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Ask the Trainer: Should I Use an Electric or Invisible Fence for my Dog?

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Backyarddog Min

“Hi Steve, I was thinking of an electric fence for my yard.  My neighbor has one for her dog, what do you think?” Lisa P.

The topic of electric fences are very much an individualistic choice. Like anything else, they have their pros and cons. Some people swear by them and others prefer not to use them.

I think we should start this article off by saying, never let your dog off-leash outside unless you have a safe containment system in place, such as a solid fence or electric fence. Most people have not developed a rock solid recall with their dog. If your dog does not come when called even 1 out of 10 times, that means they should not be off-leash. We NEED 100% reliability for safety reasons. How to achieve this is beyond the scope of this article.

Benefits of Electric Fence

When my clients ask my opinion on electric fences, I always start by saying, “Nothing beats a solid and secure wood or vinyl fence”. With that said, electric fences tend to be: less expensive, easier to install in certain geographic landscapes where other fences are impossible to install, and they are suitable for use where solid fences are against town or condo community guidelines.

Don’t Install Yourself

I think electric fences are a job best left for a professional electric fence company to install. I advise all my clients against installing their own fence, as it can be intricate and if there is a malfunction, you want the professionals to properly diagnose and fix the problem.

Hire a Professional for Training

Proper training is ESSENTIAL for this, as you want your dog to fully and unequivocally understand how the fence works. If this is not properly done, your dog may go through the fence, and when they do, they may not understand not to get back in. Also, I personally would not use an electric fence with a dog younger than 6 months of age (older if possible). So make sure to hire a professional for the installation and proper training.

Don’t Forget

An electric fence may keep your dog from escaping, but it will not prevent other animals or people from entering your yard (like a solid fence would). So do not let your dog outside and forget about them, you must still keep an eye on them for safety reasons. I would also suggest that the fence not run right next to the street line. I would have the fence line set back at least several feet (10, 20, or even 30ft. back is better) from the street line. Having a dog run right down to the curb of your house barking and running back and forth at bicyclists, other dogs, and passerby’s can be a safety issue for not only your dog, but the general public. Creating a special buffer of 10-30ft. off the curb line can help to decrease the chance of future issues and bad behaviors developing.

In Closing

An electric fence is a terrific option for certain owners, but only you can decide if it’s right for you and your dog. Don’t forget, any kind of fence (solid or electric) are not suitable alternatives to walking and playing with your dog (Tug or Fetch). You cannot simply let your dog outside a few times a day to run around the yard chasing a squirrel and barking at your neighbor, you need to spend time with your dog, play with your dog, and walk your dog every day.

If you do not have a fence in your yard, don’t let your dog off-leash, there is NOTHING wrong with walking your dog on a 6 ft. leash and playing outside with your dog using a 20-50ft. long leash. It does not “shortchange” your dog in anyway, they want to be with YOU and spend time with YOU. The key takeaway for today is to provide the best quality of life for your dog, while keeping them safe.

Putnam NY Dog Trainer Steve Reid, of S.R. Dog Training. Read more about Steve at www.srdogtraining.com and www.Facebook.com/SRDogTraining.

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  1. A dog doesn’t look at a physical fence like we do. We think containment. The dog thinks about how to escape his jail cell. Do I dig under, jump over, push through or operate the gate? Plus, your dog isn’t protected from running out the front door or garage. With proper professional installation & training, an underground dog fence is the best solution.

  2. My home is a five acre parcel about a half of it wooded. The invisible fence guys stretched a receiving wire around the entire boundary, then spent a good deal of time training both of my dogs (and myself). I love it. I think they do as well. In the morning I let them out and they get to have a safe adventure around the entire property.

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