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I know that invisible fences work by giving the dog a shock through his/her collar when they get near the fence. Is this shock dangerous to dogs? Can repeated exposure cause long term health risks?

I also know that some of these invisible fences use ultrasound. Is this harmful to dogs? Can repeated exposure to ultrasound cause long term health risks?

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The primary safety issue with invisible / electronic / underground fences is that they do not protect your pet from people and animals coming to your dog and possibly harming it. A standard fence, for example, keeps unfriendly dogs out as much as it keeps your dog in.

As for the collars, I bought a Tri-Tronics vibration only collar for one of my deaf dogs (and then trained the vibration to be a positive experience.) The manual was the same as the one for shock collars and it recommended that for the dog's health and safety that you make sure the dog has an extra pad of fur underneath where the electric part hits. I read that as the manufacturer saying they aren't necessarily safe as is.

There are also a number of risks to using punishment based training at all, these are well covered in the "American Society of Veterinary Behavior Punishment Position Statement"

Keep in mind that if you get such a fence, you also need to train your dog to the boundary, so that the collar only goes off when they break the 'rules' they have already learned. It is possible to teach this behavior without purchasing the fence in the first place. Additionally, the fence itself can negatively reinforce behaviors other than leaving the yard - Trainer Experiences with Invisible Fencese

  • Anecdotally, my sister-in-law had trained her two labs to the extent of their property (about an half-acre), then went to the expense of an electronic fence. They (the dogs) respected the boundaries imposed for life, even after the collars and 'fence' were no longer used. – CGCampbell Jun 29 '15 at 13:06
  • Anecdotally, I have had many dogs that learned to stay inside their own property quite easily without any need for dangerous, cruel electric fences! Learning boundaries is not a very hard thing for well exercised well trained dogs to do. I even have a saluki X that will stop at the gate even if the gate is left open and her obedience otherwise is not going to impress anyone :-D. – Victoria Jul 6 '15 at 11:06

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