It's the rare dog who will stay untethered in an unfenced yard. Most pooches would rather roam, sniff, explore and chase everything. The invisible fence was created for those canine parents who have a hard time keeping their dogs in the yard. A specialized collar used with a boundary wire can be the solution when you cannot put up a fence or for those dogs who refuse to stay at home, fence or not.
How They Work
Collars used to keep your dog in her yard come as part of an invisible fence system that creates an electronic boundary around your house. A wire is installed around the perimeter of your yard and connected to a control panel that sends a signal through the wire. The signal interacts with a battery-powered shock collar, activating the collar to give your dog a surprising, but not harmful shock when she gets within 1.5 to 2.5 feet of the barrier. The system is designed to sound a warning tone, like a beep, to signal your dog that she's too close to the boundary. If she doesn't move back from the warning zone, she'll receive a buzz from her collar. There's no on/off switch on the collar, but you can place tape on the prongs of the collar to keep it from activating while your dog is getting used to her new invisible boundary.
Invisible Fence Training
It's best for your dog if you teach her about the invisible fence after you've installed it instead of just putting the collar on her and turning her loose outside. Initially you'll have flags staked into the ground around the boundary to give your dog visual assistance with where the barrier is located. In Ruth Strother's 2011 book "The Dog Friendly Home: DIY Projects for Dog Lovers," she advised readers to tape the prongs on the shock collar down for the first week so that your dog only hears the warning beeps without receiving a shock. Leash her and walk her around the yard, venturing close to the invisible fence now and then to trigger the warning. When you hear the beep, run quickly in the other direction, pulling on the leash to signal your dog to follow you. After the first week, remove the tape but continue to train on-leash for another five to seven days, always praising your dog when she responds to the beeps or shocks. You can let your dog off-leash after the second week, but you may want to supervise her outings initially to ensure that she understands her boundaries. Leave the flags up until you're certain she's got it.
Not Appropriate for Everyone
Invisible fences could seem like the answer to a prayer, but depending on your dog's personality, an invisible fence/shock collar combination might not be right for her. If your pooch is on the nervous and fearful side, she could misinterpret a shock received at the outer limits of her yard to mean she shouldn't go into the yard at all. And on the other end of the spectrum, an aggressive, territorial dog can become even more so when his area is so specifically defined that he could become dangerous to unsuspecting people, such as postmen, delivery people or neighborhood children, who innocently step inside the invisible boundaries.
Pros and Cons
There are pros and cons to the shock collar/invisible fence system. On the upside, if you've tried everything else and can't keep your dog in her own yard, this may be the one thing that finally works. An invisible fence won't violate the covenants in your neighborhood or homeowner's association if they don't allow for you to erect a fence around your yard. Also, invisible fences are far less expensive than traditional fences. On the downside, though, you may not like the idea of punishing your dog with a jolt of electric current, no matter how mild it is. An invisible fence won't keep other dogs out of your yard; aggressive canines can easily cross the boundary and possibly harm you dog. And if your dog actually crosses the barrier, she'll be stuck on the outside, likely unwilling to risk another shock to get back in.
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.