Does Electric Fencing Condition Aggression/Fear?

 A 10 week old terrier mix puppy that refuses to go outside. A year old hound that bites three visitors on their faces within a two week period. A 10 year old, happy-go-lucky Golden Retriever who mauls the mailperson. What do all of these dogs have in common? They were all contained within electric fencing systems, a subject that I’ve blogged about previously in both personal and professional capacities. Something new and alarming has been happening within the past few months. I have seen a dramatic spike in the number and severity of behavior cases, all linked to dogs contained within electric fence systems. They were all seemingly sound, well-tempered dogs that began demonstrating profound behavioral issues after being introduced to electric fencing systems. The behaviors ranging from stranger anxiety, fear of the environment, all the way to multiple bites. Even as I was writing this, I had yet another call from a client whose “people friendly” dog had bitten a jogger after the installation of electric fencing. Coincidence? Upon further investigation with this client, I discovered the common pattern that I have been seeing. The system was set up around the house right up to the street. The owner had initially witnessed the dog walking socially towards people and dogs on the other side of the fence and getting “corrected” by the system. After a few attempts, the dog started tensing and eventually barking and chasing just behind the shock line anytime someone went by the house. I saw bare spots of grass where the dog had run back and forth as she aggressed at the invisible barrier. The bite happened when the dog was unleashed, coming out of the owner’s car, and outside the fence. A jogger just happened to jog by. So, had the fence system conditioned the dog into aggressive responses to things outside the “fence”? Were these issues present but exacerbated by the system? Would building a real physical fence instead of using electric fencing made a difference? I can’t deny the allure of electric fencing. Driving this morning, I heard an engaging radio ad with catchy music and amusing little barks in the background. The ad goes on to say how people and vets love the systems. They are carefree, affordable, and give dog owners complete peace of mind. What’s not to like? And they are so much cheaper than real, physical fencing. One system claims a 99.5% success rate and claims that 4 our of 5 veterinarians recommend it and that the system is “safe” for puppies as young as eight weeks old. Most importantly, is anyone aware of any research or studies on this subject? Anything that can help explain what I am seeing? I’m also wondering what other trainers and owners are experiencing. Are these dogs just the .5% or is there more going on here? Is this just a problem in central North Carolina or are other people seeing a link between electric fencing and behavioral problems in dogs?

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