I don’t like underground fencing for dogs for a myriad of reasons:
1. They work by hurting the dog. Yes, I understand that once the dog is trained to the boundaries it doesn’t get shocked unless it tries to cross them, but, as a dog trainer who has committed herself to not hurting dogs in the name of training, it just doesn’t sit well with me.
2. They can be outsmarted. I knew of a beagle that would stand in the warning zone so that his collar would emit the beep until the battery died, then he was free to roam without fear of being shocked.
3. Many dogs are willing to “take the hit” of electric shock to chase after something really enticing (a deer or rabbit) but are not willing to take the hit to get back into their yard. Now, not only is your dog loose, but he will be punished for trying to come home.
4. It can cause your dog to become aggressive. Each time your dog sees a person or another dog on the street and he wants to run and say hello he receives an electric shock. He may (and many dogs do) begin to associate the pain he receives with the new people/dogs. Now instead of running gleefully to meet them, he is barking aggressively to warn them off.
5. It’s terrifying for people walking their dogs to see your dog come barreling off leash, barking all the way toward their dog. I have seen this result in leash reactivity from dogs who previously had no issues with other dogs while on leash. Your neighbors will not be fans.
6. If your dog is friendly, a stranger can easily walk onto your property and steal your dog.
7. It does not stop strange dogs or wild animals from coming onto your property, and can prevent your dog from escaping from said strange animal. (I’m going to amend this one in a minute!)
I have been asked by many a client about invisible/underground/electric fences because they are less expensive to install than traditional fencing. I always list the reasons above as to why I don’t recommend them. Then I add, “If you decide to get one anyway, NEVER leave your dog unsupervised. If you are present with your dog you may be able to prevent a lot of the issues I have with them.”
One of my neighbors had asked me, after getting a puppy, what I recommended and I went through my reasoning, and they assured me that they would never leave him out unsupervised. It is extremely rare that I have seen this dog out with a human being in the 3 years that they have had him on the underground fence. He is nearly always out alone unless the boys are playing basketball. He has since developed barrier aggression, and comes charging and barking anytime he sees someone coming up the street. I’m sad about it, but you can’t always change people’s minds, despite your best efforts.
The other day while walking my own dogs I saw something that made my stomach drop. The house next door to this dog has recently come under new ownership and there are two toddlers now living there, they look to be around 4 and 2 years old. Both children went running into this dog’s yard; thankfully a parent came running in and scooped them back up and took them home, and thankfully the dog wasn’t out. The dog lives with children (although older than 8), but that doesn’t mean he would be friendly towards strange toddlers meandering through his yard, or if he was, that he would take kindly to an adult stranger running in and scooping them up. You can just imagine the horror of the situation: children physically and emotionally scarred for life, parents scarred for life, and the dog euthanized. The “beware of dog” signs in their garage window are pretty well useless in the scenario.
7. It does not stop strange dogs, wild animals, or people, including small children who can’t read “beware of dog” signs, from coming onto your property, and can prevent your dog from escaping from said strange animal or cause you to be sued when your dog knocks down or bites said person.
So in closing, please invest in a physical fence. I know it’s expensive (believe me, I know!*) If you really just can’t afford traditional fencing, keep your dog on leash and/or get a long line or a long piece of rope from a hardware store to let him run around on. And please, regardless of what type of fencing you have or do not have, never EVER leave your dog unsupervised!!! I’ve seen so many dogs stolen, lost, or injured and it breaks my heart.
* I currently have chain link fencing around my back yard. It was here when we moved in, but we had to replace a 50 foot section to keep the dogs out of the vegetable garden. It was somewhere around $500 and we did the installation ourselves!