The Shocking Truth About Electric Fences: Are They Worth the Risk?

Dangers of Electric Fences

Dangers of Electric Fences!!!

Imagine if you will, you are in your home, minding your own business. You move to go into the living room, and all of a sudden out of nowhere you get an electrical shock. You yelp in a mixture of surprise and pain and look around nervously, wondering where it came from. When you are sure that everything appears to be normal, you decide once again to go into the living room. Again, you are shocked hard enough to make you cry out. Do you think to yourself: a) I guess the living room is off limits to me, or b) Something is wrong. Where is this electrical shock coming from?

I would hazard to guess that you chose the latter of the two. Well, guess what? You’re dog has the same response. Suffices to say that instead of teaching your dog there are outdoor boundaries, you are simply feeding your dog’s anxiety. Honestly, your dog should be given the same courtesy given to any other family member (e.g. never being deliberately hurt for the sake of learning.) Where there is pain, there is no room for learning.

What are Electric Fences?                                                                  

Electrical wires are buried underneath the ground to create the invisible barrier that will be the Electric Fences. These wires are designed to respond to a transmitter, located in your dog’s collar, which will trigger an electrical current to begin once the transmitter is in range. Thus, the closer the dog gets to the wire perimeter, the stronger the current becomes.

What are the Risks associated with Electric Fences?[3]

  1. The Untrained Owner, The Untrained Dog
    “Dogs are not appliances. True obedience from a dog is something that requires patience and leadership and respect from the owner or handler.”[2] First, in order to use an electric fence properly, the owner MUST train the dog to be aware of the yard boundaries BEFORE introducing the electric boundary. The idea is that the fence serves as a reminder of the boundary, not as a replacement for a physical boundary. Dogs who do not learn the boundaries beforehand are not going to learn to obey them afterwards, they will simply suffer the agony and eventually build up enough tolerance to the pain to run through the fence.
  2. Boundaries without Borders
    So, great, you trained your dog to respect the boundaries of your yard, and now the electric fence is working as a reminder of these limits. But what about your neighbors kids? Or other dogs? Once your dog respects that boundary, they become a prisoner in their own home. Now presumably you have an amiable, fun-loving dog—but if someone comes onto your property, undeterred by the invisible fence, you could have a potential liability issue on your hands if your dog even seemed aggressive. Or what if another animal , dog, or wild animal came in and beat up on your dog or brought deadly germs in that could potentially kill your pet?
  3. Battery Maintenance and Power Surges
    Did you know that the collar transmitter runs on batteries? Without proper maintenance, when the batteries die so does the fence. Also, while the battery loses power the collar begins to shock your dog intermittently regardless of their proximity to the fence—so your dog will be continually punished until you change the battery!
  4. Caution When Wet
    If dogs are left unattended with the collars, which is how most people use them, there is the potential risk for severe burns. Dr. Susan Benson, of the Animal Medical Center in Preston, Idaho, who treated a burn that resulted from the collar getting wet in the rain said of the wounds: “This was one of the worst electrical burns I have seen, other than dogs who have had contact with high power lines.”[3]
  5. Mixed Messages
    What happens if your dog is looking lovingly at your young daughter as she runs towards the fence, and “ZAP!” she yelps in pain. What sort of message is that sending to her? Does she blame your daughter and act aggressively in response? There is no surprise that there have been links made between behavioral disorders among dogs and the use of electric fences. According to Dr. Karen Overall, “. . . In all situations where shock has been used there is some damage done, even if we cannot easily see it. No pet owner needs to use this technique to achieve their goal. Dogs who cease to exhibit a problem behavior usually also cease to exhibit normal behaviors. The only data available support the idea that shock is neither an effective nor suitable training tool.”[4]

So, please, think twice before purchasing and/or implementing an electronic fence. Purchase a fence to protect your dog, and your property, not one that will hurt them. We don’t intentionally hurt the ones we love, so now that you are aware of the risks—make the right decision and say “No” t

[1] Leisure, Susan. “The Dangers of Electric Fences for Dogs”

[2] Millan, Cesar with Melissa Jo Peltier. Be the Pack Leader (p 111)

[3] Miller, Pat. “Simply Shocking” (Volume 4, Number 2, April 2003)

[4] Diane Podolsky, CPDT-KA, CTC in “Electric Fences Safe and Ethical?” (March 31, 2011)

Electric fences, Dangers of Electric fences