What is an electric dog fence?

What is an electric dog fence?

As the saying goes, “Dogs are man’s best friend.” However, we all know of some dogs that are more interested in chasing wildlife, hanging out in neighbor’s yards, or making new friends down the street when they go outside. For dogs that are determined to escape the yard they are familiar with for more interesting landscapes, finding ways to safely keep them contained can be challenging - and sometimes expensive! Many dog owners consider wireless invisible fencing as a containment solution due to its affordability, but how do you know if an electric dog fence is right for you?

What is an electric dog fence?

When it comes to invisible electric pet fencing, there are two main options for dogs:

  • Wireless Dog Fence. An invisible wireless dog fence commonly uses radiofrequency to create a barrier, although some options may use GPS. The transmitter is centrally located and creates a dome-shaped “enclosure” set to a specific range that creates the perimeter. Your dog wears a collar that communicates with the transmitter, and as the collar moves toward the set boundary, it will give a warning signal to let the dog know they are approaching the boundary. If the dog continues and crosses the boundary they receive a static shock correction.
  • In-Ground Dog Fence. An invisible in-ground dog fence creates a boundary using an electric wire buried underground. Although this option works very similarly to a wireless fence, the boundary wire can be placed more freely for a more customizable boundary. Rather than communicating with a transmitter, the collar connects to the wired electric boundary.

Pros & Cons of Electric Dog Fence Solutions

Advantages of Electric Dog Fences

When researching your options for invisible wireless dog fences or wired in-ground dog fences, there are several pros and cons to consider. The most commonly cited advantage to both types of electric dog fences is that they are invisible. An invisible fence does not block a picturesque view or affect the aesthetics of the yard.

Although the cost of invisible dog fences is quite varied depending upon your needs, the overall cost tends to be less than traditional fencing for most yards, but especially for large yards. For many pet owners, this can be a deciding factor and perceived benefit of invisible dog fences when selecting the best containment solution for their dog, as well.

Wireless Fence Benefits

If you stick with a wireless solution, you even have the option to travel with your electric dog fence! This is great for camping, weekend stays with friends or family, or long-term vacations with your dog in tow. A wireless system simply requires the transmitter (and an outlet!) and a receiver collar. Most can be easily packed, moved, and set up at a new location. For the fence to be most effective for travel, your dog should be trained to recognize the system’s warning signals rather than a physical boundary perimeter.

Dog Camping

In addition to traveling, wireless dog fences are also generally very easy to set up on your own. Most systems do not require professional installation. If you have any questions during your installation and setup, many providers also include accessible online or phone support. 

In-Ground Wired Fence Benefits

One added benefit to an electric wired solution is that the boundary line is completely customizable. This is great for odd-shaped yards, as the in-ground wire can run along the entire yard’s perimeter regardless of its shape. Wired invisible fences also give you the option to “exclude” areas of the yard where you don’t want your dog to enter. This could be your vegetable garden or a pool area, for example.

An in-ground invisible dog fence is also great for large yards. There is no constraint on the distance the wired barrier can run, so a wired fence works well for large yards in addition to odd-shaped ones. Any area larger than an acre would benefit from a wired system over a wireless system.

Wired vs Wireless Invisible Fence Boundary

Disadvantages of Electric Dog Fences

As with any barrier solution for containing a dog, invisible dog fences also have some drawbacks. The first is that it’s invisible! This one is a bit of a double-edged sword - while it is certainly great to have an invisible fence that doesn’t block your view, it will not prevent any intruders from entering the yard. Wild animals like raccoons, fox, deer, and coyotes can all still cross the barrier unhindered, as can other neighborhood cats and dogs, including strays.

This also means that your dog can see everything going on around them. Some dogs become frustrated when they can see other animals and people nearby, but can’t run over to greet them. It can be especially difficult for some dogs to be able to see other neighbor dogs running and playing knowing that they are not able to join in. 

Dogs Playing in Yard

Additionally, if the power goes out, so does your electric dog fence. If you are in an area with frequent power outages, this could prove problematic. Many systems can be hooked up to a backup battery for power outage events that would allow the system to continue to work if you do lose power. However, these backup batteries can be an added expense to the system that you may not have anticipated.

Wireless Fence Drawbacks

Radiofrequency wireless dog fences typically have a limited range that covers less than 1 acre. They also only create a circular shape with the transmitter in the center that can make some yards difficult to encompass with a wireless invisible fence. This is especially true for small properties, odd-shaped properties, or long and narrow properties.

In-Ground Wired Fence Drawbacks

Because an in-ground wired system uses a physical wire, it tends to have a more involved installation process. This is especially true for large yards, as the wire needs to be buried underground. These types of systems also tend to have additional maintenance when compared to wireless options. It is possible that the underground wire can break and require repair.

As you can see electric dog fences have advantages and disadvantages like nearly any pet containment system you might come across. When weighing the pros and cons, it is best to do so with your own pets in mind. Are they easily trained, or headstrong and independent? How is their prey drive? Do they get excited and run to greet neighbor dogs or cats nearby?

Happy Dog Running in Wooded Yard

How much does an electric dog fence cost?

There are many factors that can influence the total cost of an electric dog fence. The first is whether you decide to purchase a wireless invisible fence or a wired in-ground invisible fence. Generally speaking, wireless dog fences tend to be more affordable with systems ranging in price from around $150 up to $600 or more. However, the average cost of a wireless dog fence is about $250.

In-ground invisible fences tend to be more expensive, with systems ranging in price from about $300 at the lower cost end and up to about $1,200 for the system alone. Most of the additional costs associated with a wired in-ground fence are in relation to the size of the yard, or the total length of fencing wire required.

Next, you will need to decide if you are able to install the system yourself, or if a hired professional will be required. Because wireless systems use radio frequency to create a barrier instead of a physical wire, professional installation is not typically necessary. Wireless dog fences tend to be very DIY friendly for the average pet owner.

Many in-ground wired dog fences can also be installed without professional assistance - you can find several DIY options online, for example. However, many invisible dog fencing companies do offer professional installation services. Depending on the size and shape of your yard, the quality of the electric fence, and the terrain, the installation cost can vary greatly. According to online price estimators, in-ground electric dog fences can range in cost from under $1,000 to over $1,900 including installation. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that wired invisible fence, including installation, can be much higher than this. For example, covering approximately 3 acres may cost up to $2500, and larger yards of 5-10 acres could easily cost up to $5000 or more.

DIY Wired In Ground Invisible Dog Fence Installation

Hidden Costs of Electric Dog Fences

The cost of electric invisible fencing above is for the base system only, with and without installation services. With many systems, you may find that there are additional costs associated with the fence. The largest added expense is in relation to the training required to teach your dog about the new electric fence.

Some premium providers offer training services in addition to installation services. This can easily add up to $500 or more to the overall cost of the invisible electric fence. If your system provider doesn’t offer training services directly, you can opt to hire a local dog trainer. The cost of a local dog trainer will vary depending on the trainer’s skill, experience, rates, and availability.

Training Dog On Leash for Invisible Fence

Alternatively, many pet owners choose to take on training themselves. This can be a great bonding experience for you and your dog, but it will take time. Most sources recommend starting training slowly by walking your dog on a leash near the invisible boundary (with visible flags in place to start) in regular, short sessions to introduce them to the fence, then gradually increasing the amount of training time (and removing the flags). This process should be done daily, and typically lasts several weeks before the dog can be free in the yard. Even then, supervision is still strongly recommended.

Other expenses you will want to plan for include additional receiver collars if you have multiple dogs and replacement batteries for the receiver collars. The average cost for a receiver collar is $105. Batteries should be checked regularly and are typically replaced every 3 months with normal, regular use. Some receiver collar brands require specialty batteries that may last longer but are also more expensive.

You may consider purchasing a backup battery for your system as well, especially if you live in an area where the power frequently goes out. In the event of a power outage, your system can continue to function if hooked up to a backup battery. This is true for both wireless and wired electric dog fences. Backup batteries cost anywhere between $75 to $150 depending on the size of the battery.

Lightning Strike Wired Invisible Dog Fence

Another hidden expense specific to the in-ground invisible dog fence is a surge protector. It is known that the underground electric wire of an in-ground system attracts lightning strikes. So, if you live in an area where thunderstorms are a common occurrence, it might be a good idea to add a surge protector to your system! The additional cost of a surge protector is typically between $30-50.

Effectiveness of Electric Dog Fences

As you surely know, dogs come in all different shapes, sizes, and athletic abilities. But they also all have their own unique personalities and interests! A containment solution that works great for one dog may be entirely ineffective for another. Because of this, no single electric solution is 100% effective for all dogs.

The effectiveness of either a wireless or wired dog fence will also depend greatly on the amount of training that is provided. Because there is no physical barrier in place as a reminder, several training sessions are required to help your dog understand where the barrier is located, and how the system works.

This is especially important if you do intend to travel with your wireless dog fence. When training your dog to respect the boundary, you want to be sure that they understand the signals of the receiver collar rather than a physical boundary line. 

Dogs with high energy levels, or a high “prey drive” tend to commonly beat the electric dog fence, bolting right through the barrier at the sight of a wild animal, their best furr-iend next door, or their favorite delivery person.

Statistics suggest that an invisible electric dog fence is effective about 60-70% of the time. This implies that although an invisible dog fence may be a deterrent for many dogs under normal circumstances, if the incentive to cross the electric barrier is high enough, a static shock correction will not stop them from crossing the barrier and escaping the yard.

Other Factors that may Impact Effectiveness

While training and your dog’s personality are the main factors of how effective an invisible electric fence will be, there are other variables that can also impact the effectiveness of either a wireless or in-ground wired electric dog fence:

  • Power Outages. For both a wireless or wired system, a power outage can cause the fence to shut off, as both rely on electricity to work properly.
  • Receiver Collar. It is important to note that the receiver collar should be worn snug around your dog's neck. In order for the static shock correction to work most effectively, the contact points of the collar should be touching the skin. Collars should not be worn loosely, as this may not allow for a good connection.
  • Collar Batteries. It is important to check the receiver collar’s batteries regularly. If the battery dies, the collar no longer communicates with the transmitter or in-ground wire and your dog can walk effortlessly through the boundary. Particularly intelligent dogs may even learn how to drain the collar battery by sitting in the “warning zone” until the collar stops giving the warning signal.
  • Transmitter Location. When it comes to a wireless electric dog fence, the transmitter needs to be placed strategically to prevent any “gaps” or “breaks” in the barrier. Transmitters should be placed on the first-floor level of the house only. It should be located in an area that is free of any large metal objects such as cars, appliances, or electric panels. Other metal objects like a metal roof or fence may also interfere with a wireless fence.
  • Landscape. Large trees and hills in the yard can block the radio frequency signals for a wireless fence, creating gaps along the barrier. If your yard has several large trees or is not flat, then an in-ground wired system will better provide a complete perimeter barrier.
Invisible Wireless Dog Fence Boundary

Invisible Dog Fence Alternatives

As you can see, the cost of an invisible wireless or wired dog fence can vary depending on many variables including the size of your property, the shape of your property, the number of dogs you have, and whether you choose to install the system yourself or hire a professional. Although an invisible dog fence may be a great, affordable containment solution for some dogs and dog owners, it may not be for everyone. So what alternatives do you have?

  • Supervision on a long line. If installing a barrier fence of any kind is not an option, then you can give your dog some additional freedom on a leash by using what is called a long line. This is a leash that is typically anywhere between 25 to 50 ft in length. They give your dog some freedom to run and play while still secured to a leash.
  • Zipline or tie-out with a harness. If you are not able to be outside with your dog and use a long line, then you might consider a zipline or tie-out. A zipline is installed between two points overhead, then a special leash is secured to the zipline at one end, and to your dog’s harness at the other end. A tie-out is similar, however, rather than a line above, it uses an anchor point in conjunction with a special long line. These options should always be used with a harness rather than a collar to prevent injury.
Dog inside Enclosure
  • Smaller enclosure or kennel. If you prefer to allow your dog to have an outdoor space that does not require a leash of some kind, then building a smaller enclosure or kennel can be a great option for keeping them safely contained. While it may not give them the freedom to roam or explore the entire property, it is a safe space where your dog can spend time outdoors.
  • Traditional fencing. Of the alternative options listed, this one is likely to be the most costly, but it will also provide the largest area and has some added benefits for you as well! Some traditional fencing options allow for added privacy from neighbors, and can create a cozy backyard environment for you and your dog! Fences come in a variety of styles, heights, and materials so you can choose an option that is aesthetically pleasing and provides a safe barrier for containing your dog.
Dog Secured Inside Wood Fence
  • Existing fence modification. If your yard already has a traditional fence of some kind and your dog is still finding a way out, there are several “dog proof” solutions and products available that work with your existing fence to help prevent escapes. In order to determine the best option for dog proofing your fence, you will first need to examine exactly how they are escaping. Is your dog digging underneath the fence? Squeezing their way between fence pickets? Leaping over the top of the fence with ease? Scaling the fence itself?

A quick internet search will provide you with an extensive list of dog proof fencing ideas for any given method of escape:

  • For digging underneath a fence, you can install “L footers” which create an “L” shaped barrier around the bottom perimeter of your fence, typically using wire mesh or screen of some kind. Another option is to create a channel along the bottom of your fence, then fill it with difficult to dig out gravel - or concrete for devoted escape artists. Some dogs may even be deterred by certain landscaping like thorny plants or thick shrubs.
Dog Going Under Fence
  • If your dog is squeezing their way in between wide gap fence pickets, then finding a solution that covers the gaps is ideal. This can be wire garden mesh, clear acrylic panels, or any other material that can be added along the bottom of your fence. There are even oversized collars available to stop your dog from pushing between pickets.
  • For incredible jumpers that simply leap over the top of the fence, you may consider extending the overall height of your fence by installing a fence topper extension. With a dog-proof fence topper, the height of your fence can be easily extended to prevent your dog from jumping over.
  • If you have a climber, finding ways to keep them safely contained can be a bit more difficult. But rest assured that there are options for these persistent escape artists as well! One common solution is to install “coyote rollers” on the top of your fence. Rollers were designed to keep coyotes out of a fenced area, and because coyotes and domestic dogs are anatomically similar, rollers may potentially work to keep some climbing dogs inside a fenced area. However, this solution may not work for all dogs.
  • Another option for climbers is a fence topper system that prevents them from getting over the fence altogether. Rather than extending the height of the fence only (which they may still be able to climb!), fence extension systems are available with a curved top that stops the dog’s forward momentum and prevents them from being able to climb over the top of the fence.
Dog Proofer Houdini Proof Curved Fence Extensions

    At Dog Proofer, we have designed a variety of solutions for dogs escaping under, over, or through a traditional fence of nearly any material or style. To learn more about our dog proof fence solutions, please visit DogProofer.com.