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Electronic Fences and Shock Collars

Electronic training devices such as electronic fences and anti-barking collars rely on painful punishment and negative reinforcement, causing dogs to live in fear of being electrocuted for normal behaviors like crossing invisible lines, barking, and jumping onto surfaces within their own homes. Positive training methods, in which dogs are rewarded for what they do right, are kinder and more effective.

Shock Collars

Dogs wearing shock collars can suffer from physical pain and injury (ranging from burns to cardiac fibrillation) and psychological stress, including severe anxiety and displaced aggression. Individual animals vary in their temperaments and pain thresholds; a shock that seems mild to one dog may be severe to another. The anxiety and confusion caused by repeated shocks can lead to changes in the heart and respiration rate or gastrointestinal disorders. Electronic collars can also malfunction, either administering nonstop shocks or delivering no shocks at all.

Electronic Fences

Dogs whose yards are surrounded by electronic fences may develop fear or aggression aimed at what they believe is the source of the shock (kids riding by on bikes, the mail carrier, the dog next door, etc.). Dogs have been known to run through electronic barriers when frightened by fireworks or chasing a squirrel and then be too scared to cross back through the barrier.

Electronic fences may actually encourage animals to try to escape. Since dogs only suffer painful shocks in the yard, they may associate the shock with the yard itself—once they get out of the yard, the pain goes away. The fact that the pain returns when they try to reenter the yard can cause dogs to believe that they are being punished for returning home.

Even when animals are confined within certain boundaries of an electronic fence, they are still in danger of attacks by roaming dogs, cruel humans, or other animals, who can freely enter the property. Electronic fences are a dog thief’s dream come true!

Humane and Safe Boundaries

The most effective way to keep your dog safely confined to your property is to keep him or her inside the house when you aren’t home and allow him or her outside only under close supervision on a leash or in a securely fenced enclosure.

Some Fencing Guidelines

  • A 6-foot privacy fence is best, preventing your dog or intruders from scaling it.
  • Wood or vinyl fencing is optimal for privacy, but chain link is less expensive. (Small windows covered with wire mesh can be cut into wooden fences to allow dogs to see out.)
  • Replace a short fence with a taller one, or add an extension to the top.
  • Line the fence with rocks or a cement-filled trench to prevent digging.

If you cannot afford a fence, have a yard that would be difficult to fence, or live in a condominium or townhouse where fences are not allowed, consider letting your dog out only on a leash and taking him or her to a fenced dog park or to a friend’s fenced yard for play and exercise. You may also want to consult a certified dog behaviorist about teaching your dog to stay within boundaries through the use of positive reinforcement.

Living With Barking Dogs

Dogs bark for a variety of reasons but mainly because of boredom, distress, separation anxiety, and defense of their territory. Young dogs, small or active breeds, and dogs who are chained up or left outside most of the time are more likely to bark. For humane and safety reasons, as well as to maintain good relations with your neighbors, it is best to keep your dog indoors when you are not at home. Dogs are less likely to bark indoors, and any barking that they do indoors is less likely to be loud enough to disturb the neighbors.

Tips to Prevent Boredom-Related Barking

  • Take your dog for two or three walks per day; family members, trusted neighbors, or professional dogwalkers can help during the workday.
  • Allow your dog least five opportunities to relieve him- or herself during a day.
  • Provide plenty of chew toys; rotate them and provide new ones.
  • Give your dog a toy that can be filled with treats; working to get the treats out will provide mental and physical stimulation.
  • Agility and flyball courses are fun and a great outlet for a dog’s energy.
  • Barking at intruders or frightening noises is a natural behavior for dogs and should not be totally forbidden.

Tips to Prevent Excessive Barking at Strangers or Noises

  • Take your dog out daily to interact and socialize with other people. Praise him or her for friendliness.
  • When people visit your house, give your dog a treat or toy so that he or she associates guests with something positive.
  • When something frightens your dog, encourage him or her to sit, lie down, or play with a toy.

A humane dog trainer or certified behaviorist will be able to provide more tips on desensitizing your dog to frightening sounds. If your dog’s situation is severe, the behaviorist may suggest that you consider consulting your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medications that can help calm your dog.

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  • Ken says:

    Shock collars, electric fences, and crating are things I just will not do with my dogs.

    Kindness, patience, and love are what they get.

    Thank you PETA for taking on the animal’s cause…they have no voice (other than a bark, of course).

  • Kenny says:

    I had a shock collar kill my pit/mastiff mix. It was on the highest setting and he freaked out and it just kept shocking him. My dad said it was a heart attack.

  • Michael says:

    We are moving with our young blind cat who is a jumper, to a complex that has an electric fence. How do we prevent him for jumping on to it?

  • Precious says:

    Sierra please try a citronella collar instead I have been hearing those work well. Also no one can take yor dog away or fine you unless your dog barks continually for 20 minutes straight without stopping. At least that’s the law here know your rights so you don have to use that collar :( and bring the animal inside during night time.

  • Kaitlyn says:

    My Chihuahua was killed by a shock collar. My dad shocked her about six times in one day and her heart failed. She was a healthy, young, beautiful dog. But she was too small for that. If you care about your dog you will pay for proper obedience training, or take another route.

  • sierra says:

    So I have a 110 lb dog who . Is blind and barks but he barley ever does he barks like a normal dog and we have gotten a complaint that we have to get him to stop and they said we should a shock collar and I think that it is really inhumane and cruel is there something better because I can’t stand the thought of having my dog hurt and he doesn’t know what’s goin on since he is blind and fairly old help

  • Leslie says:

    My dog was killed by an electronic fence. Read the story at http://www.dogsdeservebetter.org/sophie.html

    I do wonder why some of the people posting here are on a PETA site….

  • Jamie says:

    I could use some feedback. I have looked up the pros and cons to electric dog fences for my Chihuahua about 7lbs. Here is the problem, we cannot get a fence because of where we live. He darts out the door and takes off a lot and has come close to getting hit by a car (yes he is neutered) and I do walk him but this does not stop him from wanting to take off. If I do not use some form of electric fence I fear he will get hit by a car. Yet I also think he is too small for one (despite company’s saying it is safe) I do not believe it to be safe for such a small animal. I’m kind of at a loss.

  • galileo says:

    OK i came on here for info and found some scary people. Here is my take. Chaining a dog outside is wrong. If you have a dog for other than companionship. You probably would be better off without one. As far as the electric fences. I see them all over, and the dogs seem just fine, happy, well adjusted and fairly free to roam. I would suggest getting a good brand that wont shock the dog at random though. Oh and the dogs are not humans comment, no they are way better than human.

  • ray says:

    Many people who have a aversion to electronic collars seem to have no problem with imprisoning a dog in a crate all day while they go to work. The rationale is that a dog is a cave animal and would prefer to stay in a crate, when actually it is a convenience to the owner. If the dog would prefer to stay in the crate, why not leave the door open?

  • linda says:

    we have two 8 month pitbulls,brother&sister,we live on a acre on a dead end road,our property is not fenced,for the most part they stay in the yart but as soon as i turn my back for one second they are gone in the woods,they are usually gone fo about an hr then come sneakin back up,i want to know should i punnish them and how should i?I CANT AFORD FOR THEM TO GO AND KILL NEIGHBORS ANIMALS,they are my life,i do have a 15 year old amstad pit and she is the most well mannered dog a person can have ,i am hopen that they will take after her and so far they have except for this problem of leavin the property,needen some advice on what i need to do ,i dont believe in tiein them or cagein,whats the cince of havin a animal if they cant live too.

  • mia lousiea says:

    i got a shock collor with tones a good and bad tone and four levels of shock my girl ocosanly forget her rules and get bad tone (no shock) with get her attention great only one time i had to shock her because she was runing in the road i dont see a problem with shock collars as long as there used properly and for the corect wait for the dog

  • Kat says:

    to Mel, I am glad someone ‘stole’ your dogs. You had no right to leave your dogs chained while you were at work. Chaining a dog is a miserable thing to do. I would have called the Humane Soceity on you and you would have to deal with them. There is also nothing wrong with having pitbulls that are too friendly. God knows they wouldn’t have been had someone not rescued them. They would have grown mean spending their lives on a chain for hours on end while you were away.

  • Salma says:

    before I adopted my husky, I never like the use of shock collers on dogs and I considered it really cruel. However when my husky had severe fixation and aggression towards dogs my family tried everything!!! We had to put her in 3weeks of extended training, and the trainer taught us how to use and apply the shock coller properly. She is now good with dogs and has a way better life with the freedom of the coller, she can now run free in feilds etc.. and will come back when I say here. The people who say that they don’t agree with the coller have probably never had a dog like mine or with the same problems so it’s easy to say that you don’t agree when it’s not your dog with the problem. Sometimes you do need to make the move of buying the coller since it’s the only way to not ingnore and put aside the problem. for example someone who has an aggressive dog probably ignores the problem and doesn’t let the dogsee other canines, instead of trying to fix the problem.

  • Karen Ohl says:

    Your dog was “stolen” off the chain in your backyard? Umm, actually, your dog was freed from a life of imprisonment, abandonment, and abuse. Please don’t chain your dogs, ever. If you cannot afford (time, energy, money, whatever) to give a dog the attention and exercise he or she requires, then you should NOT have a dog.

  • Mike says:

    Madeline, it is a dog not a human. And while both humans and dogs, i.e. wolves, are pack animals and share some of the same social behaviors the rules governing these behaviors are different. The mistake people make is expecting a dog’s responses to be the same as a humans are when learning proper social behavior. Push me off your the couch and I will hold it against you the rest of my life. Push Bowser off the couch because he jumped up there without your permission and he will respect you as the leader.

  • Jen says:

    What do you do if your dog can scale a 6 foot fence into the neighbor’s yard and then barks and growls at the neighbor dogs and people in their own back yard? Would a shock be better than the dad next door shooting the dog? Or her getting run over by a car when she jumps the fence to the front yard? ANd yes, I have personally seen her scale the fence.

  • Barry says:

    dogs are not people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Mel says:

    This is rubbish! Maybe using a shock collar or electric fence is bad but encouraging and rewarding ur dog for being friendly and greeting strangers in you’re home….. RIDICULOUS! That’s why my two pitbull puppies are missing now because they were too friendly with strangers. Someone walked right into my yard and let them off their chains and out the yard and took them while I was at work! Don’t have you’re pets overly friendly because there are alot of dishonest people and thieves out here.

  • Luna says:

    I never thought that I would use a shock collar. They always seemed cruel to me. But my dog, who knows her commands very well, would spontaneously run far far away when she saw deer. We tried everything even teaching her a special command with lots of positive reinforcement but nothing worked. When she sees a deer (no other animals) she is off and won’t be back for a while. She doesn’t give a darn about a treat or toy. I kept her on a leash for a long time but she was miserable. We live in the country and she couldn’t even be off leash on our own property. I purchased a shock collar and after ONE shock she doesn’t run away any more. Maybe the shock is cruel (I tried it out and it did hurt!) but I think that 10+ years of being able to run and be SAFE is more important. Madeline, what do you think?

  • Mike says:

    If you have an attentive dog, eager to please, try the count method. Example: If the dog knows “come”, and is dawdling, count 1 – 2 – 3 followed by a consequence that can be as minor as approaching and petting. After a few of these, the dog learns finality. “Come” doesn’t mean, “OK, wait a minute, I’m doing something important.” Dawdling: kids do it; adults do it; dogs do it, too.

  • David says:

    I think that anyone who is for, or against these collars should read the Scientific study below. These are not the baseless embellishments above. While I don’t think all of the authors claims are misguided, I would like to see the reasearch that validates the cardiac claim. I recently tried a collar on my adopted dog. After one session I knew it was not for her. We suspect she may have been abused heavily as she is a pit mix, and she exhibits extreme fixation on some dogs. We have tried several training methods with little success for this one problem. She almost acts rabid that’s how crazy she gets. She is a wonderful dog outside of this situation, and listens quite well to commands. we have taught through perseverance; a combination of Cesar type corrections and reward based training. The moral of the story is not all techniques work well for all dogs, or breeds. Learn your dog, and you both will be very happy and safe.

    Link.
    http://www.rspca.org.uk/ImageLocator/LocateAsset?asset=document&assetId=1232713013325&mode=prd

  • Ron Morgan says:

    Madeline, please stop pretending to be a dog training expert. You obviously aren’t.

    I have been using electronic collars for years (I don’t call them “shock” collars because they don’t really shock – they just sort of “tickle”), and I am appalled at the ignorance out there of how to use them. In fact, even though I know how to use one correctly, I think they should be illegal to sell, except to professional trainers. There are just too many stupid people out there, and to make matters worse, the collar companies advertise them as excellent ways to administer punishment and correction of “bad habits.”

    That being said, let me clarify about the “come” command. There are many situations when an instant, 100% “come” is needed. For example, your dog suddenly explodes chasing a cat or a squirrel – right out in front of a car, or perhaps off into some wooded area where it would be lost. There is also the desire to allow a dog to walk freely, instead of constantly being on a leash. Good, consistent training and obedience gives a dog greater freedom and, well, fun.

    A fundamental fact is that you ONLY use electronic collars to reinforce commands the dog ALREADY knows. So your dog knows what “come” means, and most of the time he comes to you. Sometimes he doesn’t, he just ignores you because he finds something else more interesting. That is NEVER acceptable. “Come” means “come,” NOT “well, you can come if you want to, but you don’t have to…”

    What you do is give the dog a VERY slight stimulation with the collar. “Slight” to the extent that he barely feels it. At the same time, say “come.” The INSTANT the dog turns towards you and begins to take a step, release the button. In this manner, the dog learns to turn off the stimulation by obeying your command. After a few times, he will have it down pat and chances are you will NEVER need to do it again.

    There are special circumstances where a collar is used for a negative reinforcer, but these are very rare. On our ranch, for example, I take both of our collar-trained dogs out walking all over the place, off-leash, even though the country is overrun with rabbits and deer, both of which dogs LOVE to chase. But I KNOW that if Buzz takes off after that deer, he’ll either be hurt, or I’ll never see him again.

    So once we were out on a walk and a deer suddenly shot out from behind a nearby cedar. Instinctively, Buzz, ignoring my “NO!” took off after it. The INSTANT he took that first step, I gave him a firm stimulation, and he stopped in his tracks and came to me ( guess Madeline would have stopped him with a “doggie treat or chew toy”). Since then, he has seen dozens of deer and rabbits and doesn’t even think about chasing them. So, we are able to continue our wonderful walk across the countryside, running wild and free and off-leash. But without the electronic collar, it wouldn’t have been possible.

    But again, I’m shocked (no pun intended) by how many people are so totally ignorant of how to use this device. I hate to think of all the dogs out there that are suffering from electronic collars their well-meaning owners picked up at PetSmart.

  • Madeline says:

    A shock collar is never, every necessary to teach “Come.” Shame on whoever taught you that. Operant conditioning works without the use of anything aversive.
    When you’re at home and your friend/mom/spouse asks you to come give them a hand with something, do you immediately drop everything and run to them. Or do you say, “just a minute” and quickly look for a good place to pause whatever you were working on before getting up and going to them?
    Do you deserve a shock for that? Do you even deserve a punishment at all?
    Would you be quicker in the future if you knew they’d give you a $50 bill every time you got to them?
    There are so many humane solutions to keeping your dog from chasing cats and deer into the street I cannot even name them all. That is a very poor reason to turn to electric shock. And shame on whoever taught you that shocking your dog teaches her you are in control. Your dog has no idea where the shock is coming from. If she could realize it was you that’s startling and hurting her, I don’t think “respect” is the emotional response she would experience.
    Please think more critically about the “ethical” treatment aspect of your interest in PETA.

  • Madeline says:

    Why use an electronic shock to ‘train’ when you could use a delicious dog treat or a tennis ball as a reward?
    Shock collars are unnecessary and incomplete training tools. Shock collars cause a level of stress that is disruptive to the learning process. They require precise timing and criteria setting skills far beyond most people’s abilities.
    There is never a time that a modern, science based dog trainer should need to use one. If your dog trainer or school recommends any type of citronella collar, electronic collar or fence, leave and find a modern trainer better educated in behavioral science.
    Part of why the shock may not have bothered Travis was because he was in control – he knew what to expect, what was happening and why.

    Even if you are not convinced, DO NOT EVER USE electric shock on a dog displaying AGGRESSIVE behavior. You may suppress the aggressive behavior in that moment, but you have not treated the cause. Instead you have added to that dog’s stress and the next time that dog has an outburst it will be more intense.
    Also, if you are truly committed to the ETHICAL treatment of animals, please think harder about the implications for training your pet dog. How could using an unnecessary and harsh punishment be ETHICAL? Especially when truly dog friendly, more effective alternatives abound? Why do you want to teach your friend by hurting him?
    And yes, prong collars and choke collars hurt dogs. That’s how they work.

  • Erin says:

    Travis, I completely agree. While E-collars (“shock collars”) can be harmful if used improperly, there is very little risk when used correctly. Before I ever put one on my dog, I used it on myself and found it only to be uncomfortable after level 4 (its really not painful, just uncomfortable and annoying). I never go up to a level 4 on my dog. My dog was intensively trained using positive reinforcement methods and I integrated the collar to fine tune her recall. We have over a dozen cats that live on our street and after a couple of close calls where she ran into the street after a cat (and a couple of deer chasing incidents), I finally decided that I would risk her being a little uncomfortable while re-affirming that Come means Come, to avoid her being hit by a car. After a week with the collar and a couple of uncomfortable reminders that I am in charge, my dog now comes 100% of the time she is called without the collar. Now I can leave her off lease most of the time which increases her quality of life. Bottom Line: Know your animal, do your research, work with a reputable trainer, and be consistent. Dont throw an E-collar on, start pressing the button and expect your dog to start performing magic tricks.

  • Travis says:

    I agree with the purpose of you organization completely. However research has proven that negative reinforcement is very effective it certain situations. The example I am refering to is shock collars. While I believe that positive reinforcement is the most effective form of behavior modifcation, there are definitely situations where positve behavior modification is not possible. However the ability to use punishment or negative reinforcement is possible using a shock collar. I agree that these items can be abused however if used properly they are very effective and not only improve the behavior of the animal but also can decrease the risk of injury. I have a great respect for the ideals of your organization, however I believe that blanket statments regarding methods of training and an unwillingness to at least attempt to look at different views severely limits the good your organization can do. I wish you good luck in the future.

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