Compassionate Use of Electric Fencing For Maremmas

Updated: Nov 14, 2021

The placement of this electric wire is perfect for use with LGDs.

I really dislike using electric fencing. In the title of this blog I almost feel like the words "compassionate" and "electric" don't belong in the same sentence, but there are times that well thought out use of electric fencing can save a dog's life.

Here on our ranch we had a long history of using electric fencing to keep the livestock from putting pressure on our painstakingly constructed, expensive fencing. That worked beautifully. All of the livestock I have ever owned learned to stay away from the fences very quickly, and without showing much stress in having had to learn this. That has NOT been true for my multitude of Maremmas. Many of them have ultimately figured it out, but the emotional cost to them has been obvious. I am not willing to hurt my dogs, so I set out to learn all I could about meeting my husband's goal of keeping the livestock off the fences, and my dogs not being "shocked", or hurt.

Our electric fences are constructed using high tensile wire and are powered by typical livestock chargers. Chargers such as this are powerful enough to keep working in spite of minimal obstructions, such as grass touching the wire. It takes more power to charge a fence made of heavy gauge wire, such as we use, than it does lighter weight wire. I have touched our electric fence a few times over the years. It hurts, all the way up my arm! And I am standing in shoes! I can't imagine what it must be like for a dog to be shocked like this with four tender pads making a direct connection to the ground. And what about during wet, winter weather - fences hurt more when the circuit makes a better connection. When my dogs made contact with our fences, usually with a wet nose, they screamed and bolted.

LGDs are somewhat feral dogs. As a survival of the fittest species, they instinctively hide pain because in animal populations weaker individuals are often targeted or driven away from the pack, herd, flock, whatever. So, when an LGD screams his partner will attack him. Dogs are emotionally triggered by hearing other dogs fight. So my dear dog, who through no ill intent, just touched the fence and got big time shocked, is now also pursued and attacked by his trusted partner. That attack is based on instinct and the emotional trigger. There is usually no blood drawn in these altercations, but one dog is completely confused and traumatized. Additionally, many of the partner dogs in nearby fields would turn on each other and fight for a few minutes until everybody got their brains back. Not OK, not fair, and this is all due to human decision making, and error, in my opinion.

So, there's some background information for you. In the photos below I'll show you some of what works well for LGDs, if electric fencing is a necessity, and what doesn't. Remember, all this is my opinion only. A lot of ranchers accept the use of electric fences as appropriate general management of LGDs. I am not one of them.