Friday, June 28, 2013

Dog Fences and Other Containment Devices

When the weather is nice outside, it is tempting to let the dogs run. Actually, it is a really good idea to let them get off-leash exercise if you have the proper place to for this sort of activity. Our pack loves to be outside in the sun!

The Lovely Shane and I have a backyard that is enclosed with a 4 foot high chain link fence here at the Dog Trainer Shack. This is certainly not in any way an adequate containment system for an unsupervised Beagle. However, it is adequate for supervised romps. Copper just loves to track and chase chipmunks, squirrels feral cats, grizzly bears and whatever other interesting critters make their way inside the fence. Well perhaps I exaggerated the grizzly bear thing :).

I mentioned that this 4 foot chain link fence is not an adequate containment system for a Beagle that is unsupervised. Many of you new Beagle buddies or those of you who have never had a Beagle buddy in your pack may think that I am overly cautious here. I have been around Beagles most of my life. One should never, ever, ever, ever underestimate a Beagle's ability or determination to escape. It is not that your little guy or girl is not happy living with you, it is that the Beagle has a very strong instinctual drive to track game. If he/she is on the trail of something the focus of the little brain is very narrow. All he/she is thinking about is following the trail. This is one thing that makes them wonderful hunting dogs. A Beagle with its relatively short legs can follow a trail with its nose to the ground without slowing down to sniff.

I went into the house for just a couple of minutes the other day and one of our pack (not sure which member, I am not convinced that it was not a group effort) was on the trail of something and began digging under the fence. I have temporarily filled the hole with brick and concrete block until I can make a more permanent repair. Under is not the only way a Beagle will try to escape either. I once had a very smart guy named Boomer. When he was about 4 years old, he once climbed over a 6 foot chain link fence! He looked a lot like the guy in the picture here scaling the privacy fence. If you need to leave your dog unattended outside for short periods of time (please do not do this for extended periods) there are some options. You can build or buy a kennel type chain link enclosure. some of these have tops that will keep out rain and sun.


If you anchor these enclosures to a concrete slab the dogs will be unable to dig out.

The Lovely Shane and I are planning to, one day, install a 6 foot privacy fence on at least one side of the back yard. Perhaps we will install one or two of these cool portholes. This will allow out pack to look out. Besides, I think it looks really cool :).

Okay, now I am going to mention something that is a little controversial.  The devices that utilize shock collars to make a so called "underground" or" invisible fence". What I am about to write is my opinion as an electronic engineer and a dog trainer. To call these devices "fences" fosters a false sense of safety and security and, in my opinion, borders on fraudulent. These devices sometimes use a buried wire and sometimes use RF (Radio Frequency) transmissions. When the dog gets near the "border" he receives what is sometimes called a static correction. I have studied electronics for many years. It was a career for me. I am now an FCC Licensed Amateur Radio Operator and it is also a hobby of mine. Please, let us not sugar coat this matter. I have never, other than from the manufacturers and advocates of these devices, heard the correction that they provide called "static". I suppose in the academic electrical sense this is technically accurate. But, my friends and readers, in a strictly scientific, electrical sense, lightning is static. Static does not, in any way, co-notate safety. What the collars that come with these devices do is administer a high voltage, low current electrical shock to the dog in the guise of "correction". To some extent it is effective. It does get the little guy or girls attention. However, do they really understand why they are being "corrected" ? I am not convinced that they understand.

A dog can and in many cases will learn that if he/she runs hard and fast enough the "border" can be crossed. He will only get a short and painful electrical shock. The really bad thing about this is if the dog tries to return he will get the shock at the border again. Also, my friends, these collars are in no way foolproof. Batteries can get weak or die. The collar can slip off. The control unit can lose electrical power making these things completely and utterly useless. The underground wire can be accidentally broken. An adjacent transmitter could possibly interfere with the signal from the wireless transmitter rendering its performance unpredictable. Many things can happen to make these devices even less effective.

I am also not at all convinced that these collars are safe. Because of the way the heart works (remember I am not a doctor, don't even play one on T.V.) electrical shocks, even non-lethal ones, can be dangerous to dogs and people.

It is very rare that I find myself in agreement with PETA. They are generally much too radical for me. However, I have to agree with most of their position on shock collars when used as a "fence" or containment device


If you use Google or the search engine of your choice, there is no shortage of images and stories of dogs who were reportedly hurt or killed by shock collars. By the way, just because a product has the word "safe" and "pet" in the name does not mean that it is absolutely safe in all respects to all pets in all applications.

Please understand I am not stating that there is no legitimate use for these devices. In some very extreme cases of aggression, these shock collars with a remote (not as a so called fence) can sometimes be effective as a last resort only. However, this should be done under the supervision of a professional ( a dog trainer, canine behaviorist, or veterinarian).

During my time working at Petco, I saw many of these shock collar devices sold. Some of them for bark control, some of them for containment, and some with the remotes were sold for "training" purposes. They were almost never sold to be used as a last resort in a difficult case. Many times people bought them expecting them to be a magic bullet for behavioral issues. Many times, at the store where I worked in Peachtree City, GA they were bought to be used as "fences" so that the people in deed restricted communities did not have to put up an "unsightly" real fence. I always explained how these devices really worked to customers. But in many cases they bought them as "quick fixes" because of the way these things are miss-marketed. These things are promoted by Petco as "training aides" look at their website there is really no explanation of exactly how these devices work and the inherent dangers of them. I guess there is a great deal of profit to be made here. I suppose that is the real focus at the place "where the pets go".


Well, as always if you have any dog training questions or concerns, please contact me. Also I do, as many of you know, operate a Handyman business. If you have any questions about proper fences or need one installed or repaired also please contact me.

Till next time
-William -

William Moore
William Moore Canine Training
fayettedogtrainer@gmail.com
678-702-4791

William Moore
William Moore Lawn and Handyman Services
fayettelawnmoore@gmail.com
678-702-4791

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