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  • April Schrader, CPDT-KA

Don't Zap Your Pup! The Downsides of Electric Fences

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

As a certified dog trainer, I have seen many pet owners turn to electric fences as a quick and easy solution to their dog's wandering tendencies. However, I strongly advise against the use of electric fences for several reasons.

First and foremost, electric fences rely on pain to keep your dog contained. When a dog approaches the fence, they receive an electric shock, which can be painful and frightening for them. A study published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science found that dogs exposed to electric fences showed increased levels of stress hormones, including cortisol, indicating that the experience was indeed stressful and aversive for the dogs.

Moreover, the use of electric fences can lead to a host of behavioral problems. Dogs who are subjected to electric fences may become anxious, fearful, or even aggressive. A study published in the journal Animal Welfare found that dogs who had been trained with electric fences showed signs of increased anxiety and stress, including trembling, excessive panting, and avoidance behaviors. These dogs were also found to be more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior towards humans and other dogs.

Additionally, electric fences are not always effective. Dogs can become desensitized to the shock and learn to ignore it, or they may be willing to endure the pain to chase after a squirrel or other animal that they see. A study found that up to 30% of dogs trained with electric fences still escaped!

Another issue with electric fences is that they only address the symptom of your dog's wandering behavior and not the underlying cause. Dogs often wander because they are bored, lonely, or seeking attention. Simply containing them within a certain area does not address these underlying issues, and may even make them worse. A certified dog trainer can help you identify and address these underlying issues through positive reinforcement training and behavioral modification.

Fortunately, there are better options available for containing and training your dog. Physical fences, such as wooden or chain-link fences, provide a more secure and reliable barrier without the use of pain. These fences can also be used to create safe and secure play areas for your dog, allowing them to exercise and socialize in a controlled environment.

Training and socialization are also important tools for addressing your dog's wandering behavior. Working with a certified dog trainer can help you identify and address the underlying issues causing your dog to wander, and teach them appropriate behaviors and commands to keep them safe and secure. Positive reinforcement training techniques, which reward desired behaviors rather than punishing unwanted behaviors, have been shown to be effective and humane in modifying a dog's behavior.

In conclusion, the use of electric fences to contain and train your dog should be avoided. The scientific evidence shows that they rely on pain, can lead to behavioral problems, are not always effective, and do not address the underlying causes of your dog's wandering behavior. Consider physical fences and working with a certified dog trainer to provide a safe and secure environment for your dog. Positive reinforcement training can be a humane and effective way to modify your dog's behavior and improve their quality of life.

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