Electronic training devices such as electronic fences and anti-barking collars rely on painful punishment and negative reinforcement, causing dogs to live in fear of being electrocuted for normal behaviors like crossing invisible lines, barking, and jumping onto surfaces within their own homes. Positive training methods, in which dogs are rewarded for what they do right, are kinder and more effective.
Dogs wearing shock collars can suffer from physical pain and injury (ranging from burns to cardiac fibrillation) and psychological stress, including severe anxiety and displaced aggression. Individual animals vary in their temperaments and pain thresholds; a shock that seems mild to one dog may be severe to another. The anxiety and confusion caused by repeated shocks can lead to changes in the heart and respiration rate or gastrointestinal disorders. Electronic collars can also malfunction, either administering nonstop shocks or delivering no shocks at all.
Dogs whose yards are surrounded by electronic fences may develop fear or aggression aimed at what they believe is the source of the shock (kids riding by on bikes, the mail carrier, the dog next door, etc.). Dogs have been known to run through electronic barriers when frightened by fireworks or chasing a squirrel and then be too scared to cross back through the barrier.
One of the responsibilities of being a parent is making sure a child knows his address and telephone number. Parents patiently remind their children if they ever get lost, they need only find a police officer and tell the officer where they live. A good, permanent, and easily recognized ID -- complete with your current address and phone number -- is the best way to make sure the four-legged members of your family always find their way home safely, too.
There are three types of identification for dogs who fit this bill: tags, tattoos, and microchips. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but no one method offers complete protection. Used together, however, they provide the best chance of a happy reunion with a lost dog.
ID tags. Most everybody knows to get a collar and tag for a dog. The classic dog ID tag is a simple and inexpensive way for your dog to carry your name and phone number. However, the collar-and-tags form of identification does have its drawbacks. The collar can come off or be removed deliberately by an unscrupulous person who finds the dog and wants to pass it off as an unidentified stray. Tags must also be updated when addresses or phone numbers change -- something that often gets relegated to the "one of these days" list during the hustle and bustle of a move. (And, unfortunately, a move is a prime time for pets to get out and get lost.) Tags with outdated information may be of just as little help as no tags at all. To top it all off, tags jingling on a collar can be annoyingly noisy, especially in the middle of the night.