A wireless dog fence works by using an invisible boundary set using modern technology such as GPS signals. Your dog wears a special collar and gets a signal when they get near the edge of the boundary to tell them not to go any further.
Having an outdoor space is great for dogs! It gives them somewhere to run, play, and have fun. However, it’s important to keep them safely in your garden so they don’t wander off or chase something exciting. One way to do this is by using a wireless dog fence, rather than a traditionally installed fence or a leash.
What Is a Wireless Dog Fence?
A wireless dog fence is a fence that uses modern technology to set a boundary for your dog rather than having a physical fence around your property. It’s common to also hear it referred to as an invisible dog fence.
Invisible fences create an invisible electronic barrier with either underground wires, a central transmitter, or virtually using an app.
With all these options, they’re connected digitally to an electronic unit your dog wears on their collar. The collar uses feedback to warn them when they approach the virtual boundary you’ve set.
These wireless pet fences have grown in popularity over the last few years as the cost of traditional fencing has risen and logistics have become more complex. There are now many companies and variations on the market to choose from.
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Types of Wireless Dog Fence
There are three main types of wireless dog fences. So, how do they work? Let’s take a closer look so you can find the best invisible dog fence for you.
Underground Wire System
Although an underground wired system is technically not ‘wireless’, it doesn’t have any wires above the ground’s surface.
With an underground wire system, electrically charged wires need to be installed about 3 to 4 inches underground. These buried wires need to be placed around the boundaries of your yard where you want the electronic dog fence boundary to be.
You may need to employ someone to dig and install wires for you. If you do it yourself, careful planning is crucial.
You then have a central transmitter that is placed in your home and usually fixed to a wall. Transmitters will vary in the area they cover with their signal depending on the kit you purchase.
The transmitter plugs into an electrical socket. It emits a radio signal which travels through the wires you’ve placed underground.
When you buy the system, you’ll also get a collar or a unit to attach to your dog’s collar which connects electronically to the system. If you have a multi-dog household, you’ll need to purchase extra collars for each dog you want to keep inside the boundary.
The collar is powered by a small battery. With most invisible fence kits, you’ll need to replace the battery every few months depending on the battery life. Some may have a rechargeable battery.
Inside the collar is a small radio receiver that picks up the radio signal that the underground wires transmit when your dog gets close to them.
When your dog approaches the boundary line, feedback will be given to your dog via the collar to let them know they should stop there. Feedback can be a vibration, a sound, or an electrical charge depending on the system you choose.
A lot of wireless systems offer an option for a warning tone and a correction. The warning is usually something like a beep when your dog gets close to the boundary. The correction is typically a small shock or vibration if they do cross the boundary.
This feedback needs to be paired with proper training for the system to work.
Wireless Fence System
A wireless fence system is very similar to the underground wire system we mentioned above, except without the wires!
The system includes a central transmitter that is installed in your home. The transmitter automatically creates a half-acre circular border as a containment area.
As with the underground wire system, your dog wears a collar that will alert them when they’re near the fence boundary.
It’s important to note that you can’t always customize the boundary you set with these options, depending on the system you buy. However, you can extend the size by purchasing extender packs.
Since you simply plug in the central transmitter to create the boundary, you can easily take it with you if you move or if you’re going on holiday.
Although there are no fancy features with this option, it’s more budget-friendly and is very functional.
Virtual Fence and Collar
A virtual fence and collar system involves the use of a collar with an electrical unit attached, similar to the collar that comes with the underground wire system. The invisible fence collar connects remotely to an app on your phone or computer.
Through the app, you’re able to set virtual fences on the map. This fencing system uses GPS, using information from satellites already in your area to determine location. There are no underground wires or physical installations necessary.
As with the other systems, when your dog approaches the boundary, a warning is given. Virtual fence collars typically offer a variety of feedback choices, such as noise and vibration rather than just the shock option. So, if the electrical charge idea isn’t for you, there are other options.
With these collars, you can also track your dog’s location with live tracking. Many offer a range of other features, such as health and activity monitoring, which can be useful.
A nice bonus with these collar systems is that many will allow you to set up multiple virtual fences. You can have invisible electric fences at your loved ones houses’ where you often take your dog, or even at parks for example.
It’s worth noting that these collar systems can be more expensive than an underground wire system. However, this is offset by the lack of installation and multiple other features which make them an excellent investment. They’re also easy to take with you on holiday or if you move.
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The Electrical Charge
The electrical charge that is used to deter your dog from going outside of the boundary is mild, but it is similar to shock collars or ‘e’ collars that some people use to train dogs or prevent barking.
While the static correction isn’t strong enough to cause physical damage to your dog, it’s a controversial topic. Some experts and owners have strong feelings on the topic. Many feel that this type of training method can cause mental distress for your dog.
Some experts feel it can break the trust between the dog owner and dog, and cause behavior issues.
Others feel like it isn’t a reliable training method and can cause negative associations. For example, if the shock goes off while your dog is looking at a passing car, they may start to associate the electric shock with cars and become afraid of them.
However, some experts, trainers, and owners feel that when used correctly, this type of feedback can be very effective. It’s important you do your research and figure out what’s best for you and your dog.
It’s worth noting that many of these wireless dog fence systems, in particular the virtual fence and collar systems, offer a choice of feedback. You can use sound as the feedback rather than the electric charge.
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Training Your Dog
It’s important to understand that these invisible dog fence systems only work when paired with boundary training. Your dog needs to learn where the boundary is, and understand that they shouldn’t cross it. They also need to learn where the safe zone is, so they can play happily.
They need to learn that the collar will give a warning when they’re close to the boundary and that this means they shouldn’t go any further.
When you first get your wireless electric dog fence, you should allow your dog to wear the deactivated collar for a week or so they can get used to what it feels like.
You can use boundary flags during the training process as visual indicators to your dog of where the boundary is. You can leave these up for a couple of weeks or longer if you feel it’s needed.
It’s a good idea to introduce your dog to the fence and correction on a leash, so you can redirect them when needed. You can walk them towards the boundary and when they hear the warning beep, stop and change direction. Pair this with praise so they understand what you’re asking from them.
After the initial training, your dog should understand where the invisible boundary is.
Consistency and patience are key to success here. Without this understanding and training, the fence won’t work because the deterrents aren’t strong enough to physically stop your dog.
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Pros and Cons of a Wireless Dog Fence
Wireless dog fences have a range of pros and cons compared to traditional fences.
- Gives peace of mind
When paired with the correct training, a wireless dog fence can give you peace of mind that your dog will stay safely in your garden.
- Custom smaller perimeters
A lot of wireless fence systems will allow you to set up additional off-limit areas. For example, you can keep your dog out of your flower beds or away from the kid’s sandbox.
- Doesn’t alter the appearance of the garden
Many people like wireless dog fences because it doesn’t alter how their garden looks and doesn’t block their view. In a lot of places, there may be strict permissions required to build a physical fence such as a wooden fence. Electronic fences provide an easier option.
- Less expensive
Wireless pet fences are usually less expensive to install, especially if you use a virtual fence and collar or the completely wireless option.
- Easier to install
As well as being cheaper, wireless fences are much easier to install. If you choose a virtual fence and collar or a wireless fence, no outdoor installation is necessary.
- Works on all terrain
Traditional fences can only be installed on flat or gently sloped terrain. On the other hand, a wireless invisible fence system works on any terrain including hills and wooded areas.
- Require less maintenance
Wireless fences require much less maintenance than a regular fence. You simply need to test the electronic system regularly and replace the batteries when needed.
- Can easily be moved
Wireless fence systems and virtual fences can easily be moved, making them a good option for renters or people who move around a lot.
Potential intruders may be more easily deterred by a dog in your garden without any visible fence between them and your dog.
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- Ineffective without training
If you don’t train your dog effectively, a wireless fence won’t contain them. Unlike a traditional fence, a wireless fence won’t physically keep your dog on your property.
- Relies on electricity
Of course, a wireless fence runs on electricity. If there’s a power cut, your fence will be out of operation. Electrical products can experience faults and if this happens, you may not know right away that the fence isn’t active.
- Doesn’t stop animals from entering your garden
Although a wireless fence will keep a trained dog in the garden, it won’t stop other animals (including wild animals) from coming into your garden. If this is something that’s important to you, a physical fence will be the best choice for your needs.
- Doesn’t stop people entering your garden
It’s also worth noting it doesn’t stop people from entering your garden, so if you have a lot of dog thefts in your area, this might not be the right option for you. If you prefer your privacy, a physical fence will be your best option.
- Dog can ignore the signal
Even the best-trained dogs aren’t perfectly behaved all the time. If your dog sees something they want to chase, they may forget their training and go after it, ignoring the collar’s feedback. This can potentially be dangerous.
- May accidentally cause negative associations
If your dog is looking at a person, dog, car, or other item and the feedback goes off, they may build an unwanted negative association with that item.
If dogs can see everything that’s going on around them but can’t go over and investigate, they may become frustrated. Vet Lynn Buzhardt refers to this as barrier frustration and states that dogs can become quite distressed as a result
- Causes discomfort
If you use a system that emits an electrical impulse, your dog can become startled and will experience some mild discomfort. While it shouldn’t cause them pain, some pet owners don’t feel comfortable with this concept.
Making The Right Choice for You and Your Dog
It’s important to take your time to make the right choice for you and your dog. Do your research and think about what will work best for your lifestyle, as well as what you’re comfortable with.
Lynn Buzhardt, DVM, (2022), The Pros and Cons of Invisible Fences for Dogs. VCA Animal Hospitals.
Jennifer Coates, DVM, (2018), Why Invisible Fences Don’t Work. Pet MD.