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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