Installing an invisible electric dog fence is not, nor should it be, a complicated task. It does however, take some planning and a little creativity to come up with the right solution that will work for your dog.
Of course, any invisible fence is reinforced with good training. See the next section on proper training.
The average invisible fence can be purchased for $100-$400 depending on features, amount of wire, etc. In order to have a professional installation performed, the system can easily cost in excess of $1500. This is why you should spend time researching the best (and most cost effective) invisible fence for dogs. A little bit of planning and sweat will lead to substantial savings. Here’s how to install an invisible dog fence:
- Determine which area you want contained. Do you want your front yard included? Do you need to keep your dogs out of the new garden you planted, as well as keep them in the backyard? Do you want your dog in your front yard or your back yard? Do you want them in your front yard and your back yard? Do you want to contain them inside a 25-acre lot? All of these dog containment options are available using most invisible fence packages. Identify the area you want to keep your dog in and identify the area you want to keep your dog out.
- Contact your utility companies. You do not want to dig into anything that might be underground. Also, you do not want to lay your fence wire parallel to any underground wire. Doing so may cancel out the signal, or at the very least, cause interference. Passing over any underground wires should be done perpendicularly. You will need to know the layout of utility wires prior to planning your electric fence installation and layout. Please contact 811 to have them visit your property to mark all utilities. It’s the law!
- Configure your layout. Once you have defined what is in-bounds and what is out-of-bounds, draw your layout for the dog fencing on paper, including your house. A simple figure is listed below. Fence Perimeter. The dashed lines are fence perimeter, a single strand of wire. The circle lines connecting the house to the fence perimeter and connecting the garden to the fence perimeter are twisted wires. Twisted wires, generally 10-12 twists per foot, cancel out the signal. Your dog will still be able to walk over the twisted wire section. The design above creates an in-bound area within the yard perimeter. It also creates an “out-of-bound” area, the garden.
- Determine amount of wire needed. In the above image, the yard perimeter would be measured. The perimeter of the garden will also be measured. Add these two numbers together and determine the minimum amount of single strand wire you will need. Add approximately 10% additional wire to give yourself some error, loss through connections, etc. Generally, these sections are sold in 500 ft increments. In the above image, measure the distance from the front of the house to the yard perimeter. Also, measure the distance from the yard perimeter to the garden. Add these two amounts together to determine the minimum amount of twisted wire you will need. Again, an additional 10% should be added for good measure. These sections are generally sold in 100 ft increments.
- Purchase your fence and any additional wiring that you will need.
- Follow additional instructions that come with your fence package. The balance of the steps listed here are general installation guidelines to give you an understanding of the installation process. Please consult your invisible dog fence’s manual for specific instructions.
- Lay out your wires as planned. Do not bury them at this point.
- Connect your system. If you are unfamiliar and/or uncomfortable with electricity, have an electrician splice the wires together and connect the system. If you’ve worked with electricity before, you can splice the wires together yourself (carefully).
- Test the system. If all systems are functioning, disconnect the power. If there are problems, try the troubleshooting guidelines given by the company.
- Bury the wires to the given depth. Depending on your make/model, this depth needs to be 1-6″ underground. Note: When digging corners, create a gentle curve, not a 90 degree angle. After digging your trenches, gently place the wire in the trench to prevent breaking the wire or disrupting the splices. Allow some slack in the wire to minimize the risk of damage due to contraction/expansion. Test the system once more before burying the line with dirt.
When you first introduce your dog to his new dog fence, your goal is simply to show him how to respond when he goes too far past his invisible boundary. The goal is not to frighten your dog. In fact, you should focus on keeping the training process as low-stress and fun as possible.
So, grab a small bag of treats that you know your dog likes, and get ready to start your first training session.
Introduction Steps (Day 1 and 2)
- Set your dog’s fence receiver to the lowest possible correction level (preferably tone only). For the first couple of training sessions, you will focus on helping your dog understand that when he enters the correction zone and hears the warning tone from his collar, he can turn the sound off by walking back into the yard. You should give him a chance to make this association without a correction. In later sessions, after your dog understands how to respond, you’ll begin adding a correction.
- Put a regular leash and collar on your dog, along with the fence collar. You must start your dog fence training with your dog on a leash, but do not clip the leash to your dog’s fence collar. Instead, at this point your dog should be wearing two collars: one regular collar with a leash attached to it and one collar that holds the fence receiver.
- Help your dog interact with his new fence. While holding the end of your dog’s leash, let him wander just past the flags and into the correction zone. Then, use the leash and your voice to lead your dog back into your yard. When he returns to you, praise him and give him a treat.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 around your entire yard for about 5 minutes. Make sure to train all around your property, so your dog learns the entirety of his new boundary. Also, keep your training session short — 5 minutes is plenty long enough.
For most dogs, it’s sufficient to spend just a couple of sessions introducing the dog fence using the steps outlined above. If your dog has a particularly sensitive personality, you may consider increasing that to three or four sessions.
You can train your dog as many as three to five times a day, but remember to keep your training sessions short and fun. Also, remember that at this point your dog should be on-leash every single time he goes outside, so you can help him interact appropriately with his new fence. If you allow your dog outside without a leash and dog fence collar, he will quickly become confused. That’ll mean more work and stress for you down the road.
Now that you’ve spent at least a couple of sessions helping your dog understand how to respond when he enters the correction zone, you’re going to start adding the correction that will make venturing past the invisible boundary aversive to him.
For the next week, you should follow the steps outlined below, remembering to keep your dog on-leash every single time he goes outside. Fair warning: If you let your dog simply wander around in the correction zone when you’re not training him, your dog will quickly become confused and you’ll end up spending a lot of time doing remedial training; in other words, more work, more stress, and less fun for you and your dog. So, follow a good training process right from the start, and you’ll quickly have a dog that reliably stays in his yard.
- Raise the correction level on your dog’s fence collar, if necessary. For your first training session, you will raise the correction level, since you used the lowest possible correction (preferably tone only) when introducing your dog to the fence. After that, though, you’ll need to make a judgment call about whether to raise the level on each subsequent training session. Your goal is to raise the correction level one step at a time until it is just aversive enough that your dog no longer ventures into the correction zone. Note: You do not need to raise the correction level for every single training session. In fact, a good goal might be to raise the correction level once every day during the first week of training until you can tell that your dog finds it aversive even when highly distracted (see step 3).
- Let your dog interact with the invisible dog fence. Just as you did when you introduced your dog to his new fence, let him wander into the correction zone at will. Allow him to linger in the zone for a few moments, and then use the leash and your voice to help him move back into your yard. When he returns to you, praise him and give him a treat.
- Tempt your dog with distractions. At some point, your dog will no longer want to just wander into the invisible boundary when distractions are low.
So, you need to raise the distraction level during your training sessions for two reasons:
- you want your dog to avoid the fence even when exciting things (think squirrels, kids, toys) are on the other side of the boundary, and
- you want to know how high you need to set the correction level to keep your dog in the yard when distractions are naturally high.
Some ideas for tempting your dog to enter the correction zone are:
- Throw a ball, favorite toy, or toy into the correction zone. Use your leash to stop your dog from actually getting the treat or toy, though, since you don’t want him to be positively reinforced for being in the correction zone.
- Train when you know distractions will naturally be high. For example, train in your front yard as kids are walking to and from from school.
- Drop the leash and walk across the correction zone yourself. When your dog follows you, immediately walk over to him, pick up the end of the leash, and guide him back into the yard.
Notice: Do NOT call your dog into the correction zone. When you call your dog’s name or say, “Come,” you want him to always trust your guidance. If you tell him to come to you and he gets a correction, you will damage his trust and he may stop responding to your direction in the future.
Keep your training sessions short. Five to ten minutes two to three times a day is plenty.
Always keep your dog on-leash when he is outside. During week 2, you’ll move to off-leash training.
Don’t punish your dog for going into the correction zone. The invisible dog fence delivers all of the correction your dog needs. Instead, your job is to praise your dog for doing the right thing (coming back into the yard) and to keep his stress levels low.
Don’t get stressed. Any time you teach your dog something new, it can be stressful. If you or your dog starts to get stressed by the fence training process, simply end the session and try again later.
During the first week of dog fence training, you kept your dog on-leash so you could help guide him back into the yard when he wandered into the correction zone. At this point, when your dog hears the tone from his dog fence collar and feels the correction, you should see him turn around and walk back into the yard, even when distractions are high. If you aren’t yet seeing that response, you may need to raise the correction level on your dog’s fence collar.
If, however, you see that your dog is conditioned with the right response, it’s time to start off-leash training. Your process will be very similar to on-leash training, with an exception — you’re gonna get rid of that leash!
Days 1 – 3
Rather than immediately removing the leash, for a few days you should still clip the leash to your dog. But, rather than holding the end of the leash as you have been, just let your dog drag the leash while you supervise him. That way, if he makes the wrong decision when he wanders into the correction zone (i.e. he keeps moving through the zone rather than coming back into the yard, or he freezes in the zone), you can easily grab the leash and help him.
Days 4 – 7
After you’ve seen your dog make the right decision on his own for a few days, you can remove the leash completely. But, still supervise your dog for a few days! Remember, after only 10 days of training, this is still a pretty new concept for your dog. At this point, if you’ve closely followed the training protocol, your dog likely knows what to do, but — if nothing else — it will set your mind at ease to watch him successfully interact with his new fence for a few days.