Invisible Fences, Hidden Risks

Some homeowners’ associations (HOAs) do not allow proper fencing to keep dogs safe and contained. Wanting their dogs to enjoy a grassy backyard, homeowners with HOAs hire an invisible fence company to install and teach the dog that he will be electrocuted for crossing the property boundary.  Soon, the dog is left alone outside wearing the invisible fence shock collar. However, an invisible fence is not without risks. Here are some of the hidden risks associated with using an electric fence.

Let’s say you have a dog who LOVES children. Your dog bounds up to his boundary wagging his tail.  He watches the kids running, bicycling, and skateboarding by. He is shocked right after seeing this parade of children.  In that moment, does the dog remember that being too close to the boundary caused him to be electrocuted, or does he associate being electrocuted with the children, bicycles, and skateboards? Convinced he will be electrocuted in their presence, he may start barking and lunging at children, bicycles, and skateboards to keep them away.

Invisible fences do not keep other animals out. Off-leash dogs, foxes, coyotes, racoons, deer, and bears may trek in and out of your yard. Tangling with one of these animals may cause your dog harm and a trip to the veterinary intensive care unit.

Some dogs love to chase critters. There are dogs willing to be electrocuted when in hot pursuit of a critter. However, rarely is a dog willing to be electrocuted for returning to the backyard. These dogs escape from backyards and become evasive or even missing dogs. If you try using your dog's recall word to call him back to the yard, your dog may choose not to come back for fear of being electrocuted. Plus your recall word can develop a negative association, so your dog's response to the recall word becomes unreliable.

Some dogs are so fearful of being electrocuted, they refuse to go in the backyard. Some dogs generalize this fear to all grassy areas. Some dogs generalize the beeping sound predicting a shock and become fearful of anything that beeps in the home. Something as simple as heating up leftovers in the microwave causes the dog to have a panic attack.

Needless to say, we do not recommend invisible fences. We recommend solid fences that dogs cannot see through. We wish HOAs would consider the health and well-being of dogs when they create fence policies. Until then, do your homework and consider the risks.