When it comes to electric dog fences, there’s a few different things to consider.
For example, there’s wireless dog fences, but there’s also underground dog fences that use wire.
This guide contains a range of buyer and owner frequently asked questions about electric dog fence systems.
Let’s take a look!
(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet/s)
Some Of The Best Electric Dog Fences
Before we get into the guide, you may like to go straight to taking a look at some of the best electric dog fences on the market right now:
- eXtreme Dog Fence Max Grade System (on Amazon) (Most features and the thickest/strongest wire of the eXtreme dog models – doesn’t have to be buried underground)
- eXtreme Dog Fence Professional Grade System (on Amazon) (As good or better value than the Standard Grade model. One of the best selling models. Thick 14 gauge wire (with poly wire jacket), and doesn’t have to be buried underground)
- eXtreme Dog Fence Standard Grade System (on Amazon) (Good value. Probably the most comparable eXtreme model to the SportDOG models)
- SportDOG In-Ground Fence System SDF-100A (on Amazon) (Has a replaceable battery, and 4 levels of static stimulation, plus tone/vibration)
- PetSafe Stubborn Dog In-Ground Fence System (on Chewy)
- PetSafe Stubborn Dog In-Ground Fence (on Amazon) – for dogs at least 8lbs, and with a 6 to 28 inch neck size. Has 1/3 acre range. Has 4 levels of adjustable stimulation for the most persistent dogs, as well as a vibration mode.
Even though we prefer in ground fences because they tend to be more effective and reliable, some people want a wireless dog fence. These are some of the top rated wireless dog fences on the market right now:
- PetSafe PIF-300 Wireless Dog and Cat Containment System (on Chewy)
- PetSafe PIF-300 Wireless Dog and Cat Containment System (on Amazon) – For dogs at least 8lbs, and with 6 to 28 inch neck size. Has 1/2 acre circular range. Has 5 adjustable levels of stimulation, and a tone only mode.
- PetSafe Stay+Play Wireless Fence (on Chewy)
- PetSafe Stay & Play Compact Wireless Fence (on Amazon) – For dogs at least 5lbs, and with a 6 to 28 inch neck size. Has 3/4 acre circular range. Has 5 adjustable levels of stimulation, and a tone only mode.
- PetSafe Stay & Play Wireless Fence for Stubborn Dogs (on Chewy)
*Make sure to also check collar strap size to dog neck size measurements before you buy.
Electric Dog Fence Reviews, & Comparison Guides
What Is A Dog Fence System, and What Are They Used For?
Another name for a dog fence system is a ‘pet containment system’.
They are systems designed and used for containing one or several dogs to a specific area (of a certain acreage) in an owner’s yard, or keeping them away from a certain area.
They can be set up and configured in different ways to achieve this.
They are especially useful for dogs that might try to escape yards, dogs that dig, dogs that aren’t responding to regular training, or dogs that might just need help with where safe boundaries are.
Types Of Electric Dog Fences
There’s three main types:
In ground/invisible dog fences (where the perimeter wire is buried)
Above ground dog fences (where the perimeter wire can be left exposed above ground – these tend to be the 14 gauge wire fences with the thicker poly coating wire jackets)
Wireless dog fences
There’s also several types of specialty dog fences for tiny dogs (with collars for the smallest dogs/ necks), for stubborn dogs (with stronger correction stimulation), and so on.
In Ground vs Above Ground vs Wireless Electric Dog Fences
The main difference between them is that firstly, in ground and above ground dog fences tend to be more reliable and better performing.
And secondly, above ground dog fences are easier to install than in ground systems.
A wireless dog fence doesn’t use wire, but rather has a circular signal emitted from the transmitter which acts as a perimeter.
When Might You Use An Electric Dog Fence System?
You may choose to use an in ground dog fence system after the following:
Once you’ve worked on building a strong bond with your dog & you have their trust
Once you’ve undertaken basic obedience with your dog, or advanced training courses
Once positive reinforcement training without electronic training tools has been attempted, and has not been effective
Once you’ve consulted the advice of a professional dog trainer, and your vet
Once you’ve consulted the laws in your area as to the use of dog fences
Once you’ve done your own research on the case studies of use of dog fences
Once you’ve check for utilities in the ground in your yard, and you’ve checked your yard is suitable for an electric dog fence
Electric dog fences can be used as a temporary training tool. Once your dog/s learn the boundaries, the system can be switched off and you may not need to use it again unless your dog starts straying outside the boundaries again.
They don’t have to be a permanent thing.
Dog Fences For Puppies
Ask your vet at what age you can begin using static stimulation and electronic training devices with your puppy.
Some manufacturers might say at 6 months old and over, or for all dogs over 8lbs for example.
Factors To Consider In Deciding Which Electric Dog Fence To Buy
It depends on your yard, your pet/s, and your personal wants and needs.
But, some of the main considerations you may take into account when deciding on what dog fence system to get might include (but aren’t limited to):
What type of fence system is it – perimeter wire system, wireless?
Is the dog fence system built for a specific type of dog – tiny, stubborn, and so on?
What is the price range of the dog fence system?
Can the fence system order be customized with add ons and changes to the items in the standard kit?
Can the fence system be installed just below ground, or above ground too?
What does the full set up of the fence system involve?
What are the full range of features the fence system has?
Are there any safety features, or special features, such as run through protection?
How many different programmable settings does the fence system have?
What layouts and configurations can the fence system wire be laid out in?
What is the maximum acreage that the fence system can contain? – based on each individual transmitter, number of transmitters that can be used, and maximum amount of perimeter wire it can support
What are the sizes of the inner, warning and correction zones?
Is the fence perimeter boundary zone adjustable?
How does the fence system actually work when set up and in operation?
How many collars (dogs) can the fence system support – 1, 2, 3, or more?
What collars (from the same brand and other brands) is the fence system compatible with?
Are the collars water proof?
Are the collars submersible?
How much does the collar receiver weigh?
What length contacts do the collars come with?
What size dogs is the fence system for e.g. 8lbs and up?
What size neck is the dog collar strap for?
Is the battery disposable, or rechargeable?
What type of battery is it?
How long does the battery charge last?
What gauge wire does the fence system come with? – 14, 16, 18. 20?
How long is the wire designed to last? How many years
Does the wire come with any additional poly jacket coating?
How many different training and operation modes are there – stimulation/correction, vibration and beep modes?
How many different stimulation levels are there?
Does the fence system come with different frequency levels?
Are there any specific extras like a surge protector included?
How long is the warranty for, and what are the conditions?
Is there a return or satisfaction guarantee policy?
Is there a dedicated customer support line?
Where is the company based, and where are the fence systems manufactured? – America, or somewhere else?
Of The Above Factors – Which Are Most Important In Picking An Electric Dog Fence?
Some of the most important might be:
The collar strap fits your dog’s neck
The system is designed for your dog’s size (weight)
You can put the number of dogs on the system that you need to
The system can contain the area of land you need it to
The system fits within your budget
The system has the settings you need – especially settings like stimulation, beep and vibration
The system can be installed above or below ground to your preference and in the configuration you want
How Much Does An Electric Dog Fence Cost?
Each electric dog fence kit has a different cost.
Different models are also going to cost different amounts depending on their features and inclusions e.g. thicker wire, and more/better features are going to cost more.
At the time of purchase – you can also buy additional items that are going to increase the price e.g. additional wire, additional collar devices, etc.
Some of the basic and add on costs you have to keep in mind with getting an electric dog fence are:
The Starter Kit
Additional boundary wire
Additional collar devices
Additional small items like ground staples and wire splices or connectors
A surge protector (may or may not come with the system, and can be optional)
A dedicated power outlet for the transmitter (if you don’t already have one – you’ll have to get an electrician to install one)
Cost to pay a professional to dig and install fence system for you (optional)
If you do DIY – time investment to dig and install, and cost to hire a trench digger if you get one
Time investment to train you dog/s
How To Install & Set Up An Electric Dog Fence
Each electric dog fence product is different with it’s requirements.
Read the instructions and operation manual that come with the dog fence system you buy for installation and set up information.
Generally though, installation may look similar to this:
Laying the wire out above the ground in the configuration you choose
Train your dog/s to use the system with the boundary flags
Plugging in the transmitter (you may have to get an electrician in to install a dedicated power connection point in the appropriate location if there is not one already there)
Connecting up the transmitter, wire and other fence components
Charging batteries (if required, or inserting batteries into the collar/s
Putting the receiver collar around your dog’s neck
Programming the fence settings, and selecting the modes and levels for the system on the transmitter and collar/s. Make sure no other signals or objects (metal objects in particular) are interfering with the frequency your transmitter is set up to
Testing everything is working as it should be – if not, contact the manufacturer for trouble shooting
Once you know the system is working properly – bury the wire. You’ll have to dig your trenches for the perimeter, or have a third party dig and bury. Above ground wire can be stapled to the ground or fixed to an existing object or fence
Test the system again once the wire is buried or fixed
Operate the system
Replace batteries and fix wires on the system as required throughout operation
[Take note of any safety precaution with the system]
For above ground dog fences …
There’s two ways you can install a wire dog fence above ground:
1. Layout your boundary wire and secure it down with a landscape/yard staple (1 every 5 feet in traffic areas, and 1 every 10 feet where there will not be traffic. This ensures that nobody trips over the wire, lawnmowers do not catch it, etc.
2. Attach your boundary wire to an existing physical fence – Either wooden (using staples to secure it) or metal (as long as the metal is galvanized, ie: chain link fence)
Check the instructions though as they might have different information on installation above ground.
Some other tips or directions that might come with installing an electric dog fence might include:
Boundary fence wire should be at least 4 feet away from existing cable lines and metal objects so the signal from the electric fence is not interfered with
Fence wire corners should be rounded, and not square
You might use a circular saw with masonry blade, use an existing expansion seam, or use a driveway traverse strip to cross a driveway or concrete structure in your yard with wire
How Does An Electric Dog Fence Work (When In Operation)?
They all work differently – refer to the instruction manual or guide for information on exactly how they each work.
Generally though, they may work similar to this:
A signal is produced from the Fence Transmitter through the Boundary Wire, and communicates with the Collar.
The Boundary Wire is buried or attached to a fixed object (or ground) to enclose the dog’s Boundary Area. You temporarily define the Boundary Area with Boundary Flags for a visual aid in training your dog.
Your dog wears a Collar Receiver with Contact Points that touch his/her neck and, once trained, is allowed to roam freely in the Boundary Area.
When your dog reaches the Warning Zone (an area further from the , the Collar Receiver gives a warning beep and vibration.
If your dog continues into the Stimulation Zone (closer to the boundary wire), a safe stimulation will be delivered through the Contact Points to get his/her attention until he returns to the boundary area.
Different systems have different alert settings i.e. different levels of stimulation/correction, and beep or vibration modes. They will also have operational features that will affect exactly how they function
A wireless dog fence system (without perimeter wire) may work slightly differently:
Simply plug in the transmitter and it will emit a constant radio signal with a circular range in all directions that defines the boundaries (instead of the perimeter wire being there). Make sure there are no other signals or metal objects that could interfere with the signal frequency
Fit your dog with the collar receiver and turn it on. The transmitter sends a signal to the collar receiver.
When the pet strays into the warning zone, the receiver collar will give a warning tone. If they continue past the warning zone, a safe, static correction is delivered through the contact points until they return to the safe pet area.
How To Train A Dog To Use An Electric Dog Fence, & How Long Training Takes
It depends on the dog, and also the system.
Read the instructions and operation manual that come with the dog fence system you buy for dog training information.
Most dog fence systems come with training flag visual aids though that you can use to mark the perimeter, and your dog can see.
What Type Of Wire Is Used For An Electric Dog Fence?
The 4 main types are:
20 gauge (thinnest)
14 gauge (thickest and strongest)
Twisted wire is also a type of wire that comes with some fence systems – it is designed to create a neutral section of the perimeter that a dog can cross without the collar device activating
Several 14 gauge electric dog fence systems also come with thicker poly coating on the wire for added durability and strength, and protection from abrasion, UV, extreme temperatures and water.
How Much Wire Do I Need For My Electric Dog Fence?
It depends on the size of the area you want to contain your pet/s in.
A certain amount of wire comes with the starter kit, and that amount of wire can contain a certain acreage.
Each brand should have a simple table that converts wire feet to containment acreage.
eXtreme has one of these tables – so, you can refer to those tables when buying wire lengths.
You may need to buy extra wire for wire breakages, but, can use wire splices and connectors as well.
Which Electric Dog Fence Wire Is The Best?
It depends on your needs.
If you want the strongest, most durable wire that can be installed above as well as below ground, the 14 gauge wire with the 60ML jacket is the best option.
20 gauge wire is the thinnest/least hardest wearing of the wires.
You also want to get a dog fence wire that is compatible with your particular electric dog fence product/system.
How To Bury The Wire For An Electric Dog Fence
There should be instructions for this that come with each dog fence product.
But, in general, wire can be buried by DIY, or by a professional (some people choose to get a landscaper to dig, lay and backfill the wire trenches, or, the dog fence manufacturer might have teams that do it too)
Installation by others can be better for people who are time poor, have big areas, have injuries, have extra money, or who don’t have the expertise to dig and back fill themselves.
There’s several ways you or a professional may choose to install the boundary wire below ground:
Using a standard yard edger to cut a small trench that you can tuck your wire into and cover back up with dirt
Using a trenching machine (will dig trench, lay wire, and cover back up with dirt as you go (can be rented from home building stores)
Using a garden hoe or shovel to make your wire trench, lay your wire in, and use your foot to close groove
Before burying the perimeter wire, it’s important to check if there are any hazards or obstructions in the ground like electrical cables/conduits, rocks, other services etc. You can call an organisation in your area to come and identify underground utilities for you and mark them on the ground.
It’s also important to consider the layout you want and that you have enough wire.
You should also test the system is working before you bury it (so you don’t have to undig it in case there is an issue).
How Deep To Bury The Wire
It depends on the fence system – read the installation instructions guide that comes with the fence system.
Some are between 1 to 5 feet deep. Some are deeper.
Some systems allow above ground installation without digging or burying required.
Some Safety Considerations For Using An Electric Dog Fence
Safety is extremely important with an dog fence.
Always always get your vet’s advice or the advice of an animal health and/or training expert – nothing is a substitute for professional advice.
Some general safety guidelines for using a dog fence humanely might be:
Buy from a reputable company who put proper use of the dog fence and the safety of the dog as a priority
Read and follow the operating guide, instruction/safety manual and training guide that comes with the dog fence system from the manufacturer for operation and safety instructions and guidelines
Pay attention to any warnings issued by the manufacturer
Monitor your dog’s response both mentally and physically to using a dog fence. Take the collar off immediately and discontinue use of the system if you notice any negative implications or reactions
A good dog fence that uses static stimulation should simply stimulate the muscle (to the point of reflex) to get the dog’s attention, but should not cause pain (it might be slightly annoying for the dog to act as a small deterrent – but shouldn’t cause pain or harm). It certainly shouldn’t cause a ‘sharp pain’ to the muscle or body.
To get a safe stimulation level – you can always start from the lowest stimulation level, and work your way up to a level that gets the dog’s attention (such as changing body language when a stimulation, vibration or tone is administered) without any visible sign of pain or harm (such as yelping, or showing signs of stress).
A good dog fence company should give you all the necessary safety, use and training instructions, and should have a dedicated customer service line to help when you being using the fence system.
The static function does not need to be used either – tone and vibrate training modes can be used instead.
Some owners like to use their dog fence system as a temporary training tool i.e. once their dog/s have learnt the boundaries and are properly training to stay in the yard, they turn the fence off or remove it.
If the dog starts going outside the boundaries again, they use the fence again to re-train their dog.
As a safety precaution for humans as well – make sure to get a qualified company to do an underground utility search and get these utilities marked before doing any digging.
Read more about the safety of electric dog fences in this guide.
Are Dog Fences Humane & Safe, Or Are They Cruel?
A good dog fence should generally be safe and humane for dogs, and in no way cruel or painful.
A good dog fence:
That uses static stimulation should simply stimulate the muscle (to the point of reflex) to get the dog’s attention, but should not cause pain (it might be slightly annoying for the dog to act as a small deterrent – but shouldn’t cause pain or harm). It certainly shouldn’t cause a ‘sharp pain’ to the muscle or body.
Should have several different levels of static stimulation, allowing you to set the system to the lowest level of static intensity, and increase the level one at a time to a level that is both safe and effective for your dog. This might be a level that gets the dog’s attention (such as changing body language when a stimulation, vibration or tone is administered) without any visible sign of pain or harm (such as yelping, or showing signs of stress).
Should not just have a static stimulation training mode, but should have a vibration only, and/or a sound/tone/beeping training mode as well. Vibration and tone training modes should be completely pain or discomfort free
Should have safety features like a shut off feature if your dog won’t leave the correction zone
Should come with training flags to visually show your dog where the boundary/perimeter is
Should give you the minimum weight or minimum age a dog must meet before they can use the collar e.g. minimum of 10lbs
Should come with an owner’s manual, operation guide and usage/training information to show and teach you how to use the dog fence safely and effectively
Should be made by a company who has customer service on hand to help you if you have any safety or operational questions with their system
As you can see, if you are using a dog fence with very low static, or vibration and tone training options, there’s virtually no chance the collar can do any harm to the dog wearing it.
You can even discontinue use of a dog fence once your dog has learned to stay within the desired boundary. You can always bring it back out again if you need to re-train.
If you notice any negative physical or mental implications for your dog/s from using a dog fence, it would be wise to consider discontinuing use immediately.
Where To Find The Best Dog Fences?
This is completely subjective, but when buying pet products, quality and safety tends to come from the companies who are either one or all of the following:
– most established
– most popular
– have responsive customer service
– have generally good feedback on the dog fences they make
– have a reputation as a company who cares about the safety of the pets, the quality of their products and the satisfaction on the customer
When Might A Dog Fence Become Unsafe Or Cruel?
Some factors that might contribute to a dog fence being unsafe are:
When the owner does not get a qualified vet’s opinion on using a dog fence – particularly for dogs that are young, have existing health conditions or at risk of developing them
When the dog is not properly trained how to interact with the system
When the dog is left unattended when first using it
When the owner doesn’t read the operating manual or training or safe use information
When the system is not installed correctly, or is programmed incorrectly (if it has custom programming)
When the collar is set to a high level of static that is unnecessary for the dog wearing it
When the stimulation delivers ‘sharp’ stimulation instead of a ‘wide’ stimulation
When the system is made cheaply and it functions either dangerously or inconsistently
When the company making the system hasn’t considered the safety of the pets using it as a main priority (and there are no safety features for example)
When the dog using the system is too small or too young, or has some type of other factor like health issues that makes stimulation unsafe
Using A Non Electric Training Method For Your Dog Before Getting An Electric Dog Fence
You can always consult a professional dog trainer first to train your dog to stay within a certain area, if you don’t want to use an electric dog fence.
You may also choose to train your dog yourself for some behaviors.
Are Electric Dog Fences Effective & Do They Actually Work?
The best way to answer this question, is – mostly yes (especially when you buy from a good brand), but it depends!
The five biggest factors that might determine if a dog fence is going to work for you are:
The type of system you use – in ground/above ground, or wireless
The brand/manufacturer you buy from
The area you install the dog fence on
Your dog/s that are using the system
How well you are able to train your dog/s
Overall though, it’s best to go through the features that a particular dog fence system offers one by one, and make sure all the features suit your situation and your dog/s.
Let’s take a look at each of those factors in a little more detail …
1. Type of electric dog fence – in ground vs wireless
We’ve already put together a comparison guide of In Ground vs Above Ground vs Wireless Dog Fences, and Which Might Be Better.
The most important things to know from that guide when considering effectiveness are that:
In ground and above ground fences tend to be more reliable, consistent, accurate and effective.
This is because an in ground transmitter runs through a physical wire (that you run above ground or bury in the ground which requires you to dig mini trenches and back fill them) which interacts with the collar receiver on the dog/s
A wireless dog fence on the other hand emits a non physical signal/frequency
There is more that can interfere with the signal of a wireless dog fence such as metal, and thick and solid objects like houses and trees or big bushes
Overall, it would be fair to say:
In ground and above ground fences are mostly effective for containing a dog or multiple dogs to a certain area
Wireless fences are sometimes effective and sometimes not for containing a dog or multiple dogs to a certain area
If you want to check out the best dog fences of each type, you can do so here:
- Best In Ground/Invisible & Above Ground Dog Fence System Reviews And Buyer’s Guide
- Best Wireless Dog Fence System Reviews And Buyer’s Guide
2. The brand/manufacturer you buy from
eXtreme and SportDOG are two of the better brands to buy from.
PetSafe may also have some suitable specialty models – such as for stubborn dogs, or for wireless dog fence systems.
3. The Area You Install The Dog Fence On
With the area that you install the dog fence on, you might consider:
How big it is – a standard in ground system covers more area than a standard wireless system
What is on the property – metal, solid objects like houses and walls, trees and thick scrub for example can significantly interfere with the signal of a wireless dog fence system
That you can physically install the system on the land – make sure you have a power source for the transmitter, that there aren’t any rocks or hazards in the ground for in ground systems etc.
4. Your dog/s
With your dog or dogs that you want to use the system, you might consider:
That they meet the minimum weight requirement to use the system
That they have a suitable neck size to wear the collar receiver
That they have a suitable training mode and correction cue available to them e.g. vibration, tone/sound or low static for sensitive dogs, or high static for stubborn dogs
If you have an escape artist, or a really intelligent dog, you might get a system with run through prevention, boundary linger, adjustable boundary and correction zones, or other specific features to help the system work more effectively
You’ll obviously want to get any dog fence system approved by a vet or animal professional if you have a puppy or a dog that you think might react negatively to a dog fence system.
5. How well you can train your dog to use the fence system
Your ability to train your dog to use the fence will play a large part in having the electric dog fence system work properly.
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