Columbia Memorial Health (1) Careers

Soft Paws: Invisible fences


By Charlene Marchand

For Capital Region Independent Media

Snoopy is a 5-year-old Schipperke mix, pictured with CGHS/SPCA Animal Care Technician Sarah Ozman. Unfortunately, he was abandoned by his owner, which is why he came to us. Snoopy is a very independent dog and likes to do his own thing. He loves to be outside soaking up the sun and going for walks. He can be a bit shy upon first meeting him, but he warms up quickly! Snoopy also does well with both cats and dogs. Contributed photo

A couple of years ago, I worked with a lovely woman (“Mrs. M.”) who had adopted a young mixed breed dog after the death of her beloved old female we’ll call Annie.

“The dog is stupid and I’m going to take her back,” was how the session began. “Annie sat on my porch for almost nine years, watched the cars and kids go by, never left, never barked…” etc. etc.

Though it seemed to me that Annie may have been living in a semi-comatose state for almost a decade, the problems with the new arrival were nonetheless valid.

“Bea” chases the kids on bicycles, may or may not come when called, raids the cat food dishes of the next-door neighbor, and then comes on the porch and barks and scratches at the door to be let in.

“See what I mean? She’s stupid,” said the owner.

Of course, I was grinning from ear to ear. Bea was a dog after my own heart. High prey drive without the defense drive to bite, a great tracker who took advantage of her neighbor’s outdoor buffet to satisfy her desire for a midday snack, and smart enough to realize that Mrs. M. would definitely open the door, responding to her insistent demands. What a dog!

After seeing Bea portrayed in a different light, Mrs. M. reluctantly spoke of her affectionate nature, eagerness to do tricks for treats, and admitted that though Annie truly loved her, she was not a “watch dog.” She felt safe with Bea, because Bea let visitors who came to the door know that she was in charge.

OK, now let’s discuss how we can manage Bea to Mrs. M.’s advantage. Mrs. M. did not want to fence in a small yard or put up a kennel. She didn’t like the way fences looked.

Because she was retired and home all day, we talked about the use of an invisible fence. To have it be effective, the fence must be installed by a reputable company, with proper training and follow-up. The borders of the fence should not be set too close to a road or highway. Dogs do best if they are kept back close to the house and backyard.

Dogs should not be left for hours unattended with an invisible fencing situation. People can and do enter the property, provoking the dog and making them feel vulnerable. A wandering dog can also enter the dog’s area, leaving the pet vulnerable, defenseless, and subject to injury. Dogs can and do “run the charges” if the system is not set up properly. There is an occasional dog that cannot be contained in this manner.

What’s the moral to this story? Well, Bea has her underground fence. Bea rings a bell to come in (learned that trick through target training), the neighbors’ cats have put on weight, the joggers are jubilant, the kids on bicycles aren’t screaming, and Mrs. M. thinks that while Bea will never be Annie, she’s one very special dog!

EXTRA EXTRA! All cats and kittens at CGHS/SPCA will be free for the month of September, many thanks to a generous donor! Also, our food bank is in need of dry food and biscuits – thanks!

Feel free to call us with any questions at 518-828-6044 or visit our website at Our food bank is open to any from the public in need of pet food or for those wishing to donate food from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Spay/neuter clinics for cats are $86 male or female, including a rabies vaccination and a 5-in-1 feline distemper combination vaccination. Nail clipping services are available every Saturday from 10-11 a.m. at the shelter for a donation of $10 for cats and $15 for dogs (currently prepaid only).

Charlene Marchand is the chairperson of the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA Board of Directors. She may be contacted at

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