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By design, electric, underground or electronic fences are designed to control the dog’s behavior insofar as boundaries are concerned.
Therefore, this means they operate by subjecting the dog to conditional reflexes to inculcate a memory of areas to avoid when the dog is in the yard.
Can Dogs get Traumatized by Electric (Underground) Fences?
Yes, some dogs may have an unpleasant experience when they approach the boundaries.
While the electric jolt they experience due to the collar is supposed to remind them to escape from areas near the boundaries of the yard, there may be negative effects observed.
When the dog fails to interpret the meaning of the discomfort they feel around the neck, they may be exposed to sustained shock for an extended period which may cause them to be traumatized.
Dog Shocked by Electric Fence Side Effects
What are the symptoms of a traumatized dog? And what are the side effects of the shock caused by electric fences on the well-being of the dog?
Well, the symptoms of a traumatized dog, which also qualify as the side effects of fence-related electric shock include:
#1. Avoiding the Yard
Some dogs may fear going out in the yard because they associate the whole yard with the pain they feel through the e-collars.
in this sense, the dogs stop enjoying the outdoors life and tend to hang around the house.
#2. Dog Pooping and Peeing in the House
The trauma caused by the electric fence may force some dogs to start pooping and peeing inside the house.
This is due to the fear they associated with the outdoors which makes them prefer to relieve themselves in an environment they feel some sense of security.
#3. Dogs may start avoiding Owners & Trainers
The training and retraining processed involves the owner or a professional dog trainer.
Dogs may start associating the shocking pain they feel with the presence of the owner or trainer.
In this way, the dogs may start avoiding the trainers or owners even when the interaction does not involve training on the identification of underground fences.
#4. Dogs may develop redirected aggression
It has been observed that the tickle or shock caused by e-collars may have some adverse effects on the social behavior of a given dog.
The electric dog fence may make some dogs develop aggressive behaviors towards other pets or people.
This phenomenon is known as redirected aggression because the dog redirects its reactions to the pain caused by the electric shock to those (pets and people) who are around it.
It is because of such observations that Sylvia Masson and others were prompted to publish a research study article in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior in which they call upon European nations to move away from the use of electric fences.
I the article titled ‘Electronic Training devices: Discussions on the Pros and Cons of their Use in Dogs as a basis for the position statement of the European Society of Veterinary Clinical Ethology’, Masson et al. argue that the affirmation of new mechanisms of an animal learning means there is a need to change old dog training practices.
How to Deal with Electric Fence-related Trauma in Dogs
If your dog is traumatized because of the shock caused by the electronic dog fence, do not give up on it yet.
There are many things you can do to ensure your dog overcomes this and starts to enjoy its life again.
Some of the actions to take include:
1. Gradually introduce the dog to the outdoors.
Under this step, you should start inviting the dog to the outside of the house on its own terms.
If the dog feels uncomfortable leaving the house, you shouldn’t force it.
If the dog is comfortable using another exit, such as the backdoor, you should be flexible enough to encourage it to use that door.
What is important here is for the dog to step outside the house.
2. Praise and Treat the Dog on Small Progresses made.
A dog has feelings and knows when it is being praised.
Praising the dog after it has made some progress combined with high-value treats reinforces the habit in the dog.
These praises and treats may come after the dog, for example, goes to the potty outside the house.
3. Increase treasure Hunting Activities.
When a dog’s confidence to stay outdoors increase, you should consider scattering food on the porch and then on the lawn.
The treasure-hunting adventures will make the dog more comfortable on the lawn.
4. Remove anything and everything associated with the electric fence.
As the dog becomes and more and more confident to stay outdoors and especially on the lawn, you should ensure there is nothing that can remain out of the trauma experienced a while back.
Therefore, you should try your best to ensure that things such as collars or flags that could remind the dog of the chock are removed.
If need be, you can also use calming equipment that could make the dog even more comfortable when it is away from the house.
These include things such as a thunder-shirt, soothing music, and DAP diffusers.
5. Retraining the Dog.
This should be the last step and should be embraced when the dog has completely transformed into normal life and confidence.
You still want your dog to stay within the boundaries to avoid unnecessary damages it can cause outside your lawn.
Therefore, as the owner, you should embrace retraining of the dog to ensure it safely and comfortably understand the need to stay within the boundaries.