I know the folks from PETA probably don’t like them, but I’m a big fan of the electric dog fence. I bought and installed mine about 16 years ago when we welcomed a big, beautiful Golden Retriever pup into the family. It quickly became clear that Tucker believed he was destined to be the alpha dog in the pack known as the Mueller family. What ensued was a battle between Tucker and me for alpha dog prominence. Sure he was beautiful, lovable, and a joy-of-a-dog. His relationship with my then young son Nate was like something out of a Disney movie. Those two loved each other.

But Tucker loved to do his own thing and run. . . which always led to moments – that sometimes stretched into hours – of panic as we chased, waited, chased, and waited for him to come home. On several occasions he crossed busy streets. . . and made it. At other times he would disappear for hours and then come home covered in burrs and all sorts of smelly stuff clumped in his fur as a result of his roll-dujour.

Eventually, I sprung for the electric fence thanks to a half off sale at K-Mart. After burying almost 600 feet of wire around the perimeter of our yard, I loaded the batteries into Tucker’s new shock collar. (Hint for installers – DON’T stand directly over the wire while you’re putting the battery in with the fence turned on and the contact prongs pressed firmly into the palm of your hand!) After a few days of training, Tucker was now able to run free in the yard while staying within the boundaries, a good thing since when we had to tie him out he would pass time and eliminate canine boredom by digging holes that almost reached the water table. Our life had become a routine of chase the dog and fill the holes.

The sad ending came when Tucker finally figured out that he wanted to break the boundaries we had established for him and roam beyond the safe confines of our yard. Yep, he started bolting through the shock and disappearing for hours. When we finally had to put him down at the age of 5, we were heartbroken. He had run one too many times and gotten into some poison at a local farm, and it was killing him.

Eight years ago – after a couple of years without a dog – we got Sully the Cockapoo. He’s a great dog. Because we had the fence already installed, the shock receiver went on Sully’s collar and he was quickly trained to stay in our yard. Last weekend, a neighbor called to tell me that Sully was in her yard. Hmmm. I changed the battery in his collar. The next day, he took off beyond the boundaries and went up the street. Hmmm. Maybe it’s not the battery. After doing some diagnostics, I discovered the old wire was most likely broken. Since I couldn’t locate the break, I decided to install a new wire. Lisa and I worked for a few hours to bury the new wire and it’s all good again. Sully is sticking around. He knows where to go to stay safe. He knows where not to go to avoid the shock.

Last night as I was laying in bed thinking about my dogs and how much we’ve loved and enjoyed them, I was thankful for the invention of the electric fence. What a great thing! Sorry PETA. We can keep an eye on Sully once again. We love him and we don’t want him to wander. We want him to flourish in this little kingdom known as our yard. We want him to be safe. We don’t want him to get hurt, run over by a car, or destroyed by poison. So, we’ve established boundaries. And when he leaves them. . . well, we worry and fret. . . and, we go looking for him. . . all of us. . . calling his name and hoping he’ll come home.

And then I was thankful for the truth, guidelines, and boundaries that God has given to me. They are for my good. They flow from his grace, mercy, and love. It is within those boundaries that I can know true freedom. That’s where I can flourish. Still, I try to break the boundaries and run, thinking that I know better. And when I do, he comes after me.

Sully’s collar isn’t an instrument of torture. It’s a sign of our love.

9 thoughts on “Yes, I Shock The Dog. . . .

  1. i’m offended. 🙂 Not by the shocker, but by the dog’s name being Tucker.

    speaking this week on Freedom, thanks for the post.

  2. Walt, it’s obvious that you are a responsible dog guardian and I wish that there were more like you, and your analogy of God setting boundaries to protect us was quite effective, but were those snide remarks referring to PETA really necessary? Unfortunately it’s sarcastic remarks such as yours (“Sorry PETA”) that contribute to giving PETA a bad name. That’s not good for someone who has such influence over so many of our young people. Do you realize the tremendous amount of man-made suffering there is among animals, and the work that PETA is doing to try and alleviate it? I am a card-carrying PETA member, also derogatorily known as an “animal-hugger” … a label I embrace.

    What is the underlying resentment toward PETA for this disparagement? Is it because you are aware of their strident opposition to purchasing bred-to-sell purebred dogs over adopting a dog from your local shelter? Are you aware that your very own Lancaster county Amish neighbors operate some of the most notorious wretched puppy mills in the country?

    Let’s apply the best framework toward our decision-making in purchasing a dog…WWJD. Let’s say that Jesus wanted to have a child to love, nurture, teach, enjoy and all the other healthy reasons one desires to have a child. Jesus would never even consider contributing to the conception of a child while even just one child lived in a cold brick and mortar orphanage, waiting to be adopted. Likewise, Jesus would never even consider buying a bred-to-sell purebred dog while even one lived within a cage in a desolate affectionless shelter, waiting to be adopted. Do you realize that millions of dogs are slaughtered due to the unavailability of homes? PETA does!

    The other sad part of this is that I’m the only one among your thousands of supporters that feel your mention of PETA was not only totally unnecessary, but also inappropriate.

    Once again, it is so easy to teach WWJD, but…

  3. Well ok, perhaps “snide” was too strong a word, but ‘Sorry PETA”, definitely attaches a negative connotation to the organization, and would only have been made by one who views them as a “fringe” group which carries its own negative connotation. Plus, the fact remains that it was totally unnecessary to even mention them in order to get your point across. Knowing this, one has to question why did you?

    And yes, you are right, Mr. Smartypants, PETA does discourage the use of electric fencing. One reason is that all too often people make the erroneous judgement now that their dog is out, it is getting exercise. Dogs need to be walked – a lot! Read Cesar Millan’s book on dogs and their need to exercise for their physical and mental well being … since I know that you didn’t catch him on Oprah. You would be surprised at the number of dog behavioral problems that vanish once a dog is given proper exercise. The walking is also great for the person walking the dog.

    Now that I have retracted my use of the word “snide”, and acquiesced to the “rightness” of your statement on where PETA stands in regards to electric fencing, will you do likewise to my statement in regards to WWJD?

    Also interesting and insightful is that I have seen you post as early as 7:00 AM, and now your recent comment shows 9:20 PM. Do you ever take a break from your commitment to our young people? Love ya’ for that!

  4. I just have to comment on this. I don’t doubt that you love your dogs. I believe you do. I think your dogs would benefit from you learning different ways to train them. Dog’s feel pain the exact same way we do. I would imagine when little Sully feels that shock that he doesn’t really conger up the vision of you giving him a big tummy rub! I happen to know a lot about PETA as well as some of the other people that commented. I would agree that those comments could have been left out. That way nobody is offended. I wish Mr. Sully many happy years with you and your family.

  5. Funny – I thought you were going to relate the shock collar to boundary setting for our kids – as I’m about at my wits end for my son, “shocking” some sense into him sounds appealing (just kidding – everyone)!

    Loved the analogy of when we break God’ boundaries that He set for our protection, He chases us to bring us back – again, for our own protection.

  6. The only boundaries that God has set for us are the Ten Commandments. Any behavior outside of that has to coincide with the boundaries set forth by Jesus in Matthew 22:36-40. That leaves a whole lot of room for the expression of sexuality between consenting unmarried couples.

  7. I was just thinking about boundaries the other day when I read about the hikers in Yosemite who climbed over the metal barricade to get a picture and were swept away over Vernal Falls. Your dog and our kids should be thanking us for the boundaries we set in place. We love them too much for them to get hurt!

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