Today, I want to talk about a subject that interests me (and every other dog trainer I know!).
In general, are confinement systems like “Invisible Fence a good idea? Or, is this a viable option for your specific dog?
I want to state up front that this can be a contentious subject for many dog owners and trainers, with strong opinions on both sides, and that’s totally fine. It’s acceptable to hold contrasting opinions as long as we treat one another with respect.
The short answer to the question of what I personally think about Invisible Fences is that I am not a major fan. Below, we’ll go over the causes of this.
The purpose of this article is not to persuade you that Invisible Fences are intrinsically bad inventions or to make you feel guilty for using one if you already do. Many people make use of them. And to be honest, I have observed that they function fairly effectively for several of my clients, with no obvious issues.
Instead, I want to provide you today a careful, scientifically informed summary of how these fences operate, their benefits and drawbacks, and any risks you should be aware of. I hope this information will be useful to you as you choose the option that is best for your household and your particular dog.
Let’s start by briefly addressing what we mean when we use this word so that everyone is clear.
Actually, the term “Invisible Fence” refers to a particular type of what is known as a dog containment system underground. Your yard (or other defined area) has underground wiring installed that generates a signal that your dog’s collar can detect. Your dog receives a warning beep from the collar as he approaches the boundary line, followed by a shock if he moves any closer. After a few bad encounters, the dog should eventually figure out where the boundary is and begin to stay in the yard.
There are currently some variations on this fundamental concept available because to technological advancements.
Up to a certain distance from the transmitter, wireless systems can only cover a circle. However, GPS-based systems can “enclose very wide or irregularly-shaped swathes of ground.” Each of these devices enforces the specified boundary by first issuing a warning tone to your dog, followed by a shock.
Most dog owners who employ an invisible fence do so with good intentions, on the whole. They want to give their boisterous puppy extra off-leash space to run and play, or they want to give their older dog access to the yard when they aren’t home so that it may go pee. These are good objectives that will improve the dog’s quality of life.
You might wonder, “Why not just use an actual fence?” This isn’t always doable, it’s a fact. Certain subdivisions have severe regulations prohibiting any kind of fencing. Homeowners might not be aware of this until after they move in and bring a dog home. Anyone who has priced fencing knows it can be rather pricey as well! For many families, installing a chain link or wooden fence for their dog is just not an option financially, especially if they have a large yard.
I am aware of this and feel sympathy for these circumstances. There aren’t always ideal answers, so all we can do is try our best.
Unfortunately, as convenient as Invisible Fence-style devices can initially appear to be, they have a number of important disadvantages. As I previously stated, I personally don’t like these fences much and typically don’t suggest them to my clients.
Here are some explanations:
Threat of violence or a frightened reaction
Despite how amazing it all seems on paper, implementing shock-based adjustments in this way requires careful balancing. We want the dog to experience enough discomfort from the shock to discourage him from crossing the boundary line, but not enough trauma to cause him to exhibit any other behavioural issues as a result.
regrettably, the “It is extremely difficult to estimate the appropriate level of shock for any specific dog. The degree of a correction is quite subjective, which is a topic worth discussing on its own and one that we may do so in a future post. Some dogs are generally unaffected by even a powerful, painful shock, while others may react violently to what we may consider a slight tickle.
So, this is the issue at the end. We’re hoping the dog will link the correction to being close to the yard’s edge and modify his behaviour going forward. But we’re overlooking something crucial. He might also connect the shock with whatever that was close at the moment, which could lead to some unforeseen issues.
My family and our dog Duncan attempted to use an underground fence when I was a teenager, but the attempt was very short-lived. The initial shock he experienced (on the tiniest setting, a “He yelled in panic and ran back to the home (quite light correction, following the material that was included with the device).
He waited on the porch and shook until we brought him back inside because he was too terrified to use the restroom in the yard. We tossed the collar away and gave up on the whole thing, but it took him a few weeks before he gained the courage to walk on grass again without trembling.
Dogs who are startled as people or other dogs approach to say hello may also develop aggressiveness issues toward them. The most stunning illustration of this phenomena can be found in my previous piece about Heidi the German Shepherd.
Does that occur to all dogs? Of course not, never. Others manage just nicely. You should be informed that there is a danger because there is no certain way to tell which pets will experience a problem and which ones won’t.
Anyone who has worked in an animal shelter will be able to attest to the distressingly high frequency with which lost pets are spotted sporting electronic fence collars. Contrary to what the salesperson may claim, no Invisible Fence system is 100% reliable. Dogs can and often do jump the fence for a variety of reasons.
The sight of a squirrel or rabbit on the other side of the boundary line may prove to be too alluring for prey-driven canines to resist. Dogs who have aggressiveness problems with people or other animals may become overly excited and charge across the street to bark at their neighbours, which could end in a bite.
Some dogs even figure out that if they stay in the “warning zone” long enough, the battery on their collar will run out, allowing them to leave the yard without being punished.
The owner in many of these situations believes the fence is functioning properly—until the day it stops.
concerns with physical safety
It’s crucial to keep in mind that an Invisible Fence system is *not* a genuine physical barrier, at the risk of stating the obvious. Even if it works well to keep your dog in the yard, it has no effect on keeping other animals or people out.
This might not be a big deal in some places. However, if you live in a rural location with coyotes or other wildlife, or if you have loose dogs roaming the neighbourhood, your dog is at risk of suffering harm or perhaps losing his life in his own yard. If there is no physical fence to safeguard dogs, they may potentially be threatened or stolen by dishonest persons.
I do not advise Invisible Fences as an excellent first-line option for any dog, as I inform my clients when they inquire. Any dog can experience troubles, but they are especially inappropriate for dogs with a high prey drive, those who have aggression issues with humans or other animals, and those who are scared or apprehensive.
What if you’ve considered the benefits and drawbacks and determined that an invisible fence is your best bet?
I am aware that there are circumstances in which this may be the case. I would suggest the following if you decide to use an underground fence system for your dog:
Never let your dog out in the open unattended. Go outside with your dog and bring him back inside with you when you’re ready to enter since many of the concerns I outlined above can be greatly reduced if you’re there to keep an eye on things.
To ensure that your dog is aware of the boundary line and how to avoid the shock, finish the training programme as instructed by the business you are working with. Don’t skimp on this! Take the time to train your dog properly since confusion or a lack of understanding are major risk factors for developing anxiety or aggressiveness issues related to the fence.
Know the hazards involved and keep an eye out for any issues. You may need to cease using the fence if your dog exhibits negative behaviour toward it. Be aware of this going in and be ready to stop using the fence if required.
Therefore, if you can, invest in a real, practical fence. For the safety of your dog and your own peace of mind, it is well worth it.
Make the best choice you can if you can’t. Nobody is more familiar with your dog than you are, and you are also aware of the possibilities that are practical for your living environment. There are many calculated risks in life. Just be aware of what you’re getting into and any potential drawbacks.
How does a dog invisible fence operate?
You need a technique to contain your dog if you have one. But what if you want to build a fence but don’t want to invest a lot of money? What if you have too much land for a fence to be useful? What if you simply don’t want a yard fence to obstruct your view?
An electronic current is transmitted to a particular collar worn by the dog for underground fencing to function. The collar makes a warning noise as the dog approaches the subsurface fence. The collar sends the dog an electronic correction if it moves closer to the fence. The dog gains the ability to remain inside the boundaries of the underground fence.
This could seem too wonderful to be true to some dog owners. Do dog containment underground fences really work? An underground fence is exactly what?
A transmitter-equipped buried wire serves as an underground fence. The transmitter transmits a signal to the collar, which then corrects the dog when it approaches the buried wire too closely. The transmitter needs to be positioned near an electrical outlet where it can be plugged in, in a dry environment. An alkaline battery that powers the collar needs to be regularly changed.
Training is essential for using an underground fence successfully. There are instructions included with every subterranean fencing system on how to teach your dog or cat to respect the fence.
The first step is boundary training, which teaches your dog to use a flag as a visual cue to gauge how far he can travel without the collar sounding an alarm. At this stage of training, you should keep your dog on a leash and give him praise and goodies when he remains within the permitted area.
When your dog crosses the line into unacceptable territory, the electrical correction is eventually introduced. Depending on your dog’s sensitivity, collars that function with subsurface fences can be adjusted at various degrees. While some dogs only need a gentle reminder, others need a more forceful instruction.
Only canines weighing at least 8 pounds are permitted to use underground fence systems. Dogs under this weight cannot support the weight of the collar because they are too little. Puppies need to be at least 8 weeks old and have a basic command set up before they may be controlled by an underground fence.
While most dogs respect the fence once they understand that going over the line would result in a punishment, occasionally a dog will accept the punishment as the cost of going over the fence and leaving the property. In these circumstances, you might try retraining the dog to respond to the fence with the assistance of a qualified dog trainer.
Pet containment using underground fences is simple with some do-it-yourself installation and training. Together, you can enjoy the yard without being concerned about your pet getting lost. Also keep in mind that while the fence may keep your pet within, it won’t keep other animals out.
Invisible dog fences: Are they cruel?
Electric fences do not make dogs aggressive, as is frequently questioned. Poor training or improper use of corrective levels can lead to aggressive behaviour. Invisible Fence employs animal behaviourist approved training and more than a million programmable correction levels, unlike DIY dog fences only have five to ten settings and require pet owners to instruct the animal. This ensures that your dog is properly trained.
A dog may experience behavioural issues if it is misunderstood and subjected to harsh corrections that are not tailored to the breed, size, temperament, or training of the dog. As a result of receiving individualised attention and reward-based training, pets are significantly less likely to react aggressively to electronic containment since they are able to understand the rules of the system and experience satisfaction and reward from adhering to them.
If they are properly trained, dogs won’t be traumatised by an electric fence. Because of this, Invisible Fence developed Perfect StartTM Plus Training, the only pet training method with a scientific foundation that has been endorsed by top animal behaviourists. Our qualified trainers adapt the technology and the instruction to each pet’s particular requirements so that your pet completely comprehends their limits.
Does Invisible Fence make sense?
Dog owners who initially attempted using an invisible electric fence only to discover that it didn’t work for their dog make up nearly a quarter of our clients.
Many people believe that the best way to keep their dog in the yard is with an invisible subterranean wireless electric fence. But they simply aren’t as efficient as you may imagine. According to statistics, the effectiveness of invisible wireless electric fences is just around 70%.
Here’s why it’s not a good idea to use an electric subsurface fence that is invisible:
- Even though an electric fence may appear to be invisible, its negative consequences are extremely evident and typically worsen undesirable conduct over time. Dogs who are injured may develop fear or even aggression. This could make it more difficult for you to take your dog outside at all, and it might even make them bark or bite people they don’t know because they don’t know who or what is bothering them.
- When a person approaches from outside the boundary line, dogs may run to greet them and feel as though they are being punished (by the shock). They can begin to think that everything should be feared and that nothing is secure as a result of this new relationship. This fresh apprehension is easily transformable into hostility.