Michael Lauer has been a dog breeder for 35 years.
He has won over 100 “Best in Shows” with his dogs, and over 100 with other people’s dogs as well. He trains about 120 dogs every week.
He served as president of the Charleston Kennel Club for “a long time.”
Lauer is the head pet trainer at the PetSmart in Summerville and has taken on dogs dealing with fear aggression. One thing Lauer said he does not deal with concerning a dog is one who has become aggressive for living behind an invisible fence – also known as electric fences or underground fences.
Lauer said invisible fences do not make dogs aggressive, though they will sometimes prevent an aggressive dog from leaving its property. Lauer added the only way an invisible fence would cause any aggression on a dog would be if a dog had been severely punished for crossing its boundary line or if the dog was afraid to begin with.
In the Summerville area Lauer feels more people commonly have real fences built around their property.
“If you are in a neighborhood that allows a (real) fence I would encourage that, but not all home associations allow that,” Lauer said.
One reason Lauer supports real fences as opposed to invisible ones they keep more aggressive dogs from charging at pedestrians who come by their yard. People who pass a dog behind an electric fence are not aware the dog is, in fact, behind some sort of fence. Some neighborhoods do not allow front yard fences and other s do not allow backyard ones.
“I think it (a real fence) makes passers-by feel more secure,” Lauer said, “but sometimes homeowners don’t have that option.”
However, Kristie Allen, a dog trainer with The Learning Canine, said studies have shown that invisible fences do cause progression in dog’s aggression. With proper training, she said, dogs learn from the warning “beep” emitted from their collar that they are about to pass the boundary line. In the beginning dogs get shocked and eventually learn that the beep means not to cross and that the beep also means a shock.
“Dogs may be inside their barrier and see joggers coming back and they are very social or excited to see them and when they go to greet them they are shocked,” Allen said.
Dogs are associative learners, Allen said. Eventually a dog could associate a person with getting shocked and therefore their aggression becomes a defense mechanism.
“It causes a lot of anxiety and frustration on the dog’s part, which can also develop into behavior problems in dogs,” she said.
Similar to Lauer, Allen believes real fences are the best way to go with dogs – and backyards are generally the safest place to keep dogs. Allen said there are many downfalls with invisible fences, particularly ones that encompass the front yard – the fence, though it may shock the dog, might not necessarily contain the dog if it is motivated enough to get out, and once they get out of their barrier they may not get back in.
The invisible fence is also not going to keep out other dogs – more aggressive dogs – that might infiltrate the barrier and attack the actual pet.
Allen said not all dogs necessarily need a fence.
“There is a way to teach your dog boundaries without a fence,” she said. “Boundary training can be taught for a dog on how to respect their boundaries. It’s up to the work they (people) are willing to put into training.”
In the event that a pedestrian comes across a more aggressive dog that breaks through its fence, Lauer advises passers-by to do the following: do not run (this will trigger a dog’s instinct to chase), instead stop and back up slowly away from the dog and do not make eye contact. As soon as the dog turns around and heads the other way, turn around and leave.
Jon Rogers, captain of the Summerville Police Department, said he has not heard of any calls on dogs being behind fences and being aggressive.
“There could be criminal charges if a dog leaves their property and is not restrained by a leash (dog at large),” Rogers said.