Are Electronic Containment Systems Cruel?

I don’t want to shock my dog!  Will it hurt?  Are they cruel? 

The correction is a static shock that feels pretty similar to what you sometimes get when you step out of a car or when walking on carpet.  If you are concerned, try it on yourself first.  It is definitely unpleasant (that is the point), but I would describe it as more surprising than painful.  You don’t really feel anything once the correction stops, it is not an ongoing feeling in the way that I usually think of painful sensations.  It is definitely a sensation that I think any dog (or person) would want to avoid, but it is certainly not a big deal.

Here is my take on the cruelty question.  I understand that nobody wants to see their dog in any discomfort.  But, it is also true that nobody wants to see their dog put in any danger by escaping the yard and crossing the road.  And we also want the dog to be able to go outside during the day and enjoy the backyard.

I think getting the correction a couple of times in return for safety and freedom is a tradeoff any dog would make.  If I were a dog it is definitely a deal I would take.   

Watch a mommy dog interacting with her pups.  The moms are pretty tough with the pups.  If a pup gets out of line, she has no hesitation giving them a quick nip on the neck.  The mom cares about her pup’s safety and is willing to discipline her pups if she thinks it is getting out of line.

Most trainers and vets I have met are big fans of electronic dog fence systems.  The famous Monks of New Skete, an order of monks dedicated to raising dogs, approve of these systems.  In their bestseller, How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend, they write “without question, it is the most successful and humane way of dealing with roaming behaviour.”

But if you are going to buy the system and not perform the training, that is definitely cruel.  Your dog will get a lot more corrections than necessary as they try to figure out the system without your help.  And, the chances that your dog is actually safely contained are not as good without the training.  So if you don’t do the training you are subjecting your dog to unnecessary corrections and they aren’t even getting the benefits of being safely contained.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Anita Buck June 22, 2012 at 3:08 pm

We have a Medal roof, and store can goods. Does this interfere with a wireless system? My Dog a German Shepard get shocked and its leaves burn marks on his through. Sometimes he can not go outside he house and the piper gets off, the other times its starts just about 40 feet from the base. I went a few times outside with the collar and checked if the shock goes of, it does both on the same time.
Sincerely,
Anita Buck

Admin- Hi Anita,

Unfortunately the metal roof and cans will block a wireless signal. If your current system is an in-ground fence, it sounds like you are receiving some interference that is causing the signals to project around the house. If the transmitter is close to the metal cans or house breaker box, you will want to move the transmitter beucause the metal cans and house power can project the signals.

Vickie Dannenberger April 9, 2012 at 11:31 am

I have a 5lb Yorkie and a 15 lb Malties/Westie mix which system should I use that would be safe for both?

ADMIN – Hi Vickie,

For dogs that small, in particular the Yorkie – you are going to want a system with small and light collars, as well as lower correction levels. The PetSafe Little Dog would be your best bet.

Deborah June 7, 2011 at 2:12 pm

I think Golden Retrievers may be prone to cancers. Mine died last year of a tumor at age nine and we did not have an electric fence as he was well behaved and did not need it. I have come across two other Goldens in my travels that also suffered from tumors at a fairly young age. We now have two young Chocolate Labs that require this fence as they would escape and kill my nieghbor’s chickens . I love this fence because the dogs learned their boundaries quickly and I do not have to worry about them disturbing my neighbor or getting hit by cars or possibly shot ( we live in the country) My dogs are able to enjoy quite a bit of space when they are outside. Because of the chicken incident I am afraid to leave them out too long ( I am paranoid one dog might bite the collar off the other one) they chewed each others harness off when we first got them but so far everything has been great .

Bill Letourneau December 31, 2010 at 10:50 am

My Golden retriever was having Seisures, an MRI showed a golf ball size tumor on his brain. Only 8 years old. Had to put him down. Lived with electric fence on property!

ADMIN – Hi Bill,

Sorry to hear about your loss.

Electric dog fences use extremely weak radio waves, the same waves sent out by AM radio stations. You can listen to the dog fence transmissions with an AM radio and you will notice they are very weak and you can’t pick them up at all once you are more than a couple of feet away from the boundary. With the signals so much weaker than even a regular radio station, the systems cannot and do not cause cancer.

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