For many dog lovers, an underground, electronic fence provides a safe and aesthetically pleasing way to keep their dog close to home. Also known as a pet containment system or invisible fence, it works by sending an FM radio signal through a buried underground wire installed around the yard that is picked up by a small receiver worn on the dog's collar.
"Some people can't have fences because of a neighborhood association or can't afford to put in a cedar fence," explains Gary Pratt of DogWatch of Southern Oregon.
Thinking about an underground fence to keep your dog at home? Here are some things to consider.
Want to do it yourself? You'll need to measure the area that you want to fence and make sure you have enough wire to complete the loop from and to the FM transmitter. Call your local utility company before you dig so that you know where the lines are. Plan on laying the wire at least four inches below the ground.
Feel more comfortable with a professional? The equipment will most likely have a range of settings that can be finely tuned for your dog. Ask how the underground fence will be installed and how much of your landscape may be affected. Get references from others who have used the system successfully and learn their training tips.
In all cases, investigate equipment warranties, training support and materials and guarantees just in case your dog can't figure it out.
Lastly, make training your dog your first and most important job. You'll be the one to teach your dog to recognize the fence's audible signals so it will stay back from the perimeter.
Also, if there are a lot of dogs or wild animals running free in your neighborhood, remember that this type of fence keeps your dog in. It does not keep other dogs and wild animals out!
For Cathy and Howard Newman, who live at the Running Y Ranch Resort, the electronic fence means that their beloved 100-plus pound Bouvier de Flandres and Black Russian dogs have the freedom to roam the property. "They need to be able to get up and move about," says Cathy, who adds, "We don't want our neighbors to put up with our dogs being on their property; that's rude and inconsiderate."
"If the dog gets within eight feet of the boundary wire, then there's an audible tone that tells the dog not to go any further," Pratt says. "But if it keeps going, then it gets a correction, a shock." Once trained, a dog will stop at the sound of the audible signal and not go closer to the boundary.
Training your dog will be the most important aspect of your investment in an underground, electronic fence. "The dog owner can't just place the collar on the dog and expect it to work right away, 100 percent of the time," Pratt stresses. "It can take a few weeks to train the dog. Some dogs get trained right away and some take longer."
Worried that the correction or shock is painful to your dog? You needn't be concerned. Rebecca, with Best Friends Animal Hospital in Medford, says the correction won't hurt your dog. Howard Newman says he felt the shock that the dog receives and it's similar to static electricity, like scuffing the carpet or sliding along the car seat and touching metal.
Professionally installed by DogWatch of Southern Oregon, the electronic fence will run you about $1,200 and take about an afternoon to install using specialized equipment that leaves almost no trace in your yard. All equipment for one dog is included, and the transmitter has a variety of settings to customize the correction to suit your dog's temperament. Gary Pratt says he makes sure that humans and dogs are both well-trained.
For do-it-yourselfers, there's an underground, electronic fence called Innotek that you can get at some local pet stores for about $150. According to Pet Country's Mike McBride, "The base product we carry is a containment system that is powered for up to a five-acre perimeter, for one dog," he says. The system includes the transmitter, one receiver, 500 feet of wire and an instructional video. "It will reach the dog from 18 inches to 6 feet away, and you can set that distance," McBride explains. "There's a high and low setting on the charge."
The Newmans went the do-it-yourself way when they first moved to the Running Y, stringing the fence wire along garden stakes rather than digging into their lava landscape, but this summer they're choosing to have their electronic fence installed professionally.
It makes a lot of sense, says Pratt. "They [the Newmans] take care of their house, their car, their dogs," he says. "It's not a cheap thing — they've made an investment in their dog, just like their kids."