Do underground fences work?
‘Invisible fencing’ is simply a live wire buried in the ground that activates a collar worn by a dog. When the dog gets too close to the underground wire, the collar is charged and he gets a shock. This is supposed to teach him to stay obediently inside the boundary of a yard or part of a yard. Invisible fencing is marketed as humane. Does that sound very kind? Aside from this obvious drawback, there are other things we should consider. How safe is an invisible fence? Let’s examine the selling points.
Invisible fencing is inexpensive.
This is probably the most popular reason to opt for an invisible fence. We’re all on a budget, especially these days. Conventional fencing isn’t cheap, by any means. But think about this: Would you be willing to spend your hard-earned money on a beautiful, loving little puppy and then not provide a secure play area for him?
Invisible fencing is easy to install.
This one is debatable. Simple, maybe, but ‘easy’ depends on the makeup of your soil (clay vs loam or sand) and the number of rocks hidden in it.
A friend’s landscaper son once wanted to show her what a piece of cake it would be to install an irrigation system. ‘Sure,’ he said, ‘You just dig a trench, lay the pipe and glue the pieces together, hook it up to the solenoid and the timer, fill in the trench, and there you go.’ He didn’t take into account that the soil was sandy in his area, whereas his mom would be digging in compacted red clay. Simple, but far from easy.
There is no visible fence line.
This claim is completely true. It means that the landscape aesthetics are uninterrupted and mowing is unimpeded. Good things. On the other hand, there are physical fences that are quite attractive.
Invisible fencing safely and humanely protects your dog.
An underground fence may keep your dog inside, but it will not prevent other animals from entering. Aggressive dogs, coyotes and other predators can freely enter the property and harm your dog. Of course, not all fences will stop coyotes. But at least it will be a deterrent, and they may choose easier targets.
Humans can also cross those boundaries, and can have nefarious intentions. Even if they have no ill intent, no matter how friendly your pooch is, he may accidentally injure approaching people. Especially the elderly or smaller children.
“Dogs contained behind electric fences tend to become more reactive and in some cases more aggressive toward strangers and even family members because of anxiety and frustration. Recent studies show that dogs without previous aggression problems are more prone to attack family members when the systems are activated. Only a proper fence will keep people or other animals out of the yard and offer more protection. It is a much safer and more humane and effective containment option than an electric fence will ever be.”
Victoria Stilwell, Animal Planet’s It’s Me or the Dog
Let’s talk now about power outages and various failures. And then we’ll discuss other drawbacks of invisible fences.
If there is a power outage due to wind storms, lightning strikes, or any other reason, your yard is no longer secure.
Batteries in the collar can weaken or just go bad. How often do we forget to check those types of things…I know I do!
Lastly, there can be a failure within the containment system, not related to power outages or low batteries. Unfortunately, as with all things manufactured, there are products that just malfunction for unknown reasons.
You’ll have opportunities to solve problems.
When – not if – the power goes out for a period, your pup may get out of your yard. Go after him, of course, but once you have him in hand, consider the possibility that electricity may have been restored in your absence. The dog is still wearing his collar, and the closer you get to home, the stronger the signal from the invisible fence. And he’s going to get zapped. Not a great incentive for him to come back home, would you agree?
See, the current doesn’t set up a one-directional force field on the inside of your yard. It forms a sort of half tube, if you could see it in three dimensions. Like a pool noodle split down the middle, lengthwise. So, the electricity will zap on both sides of the buried wire.
How will you and Rover get back into your yard safely? Hopefully, there is someone home who can turn off the system for a few minutes. And hopefully you have your phone so you can contact them. But what if it’s just you? The only other thing to do is take off Rover’s collar far enough away so he won’t get shocked. Leave it there while you carry him to safety and put him in the house. Close the front door and retrieve the collar.
Is there an off button on it? Guess you’ll find out, when you carry it across the line.
Smart dogs will figure out how to escape The Zapper.
Like an electric fence around a pasture, an invisible fence charge isn’t continuous. It can’t be, or it would burn up the charger. Plus, the system is usually plugged into house current, which is AC, rather than DC like batteries. So, the current pulses through the wire. We’ve heard of smart dogs who can gauge the frequency of the pulses, wait for a low point, and bolt across the boundary.
Then there are those freedom loving doggies who grit their teeth and take the shock, and simply walk over the line. And they’re going on a new adventure. In that situation, your invisible fence is useless.
Please don’t terrorize your puppy.
Shock treatment is very detrimental to a pup’s personality. The possibility of pain builds anxiety, leading to apprehension or even aggression. It can trigger fear biting, and that opens up a whole new vista of neighborhood relationships. We recommend avoiding that whole tangle.
If you have a yard, and want your puppy to be able to play in safety, the smart decision is to provide a secure fence. It should extend all the way to the ground and be tall enough so your puppy won’t be able to jump out when he’s grown, or dig under.
As previously mentioned, there are many options for attractive, yet safe fencing. Not only that, it also adds to your home value!
Keep your furry family member safe and enjoy him. You want the happiest, most chill puppy ever. Plus, we feel so strongly about this, we no longer approve applications when potential families disclose they plan to use an underground fencing system.
For a great reason to install a traditional, extra-secure fence, browse our available Cavapoo puppy sweethearts!