FREE dog training advice from a pro!

Electronic pet fences solve dog problems

Invisible Fence®, dog fence, hidden fence, radio fence... Whatever you call it, it works.

The purpose of this article is to educate you about electronic pet fences, including do-it-yourself and professionally installed systems. After reading this article, you will understand:

  • How an electronic pet fence works
  • What problems electronic pet fences actually solve
  • What to look for when buying a pet fence (DIY or professionally installed)
  • Whether you are capable of installing a pet fence yourself
  • What questions to ask when purchasing a pet fence from a professional installation company

For what is probably the most comprehensive discussion of electronic pet fences on the Web, make sure to visit There, you'll find product reviews of pet fence products including the Guardian Underground and PetSafe brands; a step-by-step installation guide; and a training guide.


BRANDS: Invisible Fence®, PetSafe®, Pet Stop®, DogWatch®, Sport Dog®, Innotek®, Guardian®

Electronic pet fences go by many different names, including dog fences, hidden fences, pet fences, and radio fences. Some people simply call every pet fence an "Invisible Fence," although that is technically a brand name. Despite the confusing array of terms, they all refer to the same type of containment system: a combination of electronic transmitter, receiver, and buried wire that trains your pet to stay in your yard.

Through a training process that generally lasts about two weeks, your pet learns to respond to a warning (usually audible but sometimes vibratory) that he is too close to the limits of his boundary and should turn around. If your pet does not turn around and return to what is known as his "safe zone," he receives a correction.

Most electronic pet fences use static correction to help a pet understand boundary limits, although some use citronella spray instead. Citronella is a harsher correction for a pet than static correction. Static correction, which feels similar to the sensation of rubbing your feet on carpet and then touching metal, corrects only when your pet is outside of his safe zone. Once your pet reenters the safe zone, all static correction stops. Citronella, on the other hand, is a correction that takes advantage of your pet's greatest asset - his super sense of smell.

A dog's sense of smell is as much as a million times better than a human's sense of smell, and cats' noses work almost as well. Citronella is a highly offensive scent to a sensitive nose. Not only is citronella offensive, but it lingers, continuing to correct your pet even once he is back within his safe zone. An electronic pet fence should correct your pet only when he is outside of his safe zone.


Electronic pet fences are one of the most reliable ways to stop a dog from running away, if you do a good job of training your dog to understand how the fence works. They are also highly effective at keeping dogs out of forbidden areas, like flower beds, pools, and patio areas.

Some folks install an electronic fence along their existing wood or chain link fence to stop a dog from jumping over or digging under the fence or destroying expensive fencing materials. Used in this "double-boundary" context, electronic pet fences are close to 100% effective.


Pet fences are highly effective IF you purchase a reliable product and follow the training guidelines very closely. Note that the size or breed of your pet is not a significant factor; large and stereotypically stubborn breeds can be contained as effectively as tiny or timid dogs.

From a hardware perspective, a high quality pet fence product always includes:

  • A receiver that includes at least 10 different correction levels, from very faint to powerful. If your pet fence does not include a receiver with at least ten different correction levels, you run the risk of needlessly stressing your pet.
  • A reliable transmitter that uses a digital signal to power the pet fence system. If the technology that powers the fence uses an analog radio signal instead of a digital signal, the fence may be unreliable and confusing for your pet.
  • Lightning protection. If the system doesn't include lightning protection, you run the risk of electrical damage to your home in the event of a lightning strike.

While hardware quality is important, good training is absolutely critical. An electronic pet fence WILL NOT WORK EFFECTIVELY if you simply put the receiver around your pet's neck and stick him out in the yard. Instead, your pet will most likely become stressed and confused. Many do-it-yourselfers have poor experiences with electronic pet fences for this very reason. So, if you decide to install your own pet fence, make sure to carefully follow the training instructions provided by the manufacturer.

Most professionally-installed pet fences include training support packages, where someone works one-on-one with you and your pet. Again, the quality of training support varies from company to company. Some companies hire entry-level workers to both install their fences and provide training support; the quality of training support you'll receive in this type of arrangement is not very good. Other professional pet fence companies use professional pet trainers to provide training support. These trainers are experienced not just with pet fences, but with pet behavior in general. Training with a behavior specialist is the best possible support you can receive.


Pet fences are perfectly safe as long as they include high-quality hardware and training support. Pet fences have been available to consumers for over 30 years, and are endorsed both by veterinarians and animal welfare groups.


Many brands of DIY electronic pet fencing are available, including PetSafe®, Innotek®, SportDog™, Guardian®, and more. These fences generally range from about $150 - $350, depending on quality and features. Cheaper systems tend to be less reliable and lack the features required to safely and reliably contain your pet.

Almost all DIY pet containment systems include very cheap wire that is not intended for outdoor use. If you decide to purchase a DIY pet fence, do yourself a favor and purchase outdoor-rated wire at your local wire specialty store. This upgrade will probably cost you around $50 - $100, but will pay off in far fewer wire breaks over time.

Installing a pet fence is a three-part process that is not unlike installing a sprinkler or outdoor lighting system. The level of difficulty depends on your familiarity with using power tools and installing electronic equipment, your ability or willingness to perform manual labor, and your skill with dog training.

Installing the hardware: All pet containment systems consist of two primary objects: a receiver that your pet wears on a collar around its neck and an electronic transmitter that you must mount indoors to protect it from the elements.

Installing the wire: To ensure safety and effectiveness, you should bury pet fencing wire approximately 2 - 6 inches underground; otherwise, the wire is left unprotected from damage by the elements and roving animals. Stapling wire to the ground or an existing fence can create significant problems for you in the long term. Remember, a pet fence with damaged wire is a pet fence that doesn't work.

Training your dog: Good training is essential to success with a pet fence. Though it sounds like the easy approach, you can't just install the pet fence, put a collar on your pet, stick him in the backyard, and expect him to stay there. Pet fences simply don't work that way. For your electronic pet fence to work effectively, you must adhere to an approved training protocol. It usually takes about 5 - 7 days of interaction and an additional 5 - 7 days of supervision before your pet is fully trained to an electronic pet fence. This is true of ALL pet fence brands.


Some handymen are willing to install DIY electronic pet fences. If you choose a handyman to install your fence, you will still be entirely responsible for training your pet; however, a handyman will install the wire and transmitter that power the fence. Usually, the cost to purchase a DIY pet fence and hire a handyman to install it is similar to hiring a professional pet fence installation company. If no professional installation company exists in your area, look for the following from any handyman you hire:

Buried wire: The handyman should bury the pet fence wire 2 - 6 inches underground. Some handymen will suggest stapling the wire to your wood fence, threading the wire through a chain link fence, or securing the wire directly to the ground using ground staples. Generally, none of these methods is suggested, as exposed wire breaks very easily. Broken wire means a broken fence and lots of headaches for you.

Driveway and sidewalk crossings: The pet fence wire must make a complete loop around the area you wish to contain. Usually, that means crossing over a driveway or sidewalk. The handyman should use a saw to cut through a joint of your driveway or sidewalk, lay the wire in the crease (burying it deeply at either end so that you can still use edging tools for landscape maintenance), and mortar over the wire for protection.

DIY systems include very cheap wire that is not intended for lasting durability. If you decide to purchase a DIY pet fence system and hire a handyman to install it, do yourself a favor and purchase outdoor-rated wire at your local wire specialty store. This upgrade will probably cost you around $50 - $100, but will pay off in far fewer wire breaks over time.


In most areas of the US, there are pet containment companies that specialize in professionally installing pet fences. These local companies usually represent a national product, such as Pet Stop®, Invisible Fence®, and DogWatch®. The price of a professionally-installed pet fence varies based on how much area you wish to cover, the number of pets you wish to protect, and the region of the US in which you live. Most professional installers offer free quotes, and some even provide pricing information on their Web sites.

Ask the following questions when you interview pet containment companies:

  • What is your containment guarantee? A professional pet containment company should offer some level of pet containment guarantee. In other words, if they can't contain your pet, they should refund your money.
  • What is your warranty? Look for a lifetime product warranty and at least a one-year warranty on the installation. Ask how often the equipment is expected to require warranty repair.
  • Who will install my fence? How much experience do they have in pet fence installation? At least one person with several years of pet containment installation experience should be present during your pet fence installation.
  • How will you install the wire? Wire should be buried underground, including at driveway and sidewalk crossings. The wire should be completely hidden after the installation.
  • What training support do you offer? A good pet containment company will offer to perform the first few initial training sessions for you, and offer at least one year of free training support.
  • Who will help train my pet? What is this person's experience with pet training? Look for a company that uses experienced pet behavior experts to provide training support.
  • What kind of wire do you use? The company should include 14- to 18-gauge outdoor rated wire as a standard part of their installation package. The wire splices should be solidly connected and enclosed in waterproof casing.

Visit for more comprehensive information about electronic dog fences.

Copyright ©2009 -- All Rights Reserved. Reproducing any content on this site without written permission from the site owner is expressly prohibited.