I had never seen an underground dog fence until I visited my brother back in the Boston region a few years back. Living in California my entire life I was only exposed to neighborhoods that all had wood or chain link fences to keep pets in their respective yards. Many states back East don't have fences in between yards so pets, especially dogs, are prone to wander around and this can become a problem. Instead of putting up an expensive cyclone or wood fence, homeowners buy underground dog fences that keep dogs in their yard. The fence is literally invisible to anyone that doesn't know it's there. The dog wears a collar that delivers a small shock anytime they get near the wire that is buried under the ground around the perimeter of your yard. Some of the newer dog fence containment systems are completely wireless so setup is much easier. Dogs are slowly trained to understand that when they get to a certain point on the property, they will get a shock and therefore with learned behavior they will stop trying to leave your yard. In theory these fences sound like a great idea, but we found that not all fences work properly and some have even scared the pets from even wanting to go outdoors.
Dog fences, often referred to as hidden fences or radio fences, do work pretty well in most cases. They all come with a set amount of wire that gets buried under the ground along with a transmitter and a receiver. Once you have placed the wire around your yard and in areas you don't want your dog (like a vegetable garden), you then setup the transmitter box inside your house and put the receiver (collar) around the neck of your dog. If you have more than 1 dog, you can buy extra receiver kits. The transmitter in your house connects to the wire which is hidden in your yard and when the dog gets too close a shock is delivered. Actually, a "beeping" sound will often be heard first before the shock so the dog will eventually get the clue and avoid the shock altogether. Keep in mind that electric dog fences are not meant to harm or hurt your pet in any way. Often people put up hidden dog fences to keep their pet out of harms way - such as running into the road and getting hit by a car. We all know dogs that bark and run after cars, people, and other dogs or animals. They need to be protected and an invisible dog fence is usually the most humane way to go. Some dogs would even runaway altogether if you didn't have a way to contain them in your yard. In reviews I read online and from what my brother said, dogs will effectively be trained within about a week of having the dog fence installed. Not all reviews are completely positive, but most pet owners agree that the invisble boundary fences are safe and effective with minimal training involved. Even owners with stubborn dogs that readily would test the hidden fence eventually got the hint and stayed in the yard. Other owners were concerned that their small dog would do worse with the static correction fence and get hurt, but the size of the dog has nothing to do with how effective the fence is. You can set the receiver on the collar to varying degrees of static shock.
Training Your Dog with an Invisible Fence:
Another thing to consider is that you will have to "train" your dog a bit with the fence. Just putting in a hidden fence is not enough. Dogs should be taken outside on a leash at first and shown around the invisible boundary so they understand the cause and effect of what happens as they approach the hidden wire. The key is to make sure the dog always has on their receiver collar when in the yard and that the batteries are fully charged. My brother mentioned that when he would take the dog for a walk outside the boundary lines of the yard, his dog would get very apprehensive and he would have to carry the dog over the invisible fence (without the collar of course) just to go on the walk. Obviously his dog learned the behaviour perhaps too well. Once my brother even put the dog collar in his pocket as they went on a walk down the street and when they returned my brother got the shock from the electric dog fence as the collar was still in his pocket. Owners beware! The good news is that there are not a lot of brands to choose from when it comes to hidden dog fences. Radio Systems Corp is the leading manufacturer for brands like PetSafe, Innotek, Invisible Fence, Guardian, and SportDog. Expect to spend at least $150 for the PetSafe Standard Radio Fence and up to $330 for the UltraSmart Contain N Train In-Ground Fencing. The best wireless dog fence is probably the PetSafe Instant Wireless Fence which receives great reviews on Petco and in online pet forums. The best known name in dog fences is Invisible Fence, but with increased competition, this brand has lost some of its staying power. One knock against the Invisible Fence is that in order to maintain your warranty with the product you need to buy $60 to $100 worth of custom batteries for their system. Also, the correction level on the Invisible Fence receivers is not self adjustable meaning you will need to get an installer out to your house for things like that. It could be more of a hassle than it's worth. The biggest complaint against all dog fences that we read in reviews was that collars, wire, or transmitter boxes didn't work properly and dogs found "gaps" where they could sneak out. The wireless dog fence from PetSafe had very consistent reviews but one owner said he was frustrated with the fact that he couldn't keep his dog from getting into his vegetable garden on the inside of his yard. He returned the wireless dog fence and bought one with wires so he could setup a custom configuration. For DIY homeowners, the Innotek In Ground, PetSafe In Ground, and PetSafe Instant Wireless are great systems while a professional installation will be needed on the DogWatch Hidden Fence, Invisible Fence, PetSafe Pro, and Pet Stop Pet Fence. The products that require a professional install are much more expensive with the Pet Stop Pet Fence costing between $850 and $1500. The DogWatch has an average install of $1450, but you get a lifetime warranty on the equipment. From what we could find in reviews on Petco.com, Pet-Super-Store.com, Epinions, and Amazon.com, and the Doityourself.com forums. The one thing we consistently heard was that no underground fence can keep other kids or dogs out of your yard. If you are concerned with your dog biting or fighting other dogs, put up a real fence. You can browse the most popular dog fences listed online here.
Invisible Dog Fence:
We read mostly good things about the Invisible Fence product which is a brand offered by PetSafe. Their claim is that it's "recommended" by vets for the safety of your dog. Unlike other manufacturers of hidden dog fences, the Invisible Fence website doesn't list any prices for their product. Not to say the underground dog fence doesn't work, but I like to know what something costs before I consider buying it. You can get a free consultation where a salesman will come to your property and give you an estimate on the cost involved. You would have to contact the nearest dealer to you and have someone come out. You can find out more online at Invisiblefence.com. The warranty on the product is typically 1 year but you'll need to check with the dealer to see if they offer something better. As mentioned above, the big complaint from owners is that the batteries cost close to $100/year in some areas and if you use batteries other than those they offer your warranty could be voided. Also, the receiver unit that goes on your dogs neck is only adjustable by the installer. This means you can't change it yourself which is a huge hassle. The transmitters vary in strength, some are good for only 500 feet while the powerful systems offer coverage over 100 acres. The one benefit of an Invisible Fence product is that you get training support so you can get your dog accustomed to the coverage area with their help. Once the systems were fully up and operationally most owners said they worked exceptionally well. It's the legwork in between where the complaints came in.
Underground Dog Fence:
If you can handle digging a trench for all the wire that goes into an underground dog fence, then the UltraSmart Contain N Train In-Ground Fencing is top rated in several sites and gets good reviews. This system goes beyond the basic hidden fence and adds a training function to help stop barking, digging, and jumping. The cost is a touch more than other dog fences at $336, but owners seem very happy with the device. The remote training collar allows you to quickly put an end to behaviors that are undesireable. You can choose the intensity level on the static correction. The UltraSmart comes with built in lightning protection, wire break alarms, and rechargeable collars. The 500 feet of wire should be enough to cover 1/4 to 1/2 an acre of property and you get 50 training flags that you can place around your yard to help guide your dog(s). As with all dog fences, owners of pets that live near busy highways or streets found these "invisible fences" to work quite well. We found this unit online HERE. Amazon.com currently sells the Innotek Basic In-Ground Pet Fencing Systems for less than $100 and reviews are favorable. The Innotek dog fence gives you 500 feet of 20 gauge wire. The initial reviews on Amazon were against the Innotek product since the transmitter and collar had issues, but the last few years of reviews have been much better so whatever was wrong at first seems to have been fixed. RECOMMENDED - The Petsafe SportDog In-Ground Fence System ($220) is another "best seller". This Petsafe dog containment product features 4 adjustable electric correction levels and it beeps or vibrates as a warning. You get 1000 feet of wire and 100 flags (which is almost double what other companies give). Owners say the system is "way better than expected" and has a "perfect design". Works with big dogs and little dogs in all types of yards. You can read more about the
Petsafe dog fences here. The PetSafe Radio Fence gets mixed reviews on Petco.com as owners say the collars go off occasionally even when the dogs are inside and one other notes that the wire had issues so portions of the fence didn't work.
Wireless Dog Fence:
Burying 100's of feet of wire doesn't sound that fun to me. The new wireless dog fences cut out all the hard work of digging down and burying the wire around your yard. The Petsafe PIF-300 Wireless Pet Containment System is a top seller on Petco.com and consumers rate it very high in terms of "satisfaction" with the product. The PetSafe Wireless dog fence sells for around $300 with some stores discounting it to $270. The custom batteries on the PetSafe Instant cost between $12 and $25 per year (much less than the Invisible Fence brand). The transmitter lets you do a minimum of a 30 foot diameter and up to 180 feet. You'll need to install it indoors since it is not waterproof. The fact that no wire is required in order to install this product is what makes it a top choice for consumers looking to limit the install work. A training DVD is included with the product and you can buy it in Petco or on their website if you want. Reviews mention things like "best pet fence ever" and "excellent wireless dog fence". Not all owner feedback is perfect as some mention dead batteries in the collars being an issue and another person says the unit isn't that great for yards that aren't circles in shape. When I read that comment I could completely understand the guys dilemma. Not all yards are shaped the same way so definitely take that point into consideration when purchasing this product. Otherwise, the product worked better than most and installation was fairly simple as stated by the owners.