Critics of electric dog fences say that there are many kinds of fences available to dog owners: chain link, wooden, farm fencing, invisible fencing. With so many choices, why would an owner want to use an electric fence?
An electric fence carries a small electric current that shocks a dog (or anyone else) when he touches the wire. Is that humane?
Proponents of electric fencing say that the current in an electric fence is very small and does not injure a dog (or anyone else). These fence wires are also used for fencing cattle, horses and other animals without any problems.
Proponents also say that electric fences for dogs are often used as a last resort. These owners may have other fencing up in their yards. They may have chain link fences but their dogs dig under the fences or climb over. There are some dogs that are escape artists and won't stay in a yard no matter how good the fences. When owners have a dog like that they fear that the dog will be lost or hit by a car if they don't use electric fencing to keep the dog contained in the yard. In these cases the owner may add a string of electric wire along the base of the fence and/or along the top of the fence to keep the dog from getting out.
Is electric fencing humane? Yes, it probably is. It is widely used by farmers and others with animals. In most cases an animal will touch it once and doesn't go near the fence again. If a person touches it they receive a small shock -- enough to make them jump back but certainly not enough to harm them.
Electric dog fences are not pleasant or attractive but they probably do save the lives of some dogs who would otherwise dig under fences or climb over them to get out and frolic around their neighborhoods.
Although they may not be desirable or anyone's first choice of containment for dogs, electric dog fences do seem to serve a necessary purpose. They are not necessarily a sign of a bad or negligent owner. Instead, they can be a sign of an owner who is trying his best to keep his dog responsibly contained instead of allowing him to run loose.
In many cases an owner will put up a string of electric fence and, after the dog has touched it once and decided to keep away from the fence, the owner will unplug the fence. Simply having the wire up along the fence is enough of a deterrent to keep the dog from digging under the fence or trying to climb over it to get out of the yard.
If you have a dog who repeatedly gets out of your yard you will have to make your own decision about whether you want to use an electric dog fence or not. There may be other options but none of them are simple. Some people have dug several feet under their fences and poured concrete to prevent their dog from digging out. If your dog tries to climb the fence, some people have put up coyote rollers on the top of the fence that will make your dog roll off if he tries to go over. The simple fact is that it's hard to contain a dog that wants to get out of a yard. Electric dog fences are one option.
Wayne Booth is owner of Canine Behavior Specialists, http://www.CanineBehaviorSpecialists.com in Nashville, TN where he helps people train their dogs and solve behavior problems. Wayne has been teaching people how to become Professional Dog Trainers since 1990 and he is the Training Director of the Canine Behavior Specialists Network, http://www.K9-University.com.
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