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Saturday, 15 April 2017


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I assume you mean an invisible fence. I know people who have them and they do work. You are dealing with one very specific issue though, so it may not be the first choice in your case. I would work with a professional dog trainer first. That could be more effective and less expensive.

Invisible fences are used with dogs that have general roaming issues. Your dog has one behavior that needs correcting, plus a failure to obey your command. That's more a job for a trainer, in my view. I do have some experience dealing with professional dog trainers. I think you would be very happy working with a good one.

It's unfortunately that Butters has made that lifestyle change.
My experience is that the lesson will be learned fast, but the dog will still charge right up to the fence, stop and continue to bark. Maybe still scare the humans and may cause other dogs to proceed to the fence unknowingly. Just last week a friend with the collar zapper thing (with on the dog not on the owner) worked great. You need to be outside for her at first. Good Luck. BTW one of my favorite fotos of Looper, my former dog, is one with her and me with my camera in the shadow.

We had indirect experience with electric dog fences, and I don't recommend them for a high energy dog. Our neighbor had a German Shepard who liked to run into the street after cars. Neighbor installed an electric fence. Result: dog got excited, and ran through the fence despite the shock. But when calmed down (car gone) he wouldn't go through it again to get back into the yard. A lose-lose proposition. THis happened several times, despite the dog knowing it would be shocked when it went through. Personally, I don't consider them reliable enough, although it probably does work for some dogs.

The biggest concern I've ever had with electric fences is that if the dog charges through the fence in his excitement, the fence will keep him from returning home (every time he tries to return, the fence shocks him). So you gotta hope that it successfully discourages him from getting out in the first place. But while I've been dog owner for decades, I never tried an electric fence, so take it with a grain of salt.

It depends on the dog, and is better done when they are puppies.
Generally, they learn it fast (one day) and don't breech it.
It keeps them safe.
I have outdoor systems in both my houses, and an indoor system in one house (keeps them out of formal living areas)
They have worked like a charm for us with Many different dogs over many years.
I don't think they are universally effective, some larger dogs will run through.
The systems can be expensive if property is large and you want the cable buried. In one of my houses it is buried under the driveway but inconspicuously exposed on the rest of the property. Works fine. If you are a gardener, you will accidentally cut it, but it is easy to patch . The batteries are non standard so they can sell you a periodic plan.
There are DIY systems too.
They are not fool proof, you still have to watch your dog, but the longer the dog observes the limits, the more sure you can be that they won't take off.

We've has an invisible fence for the 25 years we've lived in our current house. The first dog we put on the fence (a adult female corgi), wouldn't go very far from the house for a year or so after getting the collar, but eventually figured it out.

The other dogs we've put on it were puppies and adapted fine (one was a rescue dog about a year old). All but one were herding dogs which seem to be better about staying close to the house anyway. One dog was a lab/golden retriever mix who broke through the fence 3 or 4 times but generally did OK. Most of the problems were our fault (he thought we were going for a walk when we were just letting him out in the yard). He was also a dog that could never be off leash. We thought we lost him a couple of times when we were walking on a trail in the woods and he saw something and took off before we figured out that he could never be off leash on a walk.

We were told that some dog breeds don't work on invisible fences (I think it's mostly sight hounds whose brains switch off when they see something or breeds that tend to wander like huskies).

I think the initial training is really important. Dogs don't just figure it out without training. If they learn they can just run through the fence with only a brief shock, the fence doesn't work. It takes a while of having them (on a leash) approach the fence, getting shocked (or hearing the sound they get before the shock), then pulling them back into the yard to learn the correct response. Some dogs learn quicker than others and they can't be let loose in the yard until their response is really solid.

Our dog Safi, a lovely Lebanese refugee golden retriever, was trained with the e-collar, which is the manually activated (via a remote) version of the electric fences. After proper training, and this can't be emphasized enough, it is an amazing tool to be able to communicate rather than punish her. I was able to explain to her how to properly run around my mountain bike (3ft minimum distance, never in front of my front wheel) in less than 5 minutes.
Without properly explained causality between their behaviour and the shock or vibration, the dog will simply not understand what is happening and will brush off the shock as "that painful thing that happens at random moments" or, if he is particularly smart, "that painful thing that sometimes happens around these particular locations". By training him properly (most likely with a professional), you will be able to explain that what actually happens is "when I am going a hundred yards from the house without Mike, it will hurt".

So from experience, it is an amazing tool, with a huge caveat that if you just buy it and don't invest in any training with it, not only will it not solve your problem but it will also cause severe discomfort or pain to your dog.

Mybrother has a device on the dogs collar and a cable buried around his large garden perimeter. He never has a problem with his dogs walking thru the open gate to a very busy main road. I am not familiar with the brand.

Hi Mike,

Dogs are something I know about. We've had electric fences over the years. They can be quite effective given the right dog and right situation. You probably won't know until you've invested in it---and they can be pricey. You can also DIY for 'cheaper', and try it out by not burying the wire. I would never use these for an unattended dog for any substantial length of time (greater than 30 minutes). Problems that we had were that occasionally the collar would go off in the house (strange wiring), and with 5 dogs and 5 collars, sensitivities and making sure they were all charged was a hassle.

If the real problem is 'Butters doesn't come to a recall in certain situations', that's an issue that can be solved by cheaper technology (a training shock collar, some work with a obedience trainer). I would probably point you to that solution first---unless you want to throw him outside unattended (but not unwatched).

Hi Mike,
I used an electric fence when I lived on acreage in the woods. It worked. Installation was simple. I just ran the wire around the edge of where I wanted the dog to stay then put her collar on. I was diligent with her training, as outlined in the booklet that came with the collar. I suppose there is a YouTube video now. I took her for walks daily and turned off her collar. She learned to associate freedom to leave the yard with my presence. After a couple of years I removed the wire, as she had learned to stay in the yard.

The dog needs more than just the fence. Good vendors include lessons (more than one) and the lessons are as much for the owner as for the dog.

We had a dog-fence combination that worked almost too well. Early in her training our retriever took off after a rabbit that exited the yard with retriever closely following. SHOCK! YELP!

After that the retriever wouldn't leave the patio any time a small animal was anywhere in the back yard. She associated the shock with the animal, not the fence. Which was OK with us.

Our 2 dogs picked up quickly on the boundary when we got Invisible Fence. The vendor did 3 training sessions and gave us drills to work on in between sessions, and I think both dogs picked it up well. We're in a woodsy area, and I never saw either dog rush the fence line to pursue any woodland varmints or deer. The collars beep when they get close to the line, so there's a warning for the dog, too, and the dogs both seemed to stay out of the "warning track" as a matter of course. YM[utt]MV.

A couple of friends have them to contain horses and pigs. Given his breed, Butters' coat may well provide enough insulation to protect him from anything other than a sizeable jolt, with a resulting yelp that I suspect you'll find upsetting. It will go one of two ways, either he'll learn quickly and you can turn the fence off from then on (making sure you cry out impressively whenever you touch the fence) or he'll tough it out as you've experienced previously. They may have improved the fence technology but dogs are dogs and always will be.


I have an Innotek system on our 2 acre lot. It has worked great for my 65 pound hound mix rescue dog. He has only broken out twice to chase a neighbor dog during the first year. He has not broken through in the last three years. In fact he won't even go close to the wire even if I leave the collar off. There are three levels of intensity. I have ours set on the medium setting, which gives me an uncomfortable jolt, but nowhere near as bad a touching an electric fence. It allows us to leave the dog outside when we leave for the day.

My neighbor has a lab that looks like Butter's twin and he is always testing the edges. If he doesn't sense the auditory warning noise that comes before the shock, he knows there is a power outage and he bolts.

Good luck.

Longtime owner (15 years) of a DogWatch system and it has worked great for us. We have 2 terriers, a Westie and Carin, who we keep from running out the yard and from digging in our gardens. While the initial cost and replacement collars (our Westie fell in our pool once) aren't cheap, repair of any broken wires or system reconfigurations is a cheap DIY effort with heavy duty 14 gauge wire you can buy anywhere. Of course where you run the wire AND throw Butter's balls should be your highest priority in designing the fence layout. Good luck!

Mike, this might not be a popular opinion, but I hate the idea of shocking a dog. Doesn't seem right to me. I have built "real" fences around the backyards of the last 2 houses I've lived in. Sure, it's a little more work, but I feel much better about it.

If you are going to be watching him then I would pass on the fence and just get an e- collar. It also works indoors to correct other behaviors. The dog has to know the basic commands but it allows corrections consistently and from a distance. I have a 1 year old shepherd and he is 100 percent reliable with or without the collar on now even if he is chasing deer. There are all kinds of great free training videos on YouTube to learn how to properly train your dog with the tool. I use a sport dog brand with a 500 yard range which is plenty for most "pet" use. I think it was less than $150. Anyhow I would go watch some youtubes and see if it looks like a fit.

Sorry, Mike. No experience with invisible fences, but years ago, we did try training one of our dogs with one of those electric shock collars. We gave up after one day, because it seemed to us more like dog torture than anything else. The shock collar we used was basically the same thing that's used with invisible fencing, except it was activated by a button that we controlled, rather than a buried cable.

Fortunately, we're way up in the forest and the dogs have complete freedom to come and go as they please. Aside from some intensive professionally guided training, I don't know what we'd do if we lived near a busy road. I hope you find a solution that's acceptable to both you and Butters.

BTW, how's LuLu doing? We don't hear much about her these days. Tell her my LuLu says hi.

"Underground fences" work well with some dogs and not so with others.

Hounds are driven by their noses. For them, tracking a scent far outweighs the discomfort of a brief high-voltage/low wattage zap.

Our 45-pound mixed breed never crossed the wire. She was not an outdoor dog. After a few months, we removed her zapper collar.

Another one of our dogs, a 35-pound Heinz 57 rescue, ignored the electronic fence. Incorrigible from day one, we returned her to the pound after she bit our six-year old daughter.

I suspect your Butters will have a hard time resisting temptations. He is sociable, curious, loves the outdoors (I gather), and has become accustomed to living in the hinterlands.

I have a spare collar and the master control unit. You are welcome to borrow it.

Electric fence worked with my dog. So well that it seems to still be working a couple of months later even when she's not wearing the collar.

There are some installation tricks, but since you're having a pro do it - you don't need to fret about those.

One other thing, if it is a specific behavior you've noticed, have you thought of just getting an electronic collar and using it to strengthen recall/discourage charging strangers, etc?

[The nice thing about an electric fence is that it sounds a warning before they get to it, which is what they end up reacting to. I wouldn't subject my dogs to regular shocks--the idea is that you teach them the boundary, they learn the consequences once or twice, and then the audible warning reminds them to stop before they reach the boundary and get corrected. --Mike]

We have an Electric Fence for our Golden. We love it. Of course she is pretty submissive. Our next door neighbors have two Black Nosed Curs, which seem to be a big hound of some sort. They are bigger than our dog, but their electric fence works for them as well.

I have to admit, our dog went through the fence after a rabbit once, but that was the only time. In fact there are times I let her out without the collar, and she still stays in the confines of the fence. The collars now are much smaller as well. I would recommend one.

Perhaps this is the exception, but I had a bad experience. Our family dog zipped through the fence (perhaps chasing a squirrel or something) and no one noticed because it was early in the morning. The fence obviously works in both directions: once out, Duchess couldn't get back IN the yard. Sadly, she wandered off and got hit by a car.

This was twenty years ago. Maybe the technology has improved? Can't imagine how they could fix this though.

Surely spending more time training the dog would be more beneficial, not just for the dog, but for you too.

Don't rely on technology to fix your failings and yes it is your failing that the dog doesn't respect its boundaries.

Our new-ish Golden has been through various training classes and graduated all of them without actually responding to a recall with any consistency. Not the same kind of issue you describe since we live in the woods and the street isn't a factor. The danger here is any new scent that drags her off in some direction and pulls her away from us and toward the dark part of the forest.

We purchased an electronic collar training device but have never had the fortitude to use it. I think it is inevitable though, and just need to dredge up the courage to begin that type of intense training. When all is said and done, an unwavering response to the recall command is probably the most important "trick" for her to learn.

The fence approach is fine (I think) as long as you're on your own turf. But depending on how frequently you travel with Butters, it might be at least as important for you to hardwire the recall command so you're both safe and comfortable.

{Re "When all is said and done, an unwavering response to the recall command is probably the most important "trick" for her to learn"--amen to that. Neither of my dogs has reliable recall. A friend just got a puppy and the dog learned a distraction-proof recall right away. It's a real delight with any dog and well worth working hard on while they are puppies.

They're all individuals. At least Butters has overcome his primary problems, which were considerable at first: he couldn't be crated, because he would panic; he was badly leash reactive (our proudest accomplishment together--I worked and worked with him on that, and now he walks on leash very well); severe separation anxiety, still a slight problem--his panic would cause an involuntary bowel movement, and then he would feel sheepish, and, shall we say, get rid of the evidence. Leaving the house his first year was an ordeal. But now, no more coprophagia and his anxiety is well within normal range. Butters took a YEAR to house train. He is a lovely creature with a splendid personality, but he is a movie star--a very demanding dog for his owner. This habit of bolting for the street is just our latest challenge, of many. --Mike]

Ya can't teach an old dog to do new tricks;
maybe if you turn up the voltage.
But then what do you do with a stunned dog?
Thougt about real fencing maybe?
Or maybe get a cat?

Hi Mike . . I've used Invisible Fence with three different dogs. Some dogs highly effective, some not so much. Biggest variables are how you train the dog to the fence, and the dog's personality. One dog was totally compliant; one was scared (like your Dog 2) after getting caught in a corner, and then didn't go very far (training error), and one, while generally compliant, would go through the fence (yelping each time) if the perceived reward was sufficiently enticing (like your Dog 1). This didn't change in spite of highest charge level and exra-long prongs. These were between 1995 and 2015 -- I don't think that technology changed that much, or that it made much difference.
Haven't tried the other brands. Good luck!

Our residential neighborhood in Ohio is full of "invisible fences" and I hate them. The trend here is to fence the entire yard, front and back and to run the underground line about 5 feet from the sidewalk which allows the dog to get dangerously close to anyone walking by. On nearly every walk I take I get startled by an aggressive dog that bolts from a porch or side yard toward me which is very frightening. We had an Australian Shepherd 10 years ago that would regularly run through the fence and take the jolt when he saw a runner or other animal walking by. I had to erect a real wooden fenced to keep him contained. The neighbors who have the Invisible Fence brand installed seem to have better results but their installation included several days of training for the dog before they were ever released to the yard. It seems to me that the folks with the most aggressive dogs buy the cheapest DIY systems and have the most problems. Make sure you keep the batteries charged on the collar; I have been nearly bitten by the same dog many times and the home owner uses the same "the batteries must be dead" excuse. If you get one, please be considerate of people who might be walking by your property and don't run the underground line too close to sidewalks or roads.

My sister's dog is a bit of a runner, they got a collar that has a couple of louder and louder buzzer settings that you can use before you have to go to ZAP!. Her feeling is that not only does the buzzer warn the dog, it also distracts him.

My mother-in-law had a St. Bernard who wore a boundary(?) collar. She would go over to the border, just out of reach of the worst of the shock, and lie down and take a nap near the fence. The battery in the collar would rapidly run down, and then she would go on her merry way...

With best regards,


The Gentle Leader worked very well with our dog who was okay in open spaces and responded to the "come" command. But I did not trust her around traffic,and took her for walks in the neighborhood with the Gentle Leader and leash. She was a 52-pound Bergamasco/mix/animal shelter special. She lived until she was 15 1/2 years old.

I will never like the idea of electric fences for pets. I've heard too many stories of pets getting out and not back in, and then harm may come to them. Besides who wants to get zapped? There has to be a better way!

[There IS a better way. It's called...well, fence. The problem is that even chain link costs $15 a running foot installed, more or less. I've identified two sections where I think I could "strategically" locate fencing, which would help enormously in making me feel more comfortable about their behaviors (they're never out alone; I'm always with them). But even that would be expensive. Maybe if I have a good 2017, but it's not an expense I can stand at the moment. --Mike]

My Mom tried to get a shock collar for her Jack Russell, and she never used it after a week of me calling her "Adolph Hitler". No shocking dogs, no matter what...

My late dog's breeder is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer who trains in his facility and at clients' homes. He hates e-fences and always urges owners against them. They don't keep other animals out, which can sometimes cause chasing issues, and they keep your dog out if they do escape, as has been mentioned. It's more expensive and/or unsightly sometimes, but IMO (and his), the best way is a physical fence and good training. Good luck with whatever you decide.

Hello Mike,
I think your question is a bit deeper than electric fence or not. It is really a matter of dog training philosophy, in my view. Do you want to punish your dog (electric fence) or teach him through positive reinforcement? I hate the thought of punishing animals and view this as an outdated mode of training. Dog training has evolved quite significantly from the punishment via shock collars, prong collars, yanking etc. to positive reinforcement that builds trust between you and your dog. Check out Zak George's videos on youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eK8obO58qxY) or Patricia McConnell's books for a much more humane approach.
We adopted a Australian Cattle Dog/Australian Kelpie mix from a rescue organization about 18 months. He was quite the handful for first-time dog owners, but has turned into a wonderful, loyal family dog. He would jump on other dogs, jump people, not come when called, pull on the leash among other typical puppy behaviors. With positive reinforcement training, he has become a great dog. Recently at a large off-leash park, he returned to me when called despite playing with the other dogs. We are not a 100% recall, but getting there. I say more training of the positive reinforcement kind. Good luck.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, the Idea is that after one training day, most Dogs never gets shocked again. They hear a beep and turn around.
Training consists of placing marker flags along the wire, which can be left up for a while to reinforce the message. The kind we use gives variable levels of shock depending on the size of the dog. We always tested by holding the collar in our hand to feel the level of shock.
All you really want is enough for the dog to notice and remember.
We were very sensitive to the Idea of shocking a pet we love, but became convinced that properly adjusted collar was noticeable but not painful and could save the dog's life.
It is no substitute for watching your dog.but a great second level of defense.
Re fences, chain link fences are really ugly, and wooden /composite fences can be pricy.
Obviously a recall command would be Ideal, but lacking that, and considering the problem area includes a driveway would it be possible to construct am entranceway wooden driveway gates and wooden fence 10 0r 20 feet to either side?
If he always runs down the driveway, that would provide a physical barrier and a measure of safety for the dog and passers by.
I know you have carpentry skills, it might be fun to DIY.
You do then add the aisle of opening and closing the driveway gates, but next year you could automate the gates, ---quite fitting for TOP World Headquarters.
Others have mentioned that some dogs just don't respond well to the invisible fence concept, and that is true soI don't know how you test that before buying.
Over 15 years and more than a dozen dogs , in two houses, it has worked for us. But we have had mostly small to medium breeds.

One other thought, Given butters' past issues , invisible fence may not be the Ideal solution for him/her.
It has worked fine for all our dogs, and kept them safe, but it doesn't work for every dog.

Know that is for his safety but that is horrible thought and deeds. Sorry poor doggie to live with humans.

I'm a bit late with this, but have had great success with a whistle and Pippa Mattinson's "Total Recall" material:


The training methods are positive reinforcement based (vs punishment) and easy to understand for both dogs and humans. Time investment will vary depending on the dog, but for me it fits in fine with normal dog walking/exercise, and dogs seem to enjoy it too. It's a great reward for pet and owner when they jerk up from whatever they are doing and rip back at top speed to a short whistle.

Karen Pryor's ideas I have found less foolproof in practice, but her books are also good reading and general food for thought:


It's National Poetry Month so here's a dog poem for you. In respect of Mark Doty's intellectual property rights I'll not post the poem here; here is the link to his poem "Golden Retrievals"


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