Invisible Containment + Dog Door = BAD IDEA

I recently had a client contact me to ask for some “refresher-training” suggestions for her aging dog.  Initially, she stated that her 11 year old dog, “Jenna” was experiencing some vision and hearing loss, and had bitten the behind of a worker who had come to the home.  I offered several alternative behaviors to teach and reinforce.  If Jenna can go to her “place,” or “touch” a visitors hand, she isn’t likely to butt-bite.  I also suggested that she teach the dog to gravitate to “heel” position so the owner can always be managing the interactions.

The client thanked me and said she would work on the suggestions, and then proceeded to mention that the bite happened when she was not home.  She explained that her dogs have a dog door, which gives them access to the yard, where they have an Invisible Fence containment system.

I proceeded to explain why this is not a good idea (on so many levels).  Pets should not have access to the yard when you are not home to supervise.  They should never be left outside unattended with only an ‘invisible electronic system’ to keep them contained.  I’m not a fan of the electronic containment systems anyway.  First of all, there is the potential for a dog to make a negative association with passers-by (like children, bicycles, delivery men), because they get a shock (or the warning beep) when they approach to investigate.  This holds the potential to develop into aggression out of fear of being shocked.  Secondly, they can fail: batteries can go dead, the wire can be damaged by weather or digging, the dog could run through it quickly and then not want to come back, they could even jump high enough to avoid the shock.  Additionally, the chance of a shock may deter your dog from running off, but it will not keep other animals from entering your yard (including humans, coyotes and rabid raccoons).  Your dog is left to defend himself and your property if you’re not there to do it.  Even with a physical fence I don’t recommend that a dog be left outside while no one is home, but on an invisible electronic containment system, this is just an all-around BAD IDEA!

Aside from the safety issues and everything that can go wrong with the containment system itself, there is always a possibility that a person will wander into the “zone.”  It may be kids cutting through your yard, a mail carrier or a utility worker.  If you are not home, it is possible, no PROBABLE that your dog may feel it is his job to protect the house and property while you’re away.  This means that any “intruder” must be chased away.  This can most efficiently be accomplished by biting them!  Dogs are very efficient. 

Allowing your dog outdoor access with nothing but a virtual fence to keep him in, and absolutely nothing to keep strangers out, is a nice way to land yourself a lawsuit!  It may even be a good way to have your dog confiscated and quarantined, maybe even euthanized.  At the very least you are putting your dog in danger of being attacked by a wild animal.

I went in search of a warning to not use a ‘virtual fence’ with a dog door, and was deeply disturbed to find that the Invisible Fence company not only doesn’t warn against it, but they actually have their sales representatives sell and install dog doors with the containment system!  This is simply non-sensible.

If you find yourself in a situation where an invisible containment system is your only option, do not ever allow your dog access to the outdoor area while you are not home.