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Install an Electronic Dog Fence

Depending on the size of your yard, an electronic pet containment system can be installed in a day, and training your dog can be accomplished within a week. Electronic fences give your dog freedom, and you, peace of mind.

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Tools & Materials

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How Electronic Fences Work

Electronic pet containment is a dog-training system that that uses a small electric charge to keep your dog in the yard. A transmitter plugs into a standard outlet and emits a signal that travels along underground wires. A hidden boundary is created, and a receiver on your dog's collar sounds a warning tone when the dog wanders near the boundary.

If the dog doesn't back away, the receiver will respond with a mild but definite static correction. It's harmless but just uncomfortable enough to make the dog learn the new customized boundaries and remain in the safe part of the yard.

No one can see the boundaries you've set up, but your dog knows they're there. You can use these systems to create boundaries your dog can't jump over or dig under. They're sometimes used to keep dogs out of flower beds and swimming pools as well confining them to their own yards.

The charge your dog will feel from the receiver on its collar is slightly stronger than that the shock you get from static electricity. It's designed to get your dog's attention, not to hurt it. And after it's trained, your dog will respond to the audio signal and rarely experience the shock.

When Electronic Containment is NOT Appropriate

Electronic containment isn't recommended for guard dogs, vicious dogs or dogs with health problems. It's a good solution if you're willing to install the wires that form the system's boundaries, and invest the time necessary to train your dog. Consult your veterinarian if you have any questions about the suitability of one of these systems for your pet.

Electronic containment systems aren't guaranteed to work for every dog. Some dogs may simply refuse to respond to the signals from the transmitter. An aggressive dog might be willing to accept the shock if it already determined to leave the yard. Some systems have come up with solutions to the stubborn dog problem. There are special collars with stronger corrections and others that emit the corrective shock or spray citronella in front of the dog's face to keep it in place.

Beginning Installation

Determine how much area you'll want to cover before you purchase a system. Most basic systems include a transmitter with the potential to enclose an area of about 25 acres. Higher-powered transmitters are also available to enclose even larger areas. Additional wire is necessary for such big jobs. A system will typically come with 500 feet of wire, enough to enclose roughly 1/3 of an acre.

Using graph paper, plot your yard and draw in the area you want to cover. In most cases, corners must be rounded because right angles confuse the transmitter. The wire forming the fence boundary must make a continuous loop back to the transmitter.

Your transmitter must be located indoors in a dry, protected area. A garage is a good choice. Make sure the transmitter isn't located near a breaker box, and avoid potential interference problems by installing the transformer away from appliances, such as water heaters or air-conditioning units.

Most systems recommend that you bury the wires 1 inch to 3 inches underground. The wires don't have to be underground to work, but if they're aboveground, it's easy to trip over them or to cut them with a lawnmower or trimmer.

TIP: Test your wires aboveground before burying them.

You'll need to determine how close you want your dog to be able to get to the boundary without receiving a warning. The distance you determine can be adjusted on the indoor transmitter. Some systems will work up to 30 feet from the boundary and as close as a foot. Just make sure that your dog has room to roam and play without feeling discomfort.

Other basics to keep in mind:

  • Don't run wire along with electrical wires, telephone wires, television cables, antenna wires or near satellite dishes. Avoid crossing power lines.
  • If you don't know the location of your cable or power lines, check with your local utilities before installation.
  • Don't put your transmitter in a barn or shed. A risk of electric shock or fire could result if the transmitter is exposed to water or damage due to weather.
  • If you need to cross brick, asphalt or concrete surfaces, you'll need a circular saw fitted with a masonry blade and patching compound suitable for the surface you'll be crossing. If you're crossing a gravel or dirt drive, protect your wire by running it through polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe.
Caution

Before beginning any excavation, check for underground utilities. Call the North America One Call Referral Service at 1-888-258-0808 (or just dial 811) for a national directory of utility companies.

Installation Basics

Step 1

The first step in installing your system is to install the transmitter. (You'll have already decided the mounting location during the planning stages.) Be sure to ground it as recommended by the manufacturer.

Step 2

installing an invisible dog fence

Next, referring to the graph paper plot you made earlier, lay the wire along your proposed boundary. The signal can be canceled by twisting the wires together. This is useful when running the wire between the boundaries and the transmitter, or to obstacles, such as swimming pools, located within the containment area. (See illustrations for examples).

Step 3

Connect the ends of the boundary wires to the transmitter, and turn the system on.

Step 4

Test the collar to ensure it's working properly. The collar should emit an audible alert as you near the boundary.

Step 5

Once you determine that everything works, begin cutting a trench 1 inch to 3 inches deep along your previously planned boundary. Avoid running the boundary wire close to chain-link fences.

  • If your system doesn't come with as much wire as your yard needs, you'll have to splice in additional wire with wire connectors. If your installation requires the purchase of additional wire, buy wire that's specified in the manual included with your kit.
  • To splice your wires, strip both ends of the wires. Insert stripped ends into the wire connector and twist. Test the splice by pulling the wires, making sure you have a solid connection. Apply silicone caulk in and around the wire connector. After the compound dries, you may also want to wrap the wires and wire connector with electrical tape.
  • If it's necessary to cross surfaces, such as concrete or pavement, use a circular saw equipped with a masonry blade to cut a trench to accept the wire. (Don't forget to wear safety glasses.) Patch the surface with the appropriate material only after the wire has been installed and retested.

Step 6

Some pet containment systems are especially susceptible to lightning strikes and power surges. So it's very important to ground your system to protect it from damage. Your system will come with complete instructions for grounding. Don't skip this step; it could save your system from severe damage.

Training Your Dog

installing an electronic pet fence

Most systems include white flags that should be placed at the point near the boundary line where your dog will receive the warning beep. These flags, placed about 10 feet apart, will serve as visual training aids for your dog (and for you). The flags can be removed once your dog is trained.

To start the training process, set aside 48 hours (most people pick a weekend), and dedicate it to training your pet. It's important to have as little interruption as possible during this training session.

On an hourly basis, attach the receiver to your dog's collar, put a leash on your dog and take it near the boundary. Make sure your flags are up. Let the dog wander near the edge of boundary on its own, just far enough to hear the beep of its receiver collar. As soon as the beep sounds, pull sharply on the leash and bring the dog back into the safe zone. Once your dog is there, command it to sit and stay, and reward it with a treat and lavish praise. Repeat this step at different points along your boundary during each hourly session. If possible, do this training with some kind of distraction on the other side of the flags. Anything that would normally occur in your yard that might tempt the dog to cross the boundary will work.

People serving as your distractions can pay attention to the dog, but they can't call its name or give it commands, such as "Come!" or "Here!"

When you're not actively training your pet during this 48 hours, you must keep it either inside your home or confined on a leash that's not long enough to allow it near the boundary. This rule can't be broken. If it gets loose even once, you'll have to start over.

Toward the end of your 48 hours, test your dog to see if it's learning: Allow it to get near the point where you would normally pull it back. See if it starts to turn around on its own. If it does, you know it's starting to learn the routine. Don't let this be an indication for you to stop training. Continue for the entire 48-hour period. The dog must be pulled out of the boundary at least 50 times for the training to sink in.

Good to Know

You should change the battery in your dog's collar receiver every three to six months. If you have a dog that likes to test the boundaries often, be aware that the battery may run out sooner.