Recently, a woman shared what happened to her daughter. The girl and the family dog were on a local walking path in their community. Two aggressive dogs escaped their yard and went after the girl. The dogs left their shock-fenced yard and were causing trouble. Luckily, someone else intervened and kept the girl and her dog safe. This was not the first time the dogs left the yard and went after people. If you use or are considering a shock fence, I advise against them.

The concept behind shock fences is an electric shock will stop the dog from leaving the property. The dog is “trained” to stay within the boundary using different methods. Often there is a warning beep before the shock occurs. In theory the dog learns where he must stay. Training takes time and periodic refreshers.

Shock fences offer no protection. No collar means no shock. Your dog is at risk from anything that crosses the line such as other loose dogs, coyotes, humans, etc. I have worked with cases where a shock line was accidentally crossed due to the location of the line. This allowed the dog access to the victim.

If a dog feels the need to leave the yard, there is truly nothing to stop an escape. There are many reasons dogs will leave the boundary. Some give chase to a critter and forget the shock. When exposed to something scary (think fireworks) other dogs race through the shock in their panic. If these dogs try to return, guess what happens? Zap. Then they may take off again. Some dogs learn to tolerate the shock. They come and go as they please. As what happened in the incident relayed to me, how many dogs in lost and found pet postings had shock fence collars on?

Then there is the behavioral risk. It is not uncommon for dogs to associate different things with the shock. For example, a dog sees people walking along the street. He wants to go visit. As he trots over, Zap. What is associated with the pain? The pedestrians. I have worked to rehabilitate dogs that developed fears of things that once the shock fence was taken out of the equation, I was able to get the issues to resolve. These things included: grass, cars, bikes, people, wearing a collar and household electronics.

Wait, electronics? As previously mentioned, many shock fence collars emit a beep before the shock. Dogs learn that a beep means pain will follow. How many things beep in our houses? The dogs hear them and wait for the shock to follow. Many dogs become anxious as they hear beeps and wait for a shock.

In some communities, shock fences are not considered proper or even legal confinement. Will your insurance cover you if there is an incident that would have been prevented with the use of a barrier fence or even a tether? There are hidden — no pun intended — liabilities with invisible shock fences people must learn.

Finally, there is mechanical failure. Sometimes the collars malfunction and go off randomly. Other electronics may trigger the collar to shock. The battery dies or the line is damaged. If you lose power, there is nothing to trigger the shock.

My criteria for everything with dog work is safe, sane and humane for the dog, the people he lives with and the community. Electric shock fences certainly do not meet these criteria. There are many reasons why people consider these containment devices. However, should they be used? No.

Karen Peak is the developer of The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project and owner/operator of West Wind Dog Training in Prince William County.

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