Weighing the Pros and Cons of Invisible Fences

Electric fences can foster barrier frustration. An invisible fence offers a dog the full sight of another dog or person as they approach, but prevents him from greeting that dog or person. This can lead to barrier frustration. As the dog’s frustration increases, the chance for aggression or fear-based behavior, even out on walks or in situations outside of the yard, also increases. Behavior may escalate to growling, barking and lunging at the approaching stimulus and puts the dog at risk for biting if a person or another dog ever crosses the fence line and comes into the yard.

An electric fence doesn’t guarantee containment. A dog may see something he wants to chase, or he may be frightened by something such as fireworks or thunder — either way, if his motivation to cross the fence line is high enough, he can still get out. If the dog is aggressive or is experiencing barrier frustration, he may become even more overstimulated by the shock when he crosses the fence line. Once a dog has successfully broken through the fence line, chances are he will try it again. Finally, each time the dog crosses the fence line, he is effectively locked out of his own yard, unless he is willing to be shocked again as he reenters.

An electric fence can frighten a dog. Most of the visuals, like flags that mark the fence line, are taken down shortly after installation. But without a visual marker, the dog may not remember where the fence line is and may be unclear on when or where he will get shocked. This can lead to increasingly neurotic and fearful behaviors.

Although the invisible fence was more cost-efficient and convenient, I felt strongly that it was wrong to use shock to train my Pugs, and I wasn’t willing to take the risk of harming them physically or emotionally. I opted instead to forgo fencing and use a long line for potty breaks. I also enclosed a smaller part of my yard where the Pugs could safely play. The fencing was rather expensive, but it was well worth it to guarantee my dogs’ safety and emotional health.


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