Can Dogs Hear an Electric Fence?

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Introduction

You probably already know that your dog's ears are amazing. It's in the way they hear the postman minutes before he even arrives at the door, or how they can always tell when you're opening a bag of fresh chips (that you may or may not share with them). 

But did you know that your dog's ears are so amazing they can actually hear the electric current buzzing through an electric fence? It's true! Your dog, with their super-hero ears, can hear where the electric fence starts and stops because of the current running through it. Whether or not you choose to use an electric fence for your doggo is up to you, but it's important (for training and general safety) to understand that your dog knows the electric fence is there in many ways - and one of those ways is because of their awesome sense of hearing. 

Want to know what signs to look out for to indicate that your doggo knows the electric fence is on? Want more information on how awesome your dog's ears are? 

Read on! We've got the ultimate doggy-ear guide below to help you get a grasp on how well your dog can hear and how you can train your dog to work with an electric fence (spoiler alert: it takes a lot of patience). 

Signs Your Dog Can Hear the Electric Fence

With the super-hero-ability ears that dogs are equipped with, it's no wonder they're able to hear the electric currents buzzing through the electric fence you've hooked up. Dogs can hear about twice the Hertz frequency that people can - humans are stuck at a mere 20-20,000 hertz. More than that, dogs can hear things happening from much farther away than people can - about four times farther, to be exact. 

So, you shouldn't be surprised that the family dog knows when the electric fence is on even when you haven't put the collar on him or her. 

Your dog hears better by twitching their ears, so if you see your pooch moving their ears around, pausing, and continuing this process, it's likely that your dog knows that the fence is buzzing (even if you can't hear it). 

Further, dogs often will flatten their ears to their heads, perk them up, bob their heads around, or tilt their heads to get a better read on where the sound is coming from and try to hear it better. If you see your dog acting this way outside - either near or far away from the fence's limits - you better believe that your dog can tell that the electric fence is running. 

Body Language

Here are a few body language signs your dog might be giving you if they hear your electric fence buzzing:
  • Alert
  • Head tilting
  • Raise ears
  • Head turning
  • Head bobbing
  • Pupils dilated
  • Whale eye

Other Signs

There are also more signs to look out for, though. Check and see if your dog is displaying any of the following signs to indicate they might hear your electric fence buzzing:
  • Ears flat against their head
  • Refusal to move toward the fence
  • Timidness or anxiety
  • Ear twitching
  • Tail tucked

The History of the Electric Dog Fence

If you resemble a cat in the curiosity department, it's likely you've wondered about the electric fence. Where did it come from and why do we use it? 

It all started in 1971 when a traveling salesman named Richard Peck noticed that dogs weren't staying in their yards. The alarming number of strays perturbed him and he wanted to do something about it. 

Peck partnered with an electrical engineer and came up the idea of using boundary wires in conjunction with a receiver collar to keep a dog contained. His invention was patented and he named it Stay-Put. No one really knew about it at this point, but by the time he sold the patent in 1976 to John Purtell - who renamed it the invisble fence - it truly began to take off. Bought and sold many more times, Invisible Fence is now owned by Radio Systems Corporation and includes various requirements for pet safety. 

The Science Behind Dogs Hearing Electric Fences

You might think that your dog's ears are adorable, and while you're probably right, they're far more than just that. In fact, your dog's ears are pretty much magic. 

Not only do they have about 25 times more hearing receptors than people do (allowing them to hear about 100,000 times better than we can), they also have an olfactory cortex that's about 40 percent larger than ours. All of that to say your dog can hear so much more than you can - which is why it's not surprising that dogs can hear electricity. 

Humans only perceive frequency of sound waves as pitch or low and high notes, so, we can only perceive things between 20 and 20,000 hertz. Your dog? They can hear things at about double that rate and perceive frequencies almost twice that of human ears and four times farther away. Is it any surprise your dog can hear the buzzing of an electric fence? With that knowledge, probably not.

Training Your Dog to Use an Electric Fence (Safely)

Many people think that if they install an electric fence, they won't' have to train their dog to understand boundaries - they think that the electric fence will handle that part for them. Unfortunately, that's not how the invisible fence system works. In fact, this method actually requires a bit of training to make sure that your dog understands his boundaries, the repercussions if they don't abide by them, and how to turn back in time before they get those repercussions. 

Typically, an electric fence will come with a transmitter collar. Your dog will hear a beep from their collar when they are getting too close to the boundaries, and likely, get a shock when they try to cross the electrical fence boundary. Before you start, make sure your dog knows and follows basic commands. If they don't understand "stay" or "no," turn back and start your training here. A dog who doesn't abide by these basic obedience commands won't be able to comprehend electric fence training. 
Once you accomplish this, lay down the boundaries and take your dog on tons of walks (on a leash) around the yard. Let them get accustomed to the boundaries, walk the perimeter, and get familiar with the smell and sounds that the electric fence will put off. Continue lots of walks with your dog and allow them to go where the warning sound beeps. Keep them within the sound-warning area for a few weeks, then get the dog accustomed to the shock. 

Once your dog understands that the shock is associated with walking past a certain line, the dog will understand they need to stay within your boundaries. Reward your dog immensely for staying within the boundaries to help positively reinforce staying within the yard.

How to React if Your Dog Doesn't Work Well With the Electric Fence:

  • Talk to your vet about alternatives.
  • Consider a regular fence.
  • Try to safely introduce the electric fence to your dog.
  • Consider different boundary training.

Tell Us About Your Dog Hearing an Electric Fence!