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This blog post discusses the electric dog fencing system, a controversial topic that triggers some dog lovers. Please take the time to read it fully before commenting. Thank you.

When it comes to social media, there are topics that can destroy your reputation and business, so I've learned not to bring them up. Over the years, I've been trolled for…

The list goes on.

So, I thought long and hard about whether or not it was a good idea to write this blog post because I know that what I'm going to share is going to result in a lot of criticism and the loss of followers (and a few Facebook “friends”). However, as a blogger who wants to help dogs, I feel that I need to share my wins along with my mistakes.

Last year, I agreed to use an electric fence to keep one of our dogs from escaping the yard.

What is an Electric Dog Fencing Systems?

An electric fence is a fencing system designed to keep animals in a yard. There are invisible systems that come with a collar for our dogs and a system that involves a wire along the existing fenceline to deter dogs from jumping/climbing out of the yard.

We picked up the latter from a local farm store, and it plugged into an exterior outlet. It emitted a charge that was similar to putting your tongue on a battery. A quick touch of the wire didn't hurt, but it did get your attention. If you held onto the wire, which I did once when I was trying to stop from falling, it still didn't hurt, but the feeling wasn't comfortable AT ALL.

We had the electric fence for several months until we were able to put the new dog yard in, but it was “on” for a couple of days. I unplugged it and this blog post shares what I learned.

The Controversy Around Electric Dog Fencing Systems

If you go on social media and share that you use electric fencing for your dogs, a few people may empathize because either they've had to use a similar system or they can understand that this an option some folks have to take.

But is it the right option?

There are a lot of arguments for and against e-collars and electric fencing systems. Before Apollo, if you would have asked me if I'd use one, I would have said no, definitively. And yet here I am. In some people's eyes, our use of this tool makes us the worst pet parents on the planet.

So, what's the big deal?

Pros of Using Electric Dog Fencing Systems

The main pro of using an electric fence is that it keeps a dog safely in the yard. When we added Apollo to our family, we quickly realized that he could escape the dog yard. We tried treat-training (hey, look, this yard is fun!), exercise (a tired dog is a well-behaved dog), and more. But he managed to get out of the yard no matter how many times we patched up sections. After losing a dog to a car accident after he jumped the fence and ran out into the road, we were both freaked that history would repeat itself. I don't know if an electric fence would have prevented Blue's accident but the experience shook us to the core and this is why we installed an electric fence to keep Apollo in the yard.

As I type this, I hear people saying “if you'd taken the time to TRAIN your dog, you wouldn't need an electric fence.” And, for some, that's correct. I don't say “all” because (1) there is always an outlier and (2) I've learned to shut up and ask questions before opening my mouth. But, in my case, if I had taken the time to train Blue and Apollo, then maybe we'd have a different outcome for both. I have loads of excuses…

My dogs only listen when I'm there to watch; when I leave, all bets are off. Yeah, I suck at training my dogs and because of my shortcomings, I failed them.

Other “pros” of electric fencing dog systems, including invisible dog fencing systems include:

  • they look nice
  • they're fairly affordable
  • they're convenient
  • they're adaptable (no matter what your property looks like, you can use one)

Cons of Using Electric Dog Fencing Systems

I'm sure there are more pros that folks can share, but whenever the topic of electric fences comes up, people tend to focus on the cons.

  • Using pain as a training tool isn't effective. I believe that there is room for punishment in dog training, but punishment doesn't have to be painful or cause fear. I punish Apollo by taking a toy away when he's tearing it to pieces or I make him leave the room (time out) when he starts barking in Rodrigo's face.
  • Using pain promotes fear, anxiety, and aggression in dogs. While the electric fence we used quickly stopped Apollo from jumping on, climbing over, digging under, or chewing through the fence, it also made him terrified of going out in the yard because I missed a crucial step – introducing him to his new fence and this is where I failed him, once again.
  • The current levels may not be adjustable. I found this out the hard way. I thought that similar to e-collars, we could turn the current down to 1, making the sensation serve as a reminder to stay off the fence. But the system we purchased didn't have an adjustment. Granted, it didn't cause pain (for us), but I didn't like not being able to control the output.

And when it comes to the pain level, just because it wasn't painful for us doesn't mean that it wasn't painful for my dogs. I don't know what they felt; everyone has different tolerance levels and I'm certain that this extends to our dogs too.

What About the Invisible Dog Fencing System?

The invisible fences come with more cons.

  1. Some dogs will blow through the boundary, especially high prey breeds or fearful dogs.
  2. After a dog blows through the boundary, they may not return because of the shock.
  3. The system doesn't keep predators or dog thieves out.
  4. People can torture a dog by holding it on the boundary.
  5. The system can create a false sense of security for the dog's owner.
  6. The system can result in a dog becoming more aggressive as they charge the boundary.
  7. The system's collar can be on the same frequency as a neighbor's garage door opener.
  8. Some attribute neurological issues with invisible dog fencing systems.
  9. The system can fail.

If one is trying to determine if these systems are a good idea, after reading this list, it seems like a no-brainer.

Alternatives to an Electric Dog Fencing System

With all that said, I won't demonize people who choose to use an electric fencing system because, despite my experience and what people say, there are situations where, when used appropriately, an electric dog fencing system is the right choice. It just wasn't the right choice for us.

Seeing Apollo, a happy fear-free dog, afraid to go outside had me running to unplug the system and we began looking for an alternative. And that's when we discovered PetPlaygrounds, a DIY dog fencing system that is fear-free / shock-free. Because the fencing material is flexible, Apollo cannot climb out of the yard. Because of the dig guard, Apollo cannot dig under the fence. And because the fencing is several layers thick, Apollo cannot chew through the fencing. I wish we had discovered this system 10 years ago.

PetPlaygrounds is an alternative to electronic fencing systems that has worked well for us.

  • PetPlaygrounds has proven to be escape-proof for our dogs.
  • PetPlaygrounds was fairly easy to install (after a few hiccups in the beginning).
  • PetPlaygrounds was affordable when compared to traditional fencing systems.
  • PetPlaygrounds has kept local wildlife OUT of our dogs' yard.
  • PetPlaygrounds has proven to be weather resistant (freezing and +50 mph windstorms).

We haven't had much snow this year, so I'm waiting to see how the flexible fencing stands up to lots of snow.

What I Learned from Using an Electric Dog Fencing System

When it was all said and done, I learned that if we're going to use an electric dog fencing system, we need to do so with training in mind. Similar to e-collars, I don't think these systems should be purchased without the assistance of a trainer. I failed to train my dogs, I failed to prepare them for the system we used, and we didn't have a good experience.

It took less than two days for me to recognize the folly of this decision. However, to be honest, I already knew that this wasn't the right move. I had already shared (on social media) how Apollo was escaping the yard and that we planned to “build” a new dog yard. If I was confident in our choice to temporarily use an electric dog fencing system, I would have shared my thoughts on social media. But I didn't because I knew that I would be crucified. Or, in 2020 vernacular, “canceled” for this choice.

So, I learned the following:

  • If we're going to use an electric dog fencing system, we don't install it and shout “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” when we plug it in; instead, we train our dogs to help them acclimate to this new stimulus.
  • Using an electric dog fencing system, from my perspective and brief experience, comes with more cons and pros; and despite the low pain it caused, it wasn't worth it for us.
  • Fear of cancel culture doesn't prevent people from making bad (in our case) choices; it just forces us to keep those choices and mistakes to ourselves.

So, I share this knowing that I will be subjected to harsh criticism and I'll lose followers and I'm okay with that because I'm not sharing this for approval or applause. I'm sharing our experience because I hope that this will help others who are struggling with making a similar decision.

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