in with a terrible odor, and I stupidly rinsed it under the facet without turning it off. The shock I got was terrible. We never used it but my daughter had been going to college and lived in an apartment, and the dog was a real barker.

Posted by: JellyBean | December 3, 2017 12:39 PM    Report this comment

No matter how you justify electric collars, they have the decided disadvantage that any critter can come onto your property. I knew someone that had a dog that would gladly cross the barrier to chase another dog, and would not enter the property again so the owner had to drive their car across the line and put the dog in the car. This happened often.
I also used to walk my dogs in the neighborhood and there was a large dog that always came at us when walking in front of their driveway. It always stopped but there was always the worry that they wouldn't. I also remember walking in my neighborhood and finding an electric collar on the ground and no way to know where it came from, but knew there was a dog on the loose somewhere.
We inherited a grand dog from my daughter that was fitted with a antibark collar. One night the dog came in with a terrible odor, and I stupidly rinsed it under the facet without turning it off. The shock I got was terrible. We never used it but my daughter had been going to college and lived in an apartment, and the dog was a real barker.

Posted by: JellyBean | December 3, 2017 12:39 PM    Report this comment

I thank WDJ for including this well written article on a very divisive topic. Jakemw could you please identify and elaborate on the "information in this article that is simply outdated and completely inaccurate".

Posted by: happymutts | December 3, 2017 11:49 AM    Report this comment

jagnorwest - there are several systems that offer a vibration in lieu of a warning tone. In most cases, this is used for dogs with hearing issues. While there are dogs that have been trained to "tone only" settings and/or "vibration only" settings, this is rare. Most dogs do experience some level of an actual correction before being detered from crossing a boundary. The key here is training. Many of the "hazzards" described in the above article are a result of improper training on a fence. Purchasing a fence should be a package deal. The actual system is only one piece of the package. The other is the comprehensive dog knowledge you should get from the professional who installs your fence. They should know dogs. The should understand that every dog learns differently and they should be able to modify your dogs individual training program based on your dogs own personality. For me, it's an ongoing process that lasts for a month of not more after a fence is installed. Part of the problem that IS real is that there are too many fences that can be purchased at local stores that don't come with any training or guidance. The system I offer to my clients has over 1,000 programmable settings so that we can fine tune it to a dog's individual learning style and needs,

Posted by: jakemw | December 3, 2017 11:25 AM    Report this comment

We have trained both our dogs on an underground fence and couldn't be happier. One is a hound mix with a very strong prey drive who used to jump fences and head into the great unknown for hours before she could be chased down. The other is a 13lb chihuahua/terrier mix, also with a strong prey drive. Both perform perfectly with the underground fence; in fact, they are so well trained they stay within the perimeter even without their collars on. NONE of the issues mentioned in this article occurred for us. The effectiveness of the underground fences is completely dependent upon owners' ability to TRAIN THEIR DOGS appropriately on it. It is not, as the article suggests, a cruel way to keep dogs from running wild. It is not, as the article suggests, inhumane. It does not, as the article suggests, "yield such an abundance of harmful side effects." Full disclosure: we do not sell, benefit or profit from the sales of underground fences, thus we do not have a financial or any other type of 'interest' in the sales of such products. We are simply a family who loves our dogs enough to train them appropriately so that they have plenty of room to run without the danger of digging under, jumping over or otherwise escaping from a physical structure that is limited by the fact that it is simply a physical structure. Surprised at the bias in this article. We've come to expect more from WDJ.

Posted by: TrekkerChick | December 3, 2017 11:09 AM    Report this comment

Jakemw, I am or was considering an underground fence for my Dog.
I was under the impression that the collar that would be used for all modern fences use a vibration to alert the dog as opposed to a shock.
Please elaborate on this issue.
jagnorwest

Posted by: jagnorwest | December 3, 2017 11:05 AM    Report this comment

Hi there.. I've read this article numerous times and have debated responding or not.. There's such a debate about underground fences and I think that many of us are set in our opinions and one person's post will most likely not sway someone's opinion. That being said, there is a lot of information in this article that is simply outdated and completely inaccurate. I'm not saying this as a layperson. I too, am a professional dog trainer and have been for 26 years. I also sell underground fences, which would immediately lead one to conclude that I have a biased opinion and my goal is simply to make money. Let me be clear. I am a positive dog trainer. I love dogs.. everything about them. I have raised, shown, bred and competed in confirmation and obedience and teach over 13 classes a week, do numerous behavioral consults and work with reactive dogs, I'm a dog trainer first and a fence guy second. I just don't believe this article painted an accurate picture of underground fences and the pros and cons of them. I can certainly elaborate more if someone wants me to.

Posted by: jakemw | December 3, 2017 10:47 AM    Report this comment

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