I have encounter dogs who are... unfazed by the electric shock given by invisible collars, but I can't honestly say I've met a single one who was unaffected. The added stress of such extreme positive punishment or so many less extreme positive punishments is perceived by the dog as at least moderate levels, if not extreme.
Invisible fence collared dogs tend to be very hyper, at best, and very prone to aggression, at worst.
Some dogs will even use aggression to keep owners &/or guests from being bitten by the bad thing that is out there.
They fail to physically prevent the dog's access to danger.
They expose the dog to the danger posed by other dogs who are now reacting to your e-collared dog who has learned that other dogs "bite" when you approach them.
Dogs who receive a warning tone end up reacting to the warning tone in exactly the same way as they do to the HIGHEST LEVEL of shock ever experienced. The warning tone is actually MORE stressful than collars that increase in shock intensity.
Is it the shock alone? I don't think so. I've actually seen dogs trained on remote collars who act completely normal. Granted, these are high-drive dogs in the hands of a trainer with precise timing receiving a consistent message in extremely rewarding environments where they have a pretty good idea of what is expected of them already.
What is it that makes invisible fences so effective at creating problems?
Today's incident with Lila was absolutely typical. A not-so-new dog on a fairly new fence. I guess around 18 month old-- intact black Labrador male. Sees Lila. Lila, though spayed since 6 mos, literally drives male dogs insane. (Dogs really do resemble their owners! Well, I drive the boys crazy... not the spaying part.)
Runs to check out the Hot Chick Dog. On his way, she BITES him! From a distance! (collar zap, for our sleepy readers) Well, distance biting is FIGHTING WORDS. He runs at Lila making sounds and quick movements like he wishes to eat her. (This terrifies my mother, who said her adrenaline shot through the roof.)
Lila is a very well-socialized dog. Extremely. When we are at an off-leash park, and I am ready to leave, I would say she is OVERLY social. No matter what kind of nut job she meets, she "talks it out".
In today's interaction (which many owners would be inclined to describe as an "attack"), she stands stock still at 90 degrees to the other dog's loud and maniacal approach. She lifts her head to say "No, you're not going to bite me", and gives a warning growl. She slowly lowers her head, telegraphing her intention to sniff the other dog's butt "Is this ok with you?" He says, "No. Sniff my face." and shoves his face to hers. She repeats the intention to butt sniff. Now that she's older, there's a bit of pee-fighting. (Just a slight "piss on your bad attitude"?) There is more sniffing, and thoughts from the male of mounting, which between my body language (angle of approach and a few well-timed pokes) and Lila's dirty, disdaining looks (she is very proper), he gets the message "That's a no-go, crazy pants." She says "Let's just be friends instead." Finally there is a butt-sniffing circle. This is highly desirable, and on the way to working it out. There is a reversal of direction to the doggy-handshake-butt-sniffing circle. We've changed from challenge to working it out. (It can go the other way, too. Reversal of circling direction is very communicative.) Sniffing ensues. She takes a short sprint away with her tail held at a crazy angle which invites him to play. I curse my short leash 6' instead of my 26' retractable, which is fantastic for controlled romps with crazy dogs. We've worked it out.
Why was it so critical for us to stay and work it out? Couldn't we have just walked past?
Round 2. A few hours later.
On this round, he knew she was nice. So when he got nailed by the collar again on his way out of the yard, well, he learned that it was worth it. Just a quick flash of pain, and then --freedom and sexy romps with the hot grey Lab chick! "Totally worth it," I hear him say in a 15 year old voice.
His owners, trying to be responsible, realize in short order that he is loose. They call him back into the yard -- while they are standing INSIDE the fence. Poor great doofus charges back to them, yipes as he hits the fence, and continues into the house. NOW he has learned that listening to COME takes away the hot female & freedom, gets him bitten again, and then he ends up in confinement. I don't think you have to be a pro to guess what effect this is going to have.
Why do people use them?
Sadly, I think it is with good intentions. It makes them feel good. They can give their dog more freedom. They are protecting the dog from traffic. And, let's face it, these things are well-marketed, and cheap and easy compared to a fence.
Unfortunately, they believe the hype, and they discredit the concerns of folks like me because sometimes, they DO work. Or they appear to work. A mild-mannered dog is not highly motivated to leave the yard in the first place, and a highly aversive punishment definitely keeps the dog in the yard.
And that's their goal. No matter what the cost to the dog, or what side effects it causes, they will only turn their tunnel vision towards keeping the dog in the yard.
Even when the fence fails, the frustration they feel makes the dog's pain seem acceptable. At least they didn't hit him. At least he "learned a lesson" (of course, which one is it??). They truly believe that their dog is just slow, and that it will just take more pain and more loose running in the neighborhood for the dog to learn to stay in the yard.
I admire their optimism, and stalwart resistance to being confused with facts.
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