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    Electric Dog Fences 101

    Authored by Tractor Supply Company

    Creating a place for dogs to enjoy the outdoors is an important part of pet ownership. An electric dog fence can give your four-legged friends freedom and safety, but how do you choose which pet containment system is right for you and your family? Read on to learn more about the options on the market so that you can choose the right one for your pet.

    Wired vs. wireless dog fences

    Invisible electric dog fences, wireless dog fences, underground dog fences, and pet containment systems are all considered electric pet fences. There are two distinct types of invisible dog fences: wired (often called in-ground) and wireless. The main difference between the two types of fencing is how the boundary is set. 

    • Wired dog fences create a perimeter using wire buried underground.
    • Wireless dog fences use a radio signal to create an invisible barrier. 

    Why choose an electric pet fence

    Both in-ground and wireless pet containment systems offer advantages over traditional fencing. Electric pet fences can cover areas in terrain not suitable for fences, such as woodlands, water, and hills. They also don't alter the appearance of a property or affect the views. Invisible pet containment systems are a cost-effective option, especially for large pieces of property. Once installed, electric pet fences require minimal maintenance and no painting, staining, or painstaking repairs.

    Pet owners can also create custom boundaries with wired invisible fencing, such as restricting access to a garden or patio, where traditional fencing is impractical or an eyesore.  

    From a security standpoint, your furry would-be fugitive can't dig under or climb over an electric dog fence like they can with regular fencing. This makes them a popular option as a secondary line of defense for those who have traditional fencing.   

    How do wired and wireless dog fences work

    Wired and wireless electric dog fences work in much the same way but have a few differences.

    • Wired electric dog fences let you design an area of nearly any size and shape for your pet to enjoy the outdoors. An electronic transmitter sends a radio signal through a boundary wire buried a few inches below the surface of your yard, and pets wear a wireless dog collar with a small receiver that detects the radio signal sent through the boundary. As the pet approaches the border, the collar issues a warning tone. If the pet proceeds further, the collar will issue a short, safe static correction.
    • Wireless dog fences work similarly — a border is set, and your pet wears a wireless dog fence collar that detects when they're nearing the boundary. If your dog approaches the established edge of the invisible fence, the collar issues a warning tone. If the dog continues toward the fence line, a short, safe static correction is given.  

    Wireless dog fences transmit a containment circle, which is a circular field that your dog must stay within. With a wireless invisible fence, you can increase and decrease the size of the circular field but cannot create customized areas for your dogs.  

    A static correction is like walking across a carpet on a dry day and touching a doorknob. It isn't harmful, but it is an "attention-getting" tingle — enough to motivate your dog to stay within the boundary area. Most pet containment systems provide training tools for pets and owners, including temporary training flags and step-by-step training instructions.

    How large of an area can an electric dog fence cover

    Wired and wireless pet fences can cover large or small areas, depending on your needs.

    • Wired underground pet fences provide you the freedom to create nearly any layout and size containment area for your dog. Average invisible perimeter systems include a transmitter that supports a containment area of up to five acres and include about 500 feet of boundary wire — enough to contain up to one-third of an acre. Wire expansion kits are available if you need to contain an area with a perimeter larger than 500 feet. Higher-power transmitters also offer extended coverage for up to 25 acres.
    • Wireless dog fence systems typically cover up to three-quarters of an acre. To set up a wireless pet fence, start by plugging in the wireless transmitter. Some systems let you pair multiple transmitters together to create overlapping coverage zones. When combined, the shape of the covered area resembles a Venn diagram rather than a ball. 

    Do wired/wireless pet containment systems work for all dogs

    With proper training and a collar that fits correctly, most dogs—regardless of size and fluffiness—do well with an invisible fence. Electric fences typically work best with dogs over six months old and over ten pounds. Like most aspects of your dog's behavior, the more time spent training them, the happier they'll be, and the better the fence will work. 

    Keep an eye out for these features to know you're providing the best system for your pet:

    • Battery backup: Both in-ground and wireless dog fences are powered from an outlet, so the fence stops working if the power goes out. A battery backup keeps the fence functional for the life of the battery and provides peace of mind in the event of a power outage. 
    • Battery warning light: A wireless dog collar is only as good as the batteries that are in it. A warning light notifies you when they require replacement.
    • Line break warning: It's not uncommon for wire breaks to occur with in-ground pet containment systems, and a line-break warning will alert you to them.
    • Multiple dogs: Many people have more than one pup that requires a perimeter, and a good electric dog fence will allow you to expand the system to cover all your pets. 
    • Cost: The cost of wired and wireless pet containment systems is similar, with high-quality systems typically selling for a few hundred dollars. Paying someone to install a wired fence — or accounting for your time doing it yourself — increases the price.

    As you evaluate systems, consider the wired or wireless fence collar that your pet will wear. Containment systems usually include one or two collars, but you can buy additional collars if you need to add more pets.

    Collars are available for dogs of different sizes and temperaments. Some are rechargeable, while most have replaceable batteries. You can choose collars with slim designs, greater correction intensity for more stubborn dogs, or basic models.

    How to install wired and wireless pet fences

    Most handy DIYers can install a wired or wireless pet fence. Follow these instructions:

    Wired underground pet fences

    1. Install and ground the transmitter inside — like in a garage or basement —where temperatures do not drop below freezing. Make sure it's away from any circuit breakers or appliances.
    2. Lead the boundary wire will from the transmitter and make a circuit around your boundary area.
    3. Determine the area the fence will contain and bury the boundary wire approximately one to two inches in the ground. A flat-edged spade is sufficient for smaller areas. For larger layouts, consider using a gas-powered edger or trencher, available for rent at most hardware stores.

    Wireless dog fences

    1. Place the transmitter inside in an area that does not get below freezing. You'll want it to be at least a few feet away from any large metal objects (like a furnace or refrigerator) and near the center of the containment area.
    2. With the transmitter in place, adjust the range using the dog fence collar as a guide. 

    If you need to cross a hard surface, such as a driveway, when installing an in-ground containment system for your pet, follow these steps:

    Concrete Driveway

    1. Place the boundary wire in a convenient expansion joint or create a groove using a circular saw and masonry blade.
    2. Clean out the expansion joint or groove.
    3. Place the boundary wire in the groove.
    4. Cover the wire with a waterproof patching compound.
    5. Landscape staples or half of a small piece of PVC pipe or water hose can help protect the wire on either side of the driveway or sidewalk. This will ensure that the wire isn't cut when you trim or mow near the driveway.

    If you don't want to cut your driveway and an expansion joint is not an option, consider using a double loop layout to block your dog's access to the driveway or reconsider your design to avoid the driveway as a part of your containment area.

    Gravel or Dirt Driveway

    1. Run the boundary wire through a PVC pipe or section of water hose for protection.
    2. Bury the pipe or hose and wire.

    Installing an in-ground dog fence is not complicated and can make for a great weekend project.

    How to train your dog for a wired/wireless pet fence

    Once your invisible fence is installed, spend a few minutes every day for the first two weeks training your dog. Proper training gets your pet familiar with the boundary area and helps them understand their limits. For the most effective training, follow these steps:

    1. Begin with boundary flags in place and lead them on a leash across the yard.
    2. As they see and approach the flag, let them hear the beep of the receiver collar and pull them away from the flag, into your designated fenced area.
    3. Repeat this step consistently over several days. Your pet will begin to associate the tone with the limit of the boundary area.
    4. After two weeks, remove every third flag. As your dog understands their limits, they'll no longer need the visual cues the flags provide.

    If your dog challenges the boundary limits, they'll receive a static correction. For the first few times this happens, reassure them with soothing tones and gentle pats. Most pets are typically trained around the one-month mark, and you both can enjoy the benefits of your electronic in-ground pet fence.

    Pros and cons of wired and wireless underground dog fences

    Wired and wireless dog fences both have benefits and drawbacks. Learn more about each to determine which system works best for your needs.

    Pros of wired underground dog fences:

    • Provide a customizable border that allows you to cordon off areas like a garden or pool
    • Better for bigger yards and large acreage, as they can cover areas as large as 25 acres
    • Delivers reliable performance

    Cons of wired underground dog fences:

    • More difficult and time-consuming to install
    • Once the fence is established, changing the boundary is challenging

    Pros of wireless dog fences: 

    • Easy to install—they don't require digging or running wire.
    • Simple to adjust the size of the containment area
    • Portable—you can take it with you if you move or rent a house for the weekend

    Cons of wireless dog fences: 

    • The circular barrier it creates doesn't conform with natural boundaries and could limit a dog's access to part of a backyard.
    • Maxes out around three-quarters of an acre's worth of coverage
    • Because their signals can experience interference, wireless electric pet fences are commonly considered less reliable than wired ones

    A pet containment system makes it easy to keep your dog from running off. As you shop around, consider which electric dog fence best fits your needs and budget, so you can find one that keeps your dog happy, safe, and contained.