Will an electric fence work with my beagle??
June 26, 2006 12:00 PM   Subscribe

Will an electric fence work with my beagle??

I want to get an electric fence for our beagle, my father is convinced that she would wander right through it..
posted by MJaffaDMB to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Same situation here. We are considering an electric fence for our beagle, so I am very interested in the comments you receive.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 12:24 PM on June 26, 2006

Why wouldn't it work for a beagle? Is he picturing some wire fence like they use for cattle? Because that's not how it works. On the buried wire ones, the wire transmits a radio signal; the dog's collar has a receiver that beeps if it gets too close to the wire, and gives the dog a (quite painful) electric shock if it stays too close. Or the wireless ones are the other way around; the zap happens if the dog gets too far from a central transmitter's location. Size and shape of the dog will make no difference.

They are effective, and beagles do tend to take off running, they're hard to train to stay in a yard, so I can see why you'd consider it. But if you get one, try it on yourself first and consider whether you're okay with doing that to your pet. (That preachiness aside, we did use one of the indoor ones briefly, to keep our dog off the couch, and it worked very well; we were able to turn it off after only a couple of days. But it wasn't a fun couple of days for us or for the dog.)
posted by ook at 12:33 PM on June 26, 2006

I don't have any personal experience, but when I read Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin, she talked about electric fences and how all it takes is for the dog to run through once and realize "Hey, this isn't so bad," to make the fence effectively useless.
posted by sugarfish at 12:33 PM on June 26, 2006

a friend of mine has a VERY active vizsla and an electric fence manages to keep that dog confined.
posted by quadrinary at 12:33 PM on June 26, 2006

I have two beagles. If the beagle gets the scent of a rabbit he'll most likely not even notice the shock as he runs by. Some voltage and a small current is no match for 200 years of selective breeding.

I think you need a real fence.
posted by COD at 12:36 PM on June 26, 2006

The other downside of those virtual fences is that something could happen thats either interesting or scary enough to drive your dog over the "fence". Once that happens, the fence becomes a barrier to your dog re-entering your yard, only now without the stimulus that made it disregard the shock in the first place.
posted by Good Brain at 12:40 PM on June 26, 2006

Also remember that the fence may keep your dog in, but it will not keep other dogs out.
posted by JigSawMan at 12:41 PM on June 26, 2006

I used an electric fence for my German Shepherd, and never had an issue with her running through it. I started training her when she was only 5 months old, the same day the fence was installed around my 1+ acre lot. She caught on very quickly. Within a few days, she had figured out how close she could get to the perimeter, and began prowling around the edges. Soon, she was running sideways along the invisible fence line, guarding her turf.

My older dog (Lab/Beagle mix; 7 years old when the fence went in) was a slightly different story. He never broke through the fence, not once. But, for weeks after we trained him, he was so freaked out by the whole thing that he wouldn't leave the concrete driveway, not even to do his business! He associated the grass in the yard with the slight shock the fence gives, and just decided to stay close to the house. He got over that, and soon frolicked in the yard with my Shepherd.

I tried it on myself to see how bad the shock is. Hmmm... it would convince ME to stay put, but isn't so bad that it could be considered cruel. It is much more cruel to let your dog run free and take the chance that a car will end his life.

Consistent, early training is the key to success. Also, if your dog is a runner, refresher training periodically reinforces the lessons.

And, fresh batteries! I can't stress the battery thing enough.

(Sidebar: my ex said that he would get one of those collars for me if I ever got Altzheimer's... yet another reason I'm his ex!)
posted by Corky at 12:41 PM on June 26, 2006

Another thing I've heard about electric fences is that they'll keep your dog in, but not other dogs (or people or bunnies) out.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:42 PM on June 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

They appear to work for some dogs, in some situations. I'm not a fan of them for a variety of reasons. Some examples: being a terrier type, I'm well aware that some dogs will take a 'hit' for the thrill of the chase. Oddly, once they're out, and supposing they'd like to come home again, they may be less inclined to take the hit to reenter the yard. Aside from battery maintenance and other technical issues, they don't stop other dogs from entering the yard, yet the challenged dog is constrained from responding to the intruder fully. Another point to consider are the consequences of failure. A failure in a physical fence means the fence can be breached. Often, if you are an alert owner who monitors your dog's activity, even a breached fence may slow a dog down enough, or fail in an analog manner that allows you to repair it before total failure occurs. If an electronic containment system fails, it will probably fail totally, and without visible cues, so your first indication may be a flattened beagle. The Dog Bite Law site also raises some interesting points that reinforce for me anyway that an electronic containment system would really be a last resort.
posted by cairnish at 12:44 PM on June 26, 2006

Had a beagle. That dog would not be stopped by such trivia as an electric fence. He tore after cats and rabbits through closed (locked) screen doors; thorny thickets; and electric fences with equal abandon. We also had one of those collars that sprayed orange oil in his face if he barked -- it would be out of orange oil in about two minutes and the dog was seemingly unphased. Two words describe beagles: (1) willful; and (2) sturdy to a fault. Get a cinder-block wall. And build it tall.
posted by GIRLesq at 1:05 PM on June 26, 2006

My thoughts on electric fences is that they can be an effective tool for a dog that can be reliably off-leash trained. If you can hail your dog with a whistle or command and have the dog pay attention to you even without a choke chain, then there's a good chance that the dog will pay attention to an electric shock (enough for an electric fence to work). Beagles are rarely these kind of dogs. An electric fence can be a substitute for your undivided attention, but not an alternative. If the dog won't listen to you, it won't listen to a shock, especially when in hot pursuit.
posted by dness2 at 1:59 PM on June 26, 2006

We have a four year old lab that (unsurprisingly) loves to swim in the lake thats about 100 yards from our property. We've had an electronic fence since he was 9 months old, and apart from initial experiences and testing, he's been perfectly contained and we couldn't be happier.

He's been trained to know specific exit points and will only use them when he's accompanied by specific people (my wife and kids and I). We have several dogs in the neighborhood with whom he's allowed to play, but will only do so on our property. He'll run along with them in parallel if they're walking by, but he won't cross even if he's not wearing his collar (he knows the boundaries).

Bottom line, I think it's all about the early training (provided by our installer). Ours won't necessarily come to his name, or break off from a chase if he's in the woods, but he does respect the fence. He's 90 pounds and pretty independent minded, so we were very happy (and a bit surprised) when it all worked so well.

I've been zapped by it and it's unpleasant, but not to the point of being "cruel". The discharge strength is adjustable to suit the dog's size and temperment, so I don't know why it wouldn't work for a beagle with the right training.

Good luck (and make sure the batteries are fresh - at least for the first year; you might not even need them after that).
posted by dragonbay at 2:34 PM on June 26, 2006

not an alternative ^ if the dog can't be trained to behave with it's master watching closely ^.
posted by dness2 at 2:37 PM on June 26, 2006

Unfortunately, beagles =/= labs (or shepherds). Labs and Sheps are chosen as guide dogs and police dogs for a variety of reasons, key amongst them is -- biddability. They're very _very_ trainable.

Anything that looks like a terrier?? Not so much. Stubborn isn't even the half of it.
posted by coriolisdave at 3:00 PM on June 26, 2006

My parents have an underground electric fence for their Swiss Hound, a breed similar to a beagle with a high prey drive. It works most of the time, but it's not 100%. He tends to escape once a month when he spots something particularly exciting to chase (he can't resist woodchucks or deer). They also have to keep a close eye on the batteries in his collar because if the batteries die, he'll take the opportunity to escape as well.

The other drawback is that he has been attacked by dogs coming into his yard.

All in all, it's an okay solution. They have over an acre, so it was not practical to fence their yard in a traditional manner. I would not recommend it to anyone living near a busy street, or close to neighbors with very aggressive dogs.
posted by Ostara at 3:06 PM on June 26, 2006

My neighbor had a Redbone hound who learned to stand next to the fence, just closely enough for the warning beeper to sound. She would stand there until the battery wore down and then walk right through. I have a Beagle and a fence.
posted by haikuku at 5:42 PM on June 26, 2006

My experience from speaking to trainers who handle "problem dogs" has been that each breed has its quirks and for beagles, it's obsession over food and prey (rabbits, say). From the trainers I've spoken to, an electric fence wouldn't stop a beagle if there was a bunny running by. Electric fence is also very expensive, so you can't just 'try it out' easily...
posted by Rubber Soul at 5:57 PM on June 26, 2006

We have a beagle. We've had it in a yard with an electric fence for over 10 years.
One of the things you have to do when you get the fence is to train the dog where the perimeter is. A good kit will come with flags that you use to mark the fence. You walk the dog along the perimeter and train it not to go past the line. It takes a couple of weeks, but they learn.
We never had any problem keeping out beagle in the yard. She sometimes will run right up to the line, but the warning beep that collar makes stops her every time.

I would also suggest you puposely shock yourself with the collar. Just once. So you know what the dog feels. You'll do it accidentally eventually anyway.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:22 PM on June 26, 2006

I've had lots of hounds and it's very possible to train them never to leave the property even without an electric fence. You need the patience of Job to train them but it's do-able and once they finally learn something they know it forever. However if they do decide they want to leave I would imagine it would take considerably more physical deterrant than a simple shock to stop them- they are incredibly tough dogs.

Most importantly- do you really need a fence? The nice thing about hounds/ beagles is that they are completely happy to spend 20 hours a day asleep indoors or in a small enclosure and therefore can get all the exercise they need under your supervision during the few hours they deign to stay awake.
posted by fshgrl at 7:40 PM on June 26, 2006

I'm really REALLY not a fan of electric fences for any dog, I think they provide a dangerously false sense of security. Every single dog on the planet has something they'll brave the zap for (and hounds like Beagles more than most), and they sure don't want back IN enough to get zapped again. As others have said, they also don't keep things OUT of your yard. Proper physical fencing is the only choice as far as I'm concerned.
posted by biscotti at 7:42 PM on June 26, 2006

I'm slightly biased on the issue, because I've seen some really bad outcomes: high-instinct, high pain-threshold dogs who dance right through the danger zone , thereby rendering a few hundred dollars of electric fencing useless. Dogs who become afraid to leave the yard, no matter what. Dogs that develop fears of whatever they're looking at when the shock occurs, etc. etc. These problems can take a long time and thousands of dollars to fix - you'll probably have to go through a a few trainers before you find one good enough to work through fear issues.

Most, if not all, of the worst-case scenarios happen when people buy electric fences from the pet store and do the training and installation on their own.

Electric fences should be a last resort, but if you do decide to go that route, spend the extra $$ on an Invisible Fence or other system that includes professional training as part of the installation package. This is *not* a DIY project.

And Biscotti brings up an important point - Beagles are notorious for shutting the rest of their brains down when they're on a scent.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 9:23 PM on June 26, 2006

all it takes is for the dog to run through once and realize "Hey, this isn't so bad," to make the fence effectively useless

Exactly family's experience, with a dog that's 1/3 beagle. Also, according to my mom, our dog managed to find some tiny gap in the fence (don't ask me what this means, makes no sense to me either).
posted by salvia at 2:26 AM on June 27, 2006

You could look into the mesh electric fences used for sheep and goats. There is no way a beagle could wander through one.
posted by bricoleur at 4:17 AM on June 27, 2006

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