"underground" fence dog containment systems


I’m interested in feedback on the training and efficacy of underground fence systems like this:

I have 3 dogs, but I want it primarily for my 28lb terrier mix. He was a stray, so he thinks the entire neighborhood is his turf. He also is an escape artist- I’ve never seen anything like it, frankly. His last escape was through a hole he ripped in our screenporch.

Anyway, I’ve done all the things you should do for a wandering dog- he’s neutered (last Friday), he’s tagged, and he’s microchipped. Now he needs to be trained to stay in our yard. We’re also working hard on the recall command, but in the meantime, I’d like to also train him to stay within our yard boundaries.

I am zero interested in opinions that these are a cruel means of containment. To ward off those posts, I’ll say here that I disagree with that assessment, and if you want to debate it start a thread elsewhere. I am interested in feedback on the systems, training tips, etc. As I said, I’m primarily interested in training the terrier, but I have a Shar-pei and a Rottie that I’d love to let out unleashed (but supervised) during quiet times in the neighborhood.

Thoughts? Experiences? The one piece of advice I’ve gotten so far is that if you use the wire that comes in the systems from Wal-Mart, you’ll end up digging it up because there are terrible breaks in it- you need to use thicker gauge wire. Also, I saw instructions on the site for not burying the wire, but basically “stapling” it on top of the grass and letting it kind of mesh into the ground. Any experiences with that?

The system didn’t work for my adult german shepherd. It did at first, but he seemed to make the risk/reward decision that it was worth it to get a shock to go running. ANd then he’d go swimming in the collar. But this dog was very determined - he would unlock my windows, open them up and go through the screen. I had to put burglar-proof locks on my windows to keep him in the house when I was at work.

My mother’s dog (a Wire Fox Terrier) was trained to the invisible fencing as a puppy and he utterly respects it. He doesn’t get a shock often, adn enjoys chasing squirrels and chipmunks.


Thanks for the feedback- I’ve heard that they can be harder to use for larger dogs but smaller ones seem to respect it a bit more. Is her wire terrier about the same size as my dog? (he’s 28lbs)

I used one of these systems for our dogs, with a little success, but probably because I didn’t work with the dogs enough it was ultimately a failure. One of the main problems I had with it was the contortions you had to go through to get the boundaries defined. I don’t remember off hand now, but I think it was difficult to define a “gate” so to speak. That is, you had to define your boundaries as an unbroken loop. There were things you could do for creating other shapes, but nothing I could figure out for my yard.

Also, you have to be careful on curves, since current flowing in opposite directions cancels out. Basically I ended up creating some dead spots that the dogs could dart through.

You also have to work with your dogs too, otherwise they might figure out that after just a little pain, they’re free to roam as always. But reading your OP, I think you’ll have that covered.

The one last thing to be concerned about (that I can think of) doesn’t have to do with the dogs, but the people. Basically whenever somebody comes by, there is nothing for them to see that is containing your dogs. It might make them a little nervous to see a dog charging them unrestrained (of course you know they’ll stop at the boundary, but other people probably won’t).

We ended up getting a regular fence , and it’s worked well for us.

That’s not to say I’m trying to discourage you from getting an electric fence. I’m just trying to point out the gotchas that I had. My boss has had very good lock with his. (Although his gotcha involves the neighbor who also put one in, except where they met was the opposite signal direction I spoke of, so the boundary between the yards effectivly disappeared).

My parents’ neighbors also have good luck with theirs containg a herd of Boxers. (3 usually, up to 5 depending on which of the neighbor kids are home).

So all in all, if you can get it set up properly and do the recommended training with the dogs, I don’t see any reason it shouldn’t work for you. It works well enough for my parent’s neighbors, that their dogs will run without the collars (on occasion) without problems.

Hope that helps,


Dog trainer here.

I’ve heard of people having great success with the invisible fences. Some swear by them. Usually they are the owners of relatively submissive, willing-to-please dogs who don’t mind hanging out and watching the world go by (retrievers, poodles, rotties…)

On the flip side, I have heard of the dogs who just would rather take the shock and chase the darn squirrel… and then not come home because they get shocked on the way back into the yard… Usually these dogs (for whom it failed) were terriers (or is that terrors?), sheep dogs, beagles and dominant sighthounds.

It may be worth a shot - who knows. If your dog is a determined little houdini, then I wish you luck. Chances are that he’ll find a way to torment you anyway… :wink:

I frequently go running in an area where these fences are very common (it’s a development in a rural area; 2-14 acre lots; “We’re in the country–what do we need a real fence for?”).

They work for some dogs, but others just run right through them and tag along with me for a couple blocks…


“Distance aproximately equivalent to a block; given that there really aren’t any blocks to speak of there.” :wink:

My cousins had some larger dogs this didn’t work for.

May I suggest www.friendlyfence.com?

Ours works great. We have a 50 lb lab/husky mix. To an earlier poster’s point, though, she is a relatively submissive dog - although very playful and energetic.

The one problem we’ve had is that they don’t keep other dogs from coming IN. If anothre dog enters our back yard, our own dog may run back out with the other dog, shock and all.

Our main concern was also to block an open gate. Our installer sealed the wire into our driveway (two cuts - it’s a loop) and then we put the rest of the loop around our garden. it worked fine.

We used Invisible Fence company and followed their training regimen very closely.

As a former pet sitter, I’ve had a lot of experience with other people’s invisible fences, and they have about a 50/50 success-to-failure rate.

  • Some dogs don’t respect them - they’ll go through them to chase something and then not come home because while it’s worth it to get shocked on the way out, it’s not worth it to get shocked on the way back. If your terrier was a stray and really likes roaming, this is probably the most likely failure you would have to consider.

  • Your fence won’t be working while the power is out, so if you have a lot of power outages, this is something to think about. I had a dog I was pet-sitting attempt to wander the neighborhood when this happened. It was during the day so I didn’t know right away when I got there the power was out. I found out when he just trotted right over the property line and kept going. I got him back right away but I was not one bit pleased to have this happen. I don’t know if there are any models sold that have some sort of back-up power option, but it might be worth it to check.

  • The collars require batteries to work, and some dogs know the minute the battery dies. After the incident above, I’d actually take the collar off the dog before letting them out and test it near the boundary to make sure both the fence and the collar battery was still working before I’d let the dog out.

  • It doesn’t keep other animals out of your yard, so your pets can be attacked by stray dogs or wild animals. If you live in an area with a rabies problem, that makes this issue even more of a concern.

I also personally know someone who had a pretty horrible thing happen with an invisible fence. I won’t go into details about it, since I am sure these types of things aren’t common, but one of the things that occurred is that the dogs went outside the boundary and one of them then froze in the shock zone, getting repeatedly shocked. This is something that the rep from the company said wouldn’t happen, but it did.

We have two neighbors that have invisible fencing and it seems to work great for them, but neither dog seems to be motivated to chase. When we walk by with our dogs, they just stay wherever they are in the yard and really don’t care all that much that we are there. So I think your dog’s personality has a lot to do with how well it will work.

I personally prefer our regular fence, but our dogs aren’t diggers or climbers, so we don’t have to worry about that at all. They’d also want to kill any smaller dog or cat that got in our yard, so it keeps the rest of the neighborhood pets safe too.

My father has used them for years and years… Works a champ for him. He usually keeps VERY large and powerful dogs, none of whom were particularly submissive. The key to success in the fence, he found, is in training. First, obedience training for the dogs (you do not want large, assertive dogs around unless you’ve got them obedience trained!), and then trained to the fence.

Training to the fence is a little tedious at first, but necessary if you wish best results. Mark the perimeter with highly visible flags (usually provided by the maunfacturer, but you can make your own easily enough) to give you and the dog a visual cue to the barrier. Put the dog on a lead, with the shock collar on, and walk it around the perimeter, just outside the shock zone. After a few trips around, you loosen up on the lead juuuust enough that the dog can edge into the shock zone. DO NOT force the dog into the shock zone! Let them enter it on their own. Again, you walk the perimeter for a few cycles.

Repeat this lead training, two or three times daily for a week (may take a bit longer for some animals). Each day, give the dog increased slack on the lead. The dog will learn where the shock zone is, and the repetition will set the safe territory in it’s mind. Once you’ve gotten to the point where you can walk the perimeter with a totally slack lead for a couple days, and the dog refuses to stray into the shock zone, you’re pretty much there. After a week or so without the lead, and the dog is respecting the barrier, you can pull up the flags. At this point, you should be pretty much home free.

One important thing, though… If the dog does manage to burst the perimeter, you must go get them! They can’t easily come back into the perimeter, but if they do manage to recross the barrier, your electronic fence has become pretty much useless - The dog will have learned that they can cross at will, and will do so for any temptation they consider worth the pain. So, with a dog outside the perimter, secure any animals still inside the perimeter, and go get the dog. Remove the collar before crossing the perimeter coming back in! The dog will have already learned that no collor=no shock, so you won’t be reenforcing that crossing the barrier is possible. Once a dog breaches the perimeter, you’ll need to re-train them to the fence.

I was all set to put one in at my new house, but then saw how it didn’t work with my next door neighbor’s dog so decided not to. There are 4 or so other dogs in the area, and it appears to work just fine for them. The dogs are retrievers, a poodle and a cocker spaniel.

I’m pretty sure the problem with the neighbor dog (a Golden Retriever) is that his collar doesn’t work, but he doesn’t run away so his owners “think” the system is working. I put think in quotes because they’ve seen him run into other yards and into the street themselves. So I’m guessing they just don’t care. Their system would interfer with anything I put in, however, so I’ve given it a pass.

Also, I’m not too worried about my own “old lady” dogs, it’s the dogs I foster for a safe house organization that I worry about getting loose - and it’s certainly not worth the time and hassle to train various breeds, ages, and stages of dog to respect an invisible fence for a 1-2 month stay.

I may get a real fence put in at some point.

Tru, dat.

For your purposes, a old fashioned fence, with the bottom secured against digging, is the trick. You’d barely have the visitor dogs trained before it was time to see them on their way.

We had a Pet Safe brand fence. It came with a 5 level collar so you could adjust it to the size dog and then put the shock level up or down depending on the tolerance of your dog. They also sell a naughty dog collar that has more shocking power. It would shock the dog the minute it crossed the line and continue shocking for 18 seconds so the dog wouldn’t learn to race through for least amount of shock.

Ours worked great for the most part. Our dog was a border collie/ german shepherd mix. She was a well behaved dog anyway. She would decide that some things were just worth the shock. She would inch closer and closer to the line (she could hear a warning signal when she got close) whining the whole way because she knew what was coming. Then she would race through, screaming in pain and do whatever she wanted, usually chasing a squirrel or following one of us on a walk.

I never trusted it if we weren’t home. I worried that a kid could come into the yard and get bit.

Once I put her in the car and pulled the car over the wire and shocked her in the car, I felt so bad. Then she was afraid to go in the car.

Well, i don’t own a dog, but i do go jogging through a wealthy Baltimore neighborhood where many of the lovely big houses have these hidden dog fences. I’ve seen plenty of dogs stand in their front yards and bark at me, but none has ever crossed the property line.

Admittedly, none of these dogs looked particularly scary, and for the most part the barking seemed more friendly than aggressive, and i don’t know how much i’d trust such a system if the dog was really interested in taking a piece out of my ass.

My Brother has two large dogs and an unfenced house in Colorado. The underground fence worked very well for his dogs. At first they needed to wear the zapper collars all the time they were out, then they could be allowed out without them. If they were spotted going out of bounds they were punnished by having to wear the zapper collars, Nowadays they don’t seem to ever need the collars, and stay within bounds even when there must be great temptation to go further (like when another dog is outside the bounds, or when the ground squirrels are active outside bounds).

I have 2 aussies and a standard fence, so I don’t have personal experience myself.

My brother had one for his golden and it worked for them

At my old house, a lovely german shepherd bitch used to show up my house periodically. Those folks had an invisible fence. I don’t know if power failures let her out or whether she charged the fence and took the shock. She di NOT want to go back over the fence, poor baby.

My former landlord’s new neighbors had 3 big dogs and installed an invisible fence. Two fo the dogs took to charging the perimiter, scaring the pants off the mail carrier. They eventually had to put a rural box at the street because the mail carrier refused to deliver because of the dogs.

My neutered male rescue aussie, Chance, is an escape artist and my solution is to hook him up to a really long lead when he is out unattended (2 - 20 ft plastic coated wrapped-steel cables strung together. I finally settled on these beacuse they don’t tangle). My other aussie, Neilli, is not a fence jumper/climber, so she can come and go through the dog door at will. Chance seems fine with this arrangement. He can get most places in the yard short of obstacles around which he could wrap the lead, and I don’t have heartburn wondering if he is going to end up a road rug when his little brain cell says “MUST JUMP FENCE.” I have to take him off the lead when he comes in and close up the dog door, which is kind of a pain in the rumpus, but much better than all the white hair I got trying to figure out how he was getting out of the fence! Also, I never leave them out unattended as my greatest fear is some nut who wants to steal for hurt my puppers.

I must confess that I have considered getting an invisible fence for inside my standard fence as a way of getting Chance to stay away from the fence (if he’s not near it, he can’t jump or climb it), but I haven’t gone that far…yet.

The trainer we had for Neilli said her biggest issue with invisible fencing was the inability of the fence to keep people and animals out.

Hope you come up with a solution that works for you!

That helps a lot- we’re lucky in that we have a square yard, so hopefully no contortions will be required. Also, the main dog I want to contain is not dangerous or big and scary- just a medium sized terrier, and he doesn’t present a threatening attitude at all, so I don’t much have to worry about that. For the other two I might, but because of the possibility of them taking the hit and running or making people feel threatened, I’d probably limit their yard time to late evenings and early mornings.

Thanks for the advice!

You’re so right- he’ll probably torment me forever!

It remains to be seen if he’ll “take the hit” or not. He’s a terrible pain wuss. Also, most times when he escapes he stays pretty close to home- he just won’t stay in the yard or come in. If he escaped I would definately turn the system off until I got him back so he wouldn’t get shocked trying to come home. Holy training nightmare!

Great suggestion- unfortunately I rent and can’t put anything up that you can see. Otherwise I’d chain link it all and get it over with! But thank you so much!