Hi! I’m Danny. My owner, McGregor Fence, doesn’t sell electric dog fences (shock collar fences) any more. Here’s why: I’m not a wimpy dog. I know a lot of dogs that get a shock from that collar and stay inside. They simply won’t go out. Well, I’m not like that. I’m pretty tough and really want to please. So when my family spent a cool thousand buying the gear and having an underground line installed, and then spent days training me to those white flags, things went pretty well. Until I saw my first squirrel. The squirrel got away of course,
but by then I was outside the fence. I couldn’t get back in without a shock. So I mingled with cars and strangers until people came and took me home. After that my owner stopped praising electric dog fences. Now McGregor sells affordable, low-visibility barrier fences that really work and can be adapted to any dog, including me. I like those fences. They look good and don’t try to shock me for making a wrong move. The squirrels like them too.
Another Look: Digging Deeper
Well, suppose we don’t take Danny’s experience at face value. Suppose we dig a little deeper. What are the real advantages and disadvantages of these fences, never referred to by their purveyors as “shock collar” but instead as “electric,” “wireless,” or “invisible” dog fences? Obviously, as this suggests, one of the big disadvantages is the shock.
That shock from an electric dog fence isn’t huge, certainly not dangerous; but it seems enough to keep a lot of dogs indoors. So it’s worth asking whether you, the dog’s owner, would be willing to wear a collar, even during the relatively brief period of training your pet, that would administer a periodic shock? For most of us, despite the shock’s harmless nature, the answer is a resounding NO! So the question becomes, are you willing to administer this sort of training and disciplinary treatment to your pet?
Electric Dog Fence Training
Next consider training. Currently, electric dog fence training is associated with guilt. Not the dog’s guilt but the owner’s. When one of these fences fails to work, either because the dog wouldn’t go outside or because the fence failed to restrain it, the purveyors and adherents of the fence have an easy answer. It’s YOUR fault, because you failed to provide proper training for your pet. And so, untold thousands of dog-owners have wound up feeling guilty and disappointed at this failure, blaming themselves rather than directing their frustrations at the fence’s design concept and its purveyors’ hype.
But there’s all kinds of training. Circus dogs are trained to jump through flaming hoops. And a hunting bird dog is trained not to chase birds, but to wait until a bird is shot and then bring the carcass back in its mouth intact.
Of course, these things require an expert trainer, one who could doubtless train most dogs to stay inside the line of white flags without wearing any collar. But most people aren’t expert trainers. So it’s worth asking, How good a trainer does one need to be in order to make a electric dog fence work?
How Much Training?
This question has no easy answer. Even if one ignores the wide range of different situations posed by the presence or absence of squirrels, rabbits, cats, neighbor dogs and such, dog behavior varies greatly. Some dogs are both bold and inclined to obey, and for them the training required to make an electric dog fence useful probably falls within the range of what is possible for an ordinary dog-owner. But many others are timid and reluctant to go anywhere near the shock’s source, while others are aggressive and quite willing to challenge the invisible barrier. In both of these cases considerable training expertise may be needed.
So it’s not right to simply blame the owner. And even if we ignore other electric dog fence problems, such as possible negative effects upon a dog’s behavior and their failure to block outsiders — people, other dogs, coyotes, etc. — from coming in to trouble the captive dog, we need to recognize that for many dog owners and pets these fences pose large and perhaps insurmountable problems. That being the case, what accounts for their popularity?
Reasons for Electric Dog Fence Popularity
First, electric dog fences are high-tech. Suddenly, as if by magic, an invisible fence has appeared to solve the dog confinement problem. Only it isn’t magic. It’s based on modern technology. And, we are assured by its purveyors, it really works.
Second, unlike barrier dog fences, electric dog fences can be sold in pet stores. So pet owners who frequent those stores see these fences repeatedly. That reinforces the idea that they provide an effective answer.
Third, and most important, the barrier dog fences one commonly sees have serious problems. When I was a kid needing a dog fence I went to the hardware store and cobbled together what they had. The result, a higgledy-piggledy fence assembled in a harum-scarum manner, worked for a time but was both rickety and ugly. All too often this is what one sees. Alternatively, or at least what appears to many as the next most obvious alternative, a chain link fence is both expensive and unsightly. So how to provide a good dog fence is a real problem that deserves attention.
A Good Answer
I would suggest that one can find a good answer to this problem not by going the over-hyped electric dog fence route but by seeking to improve the barrier fence. Use strong good-looking materials that have low visibility. Make them affordable. Vary them enough so that they can deal with a wide variety of dogs and situations. And provide good kits and instructions so that dog owners, landscapers, and handymen know what they’re at.
This is what McGregor Fence does. I don’t think we have the perfect answer for all dogs. But I believe we can provide good affordable enclosures for the vast majority of dogs. So I hope you enjoy our website and our fences — and that both your dog and the squirrels enjoy them too.
Jonathan Leonard, Manager
McGregor Fence Company LLC
- Alt, Kimberly. The Pros and Cons of an Invisible Fence Collar. Canine Journal. May 12, 2014. https://www.caninejournal.com/invisible-fence-collar/
- Anderson, Eileen. Electronic Fences What you need to know. Shock-Free Coalition. https://www.shockfree.org/Education/Electronic-Fences
- Buzhardt, Lynn, DVM. The Pros and Cons of Invisible Fences for Dogs. VCA Hospitals. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/the-pros-and-cons-of-invisible-fences-for-dogs.
- Coates, Jennifer, DVM. Why Invisible Fences Don’t Work. PetMD. https://www.petmd.com/dog/training/why-invisible-fences-dont-work
- Shiba Shake: Dog Tips, Care, and Training. Dog Shock Collar – The Good and The Bad. https://shibashake.com/dog/dog-shock-collar-good-bad
- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Pet fence. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pet_fence.
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