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About Invisible Fences
Our electric fence is almost magical — it keeps the dogs in the yard, even when rabbits are playing in the driveway.
Our Invisible Fence runs completely around our pond, which allows the dogs full access to the pond, and unlike a real fence, permits us to enter and leave the yard at any point.
With more than 15 acres in rural southwest Florida, including a spring-fed pond, we like to leave our dogs outdoors much of the time — they have the pond to cool off in, shade to snooze in, and small critters to chase and bark at. But we didn't want to put up hundreds of yards of expensive and unsightly fencing just to keep them from roaming.
Our electric fence meets our needs nicely. We have the Invisible Fence brand electric fence, but there are many electric fences on the market that serve just as well. Our invisible fence runs all around our pond, alongside our house, down to the bottom of the yard, and back up around the other side, where it crosses the long grass driveway that leads to our home.
The dogs have plenty of space to roam, and they can keep their sharp eyes out for anyone or anything that might be approaching our yard from any direction. In addition, we're spared from having to deal with gates, and we can enter and leave our yard at any spot as well, so the electric fence is much more convenient for us than a physical fence would be.
The electric fence has several additional advantages over a traditional fence: The dogs can't jump over it or dig under it, like they could with a physical fence. It can cross the drainage ditch that drains our pond out to the river. We don't have to fool with gates and limit our own entry points to and from our property. We don't have to worry about making sure gates are wide enough for cars, trucks, trailers, and boats. It was a lot cheaper than a real fence would have been. And it doesn't spoil our view.
Does The Electric Fence Work?
Our electric fence works almost frighteningly well. With a view clear down to the end of the long grass driveway leading to our house, our dogs can see anyone coming up our driveway. They can also see the rabbits feeding at the edges of the drive at dusk, and the neighbors' dogs when they pass by. Yet our dogs will not exit the yard, no matter what's out there. The hundreds of yards of wiring we needed wasn't cheap, but it was a lot less expensive than an actual fence would have been.
One dog, a Rottweiler/Chow mix, was extremely bull-headed — he once chased an otter in the pond for more than 4 hours before finally giving up and collapsing in exhaustion. Tom was so sure that the electric fence would fail to contain the dog, that he wouldn't buy it until he learned there was a 100% money-back guarantee if the fence didn't work with the dog. That dog required exactly one shock, and he was permanently trained to stay in the yard.
Electric Fence Training
Dogs need training on an electric fence, and some learn it more quickly than others. You should plan to allow at least a week to train your dog properly. Several dogs have passed through our lives since the electric fence was installed, and every one of them, no matter how bull-headed, learned the limits of where they were permitted to roam. All the electric fence pacakages on the market include a training manual. The training is easy enough — but your dog is likely to need several days of repetition of the training to really absorb what you're teaching it.
Our dogs learn the boundaries so well that after we get a dog trained on the electric fence, then we have a new training issue: Teaching the dog that it's okay to cross that invisible boundary when either my husband or I call them across it (after removing their fence collar, of course). We take our dogs on a walk down to the river almost every evening, and it has become a ritual that we call the dogs, have them sit, remove their electric fence collars, and then they're free to exit the yard. But until we tell them it's okay, they absolutely will not leave the yard, and if the neighbor kids forget about the invisible fence and call the dogs, the dogs will remain in the yard, no matter what.
This friendly mutt is the genius who figured out how to wear out the battery in her fence collar.
A Clever Use of the Electric Fence
One of our dogs was an inveterate garbage-can raider. She could get the lid off any garbage can, even cans that have proven impervious to even the biggest and most persistent dogs. She repeatedly broke into our garbage cans and strewed garbage around the yard. Eventually, my husband made a loop of electric fence wiring and put the garbage cans inside the loop. The dog never even needed training on that new off-limits area; she sat and watched Tom install the wire and place the flags around it. Then he removed her collar and carried it within the boundary, where it beeped audibly. Recognizing the beep, the dog took off. She won't go near that area, and now we have a nice dog-safe area to keep our garbage cans.
Outsmarting the Dog Who Outsmarted the Fence
One of our dogs actually outsmarted the electric fence for a while. Most of the collars can be set either to sound an audible beep, followed a few seconds later by a shock, or to provide an immediate shock, simultaneously accompanied by a beep. Most dogs do best with their collar set to beep first, which warns them that they're in dangerous territory, and they'll move away from the fence area as soon as they hear the beep.
Our smart mutt Tango, however, would approach the fence perimeter until her collar beeped, then back off, then approach the fence again, then back off. Eventually, she wore out the battery in the collar, and when she approached the fence without hearing a beep, she knew she was free to go exploring. We had to set her collar to shock and beep immediately.
Is the Electric Fence Humane?
Absolutely. The stimulation from the collar isn't pleasant, but it's far more humane than having a dog get run over by a car. When the training instructions are followed properly, the vast majority of dogs will only need one shock to decide that they want to obey the new limits you've just created for them.
If you have a smart dog like Tango who learns to wear out the collar battery, that smart dog just might require 2 shocks: Once when initially learning the fence, then once again when she learns that she doesn't get a warning beep first.
Electric Fence Recommendation
Anyone who needs to contain their dog and who doesn't want to put up an actual fence should consider trying an electric fence. If your neighborhood homeowners association prohibits fences, or if you need to enclose hilly or uneven terrain, an electric fence may be your best option. If you want privacy along with containment, though, you should probably stick with a conventional wood fence.