Electronic Containment Systems

Categories: Dog Safety
By Laura Yurchak

My Harley has a phenomenal recall with only one flaw. Squirrels! My yard is fenced so Harley can chase the squirrels to his heart’s content. I don’t have to worry about a dog coming into my yard and attacking him, someone stealing him from the yard, a child wandering up to say hi or a squirrel mesmerizing him into the street. A traditional fence is the most secure and safe containment you can provide for your dog, children, and the entire family.

Fencing a yard can be very expensive and many homeowner associations don’t allow them. The alternative to a traditional fence is the electronic containment systems. I felt that it was time for me to do some research on these systems to better understand how they work. I am sure you already know that I am against using electronic collars for dog training. Put one around your neck and give yourself a jolt. Besides that, incorrect associations can  be created, causing more harm than good. However, when it comes to containment, there may be no other alternative available. I know many dog owners have had good success with an electronic containment system. These systems have been drastically improved these past years, reducing equipment failures and false activations. I have put together the pros and cons of the traditional fencing, electronic fencing and compared the more popular brands. There are many models to choose from, too many to list. I compared similar models from different companies. There are systems that you can install yourself and others that are professionally installed. Of course, those installed professionally are more expensive. I only had the time to research one professionally installed system. I will work on getting more information from the others.

I had the opportunity to talk with a representative from the Invisible Fence Company. They have been around for more than 30 years. They are more expensive because they  professionally install the system and hold 2-3 training sessions with the client and their dog. Their system is designed to work with dogs as young as 8 weeks old. At the initial visit, the representative explains how the system works and gives you a quote. The price includes a system for the area size you have, number of collars needed, additional indoor equipment, training, 1-year supply of batteries etc. They get the collar (without transmitter) from the Lupine Company. Invisible Fence Company honors the Lupine lifetime warranty. I plan to watch their training procedure in the future. For now, it is acceptable. Much better than some things I have read.

I received a few comments on my request for feedback about using an electronic containment system to contain a dog in a specified area of the yard. I reduced some of the comments to give the specifics only. I removed all names.

Comment #1: In your next article on electronic containment systems, please consider highlighting the  fact that many dogs are good at ignoring these “fences,” especially if there is something on the other side that is exciting to them- such as a squirrel. I know that for many huskies, the desire to run, coupled with their high prey drive, can make these “fences” useless. Some huskies have been known to figure out that if they put their head down just right, they can get their thick fur in the way and significantly reduce the amount of shock that they feel. I am sure many other thick-coated breeds have figured this out as well.

I know many people see an electronic containment system as their only option when they cannot have a traditional fence and install them without properly educating themselves. Maybe you could include information on other options, such as trolley systems and tie outs. Of course, if you discuss tie outs, please be sure to include the hazards of using metal chain.

Comment #2: (Rescue Organization) is opposed to electronic fencing and I won’t adopt to anyone who would use it for our dogs. Reasons include, it does not keep the dog confined if it is determined to cross it. At that point, it is zapped and is afraid to come back in. It also doesn’t protect them from coyotes, strays etc from entering the yard and hurting them. Once inside, your dog is trapped. We ask adopters to never let the dogs outside without being there with them, but in case they don’t follow that rule, electronic fencing is not acceptable.

Comment #3: PetSafe system was their choice, not the deluxe kit. They cut through the wire a few times while doing yard work. The alarm notified them of the cut wire, which it also does when the batteries need replacing. It doesn’t have the surge protector so they unplug it during storms. It was easy to install; it took an afternoon. The system didn’t work when there was a foot or more of snow. Training went quickly. They adjusted the perimeter to approximately a foot, so the warning signal activates to give the dogs enough time to correct themselves before the shock. Their dog has gone through the fence when tempted by certain stimulus. They turned the signal up high and the dog was receiving the shock in the house! They adjusted it so that didn’t happen again. It is hard for them to get her to cross the boundary to take a walk.

Comment #4: We have the original “Invisible Fence” and I highly recommend it. We have it around 18 acres! The training is excellent, which is key to having it work. If a dog is not respecting the fence, they will work with the owner, adjust the collar, etc. They now start you off in the home with a system to get the dog used to the cues and then move you outside. The warranty is great, even if your dog chews a collar, they replace it. Our “board” was hit by lightning and it was also replaced at no charge. We have had at least 6 personal dogs use it and many of my employees have it as well.

Comment #5: The brand purchased is the Invisible fence. One dog broke through the barrier after 2 years and it scared the living daylights out of her. She seemed to just loose her sense of where the cutoff point was. She waited for us to come and get her. The other dog was beeped at where it crosses the driveway. No flags could be put there during his training and thus it is a hard place to teach. It is amazing if used correctly, and if you take the time to train the dog properly for success. It really takes about 2 weeks of constantly walking the lines for a puppy to make visual landmarks so that when the flags are removed they understand what their safe area is. A lot of my neighbors think that after their dog doesn’t go through that they are trained. They remove the collar and they quickly learn that their dogs constantly test the fence and when they don’t hear the beep, they go through and end up miles away. Our dogs are only without theirs if they are going in the car and down the driveway off the property. Also, having the fence should never be used as an excuse not to have your dogs within sight or within hearing distance. The cost was about $2500 if I remember correctly. We got a ½ acre done and we had it customized a bit as I wanted there to be 7 feet between the beep and the shock so that the dogs had a few feet to change their mind and turn around before they got shocked. Also, the cost comes with training, collars that are warranted for life and reasonable/quick repairs if you cut through the line by mistake.

Comment #6: The brand is the Invisible Fence. Boxer Rebound will not adopt anyone a dog who does not have a fence. It HAD to be Invisible Fence brand and it HAD to be installed by Invisible Fence. One of the dogs did break through one time at the beginning of a thunderstorm. She was sitting scared on the neighbors step. We went and got her, took her collar off, and carried her home. I am not sure how long she had been trained on fence when this happened. I let her out and did a load of laundry. While I was upstairs, there was a loud crack of thunder, and a flash of lightening. Invisible Fence came out and determined that she was scared and it probably would never happen again. She has never gone through the barrier again. I don’t let her out if it looks like a storm is coming. I think she had just been trained on fence when this happened. If something scared her now, I think she would retreat to the back door. During the training with the other dog, he went through the fence and we brought him back into the yard with collar on. He got shocked again! What a mess! After the training sessions, we never had another mishap. We love it! For sure would purchase another one if we move. Also, love it because I don’t have to worry about the dogs getting out and getting hit by a car. Front door, or back door, it doesn’t matter they are always protected! The correction isn’t as bad as people think. It scares the dog, it doesn’t hurt the dog (I have tried the collar myself). If they get too excited playing with other dogs and get too close to boundary they just retreat back to the house. It takes them at good 6 months to get too close to boundary again. I think it cost about $1500.00.

Comment #7: Brand: PetSafe Deluxe. It’s the kind you lay out in your yard, push a little in with stakes to hold the wire down and then the grass grows up over it. It was installed in an afternoon. The box part is plugged into our garage. (Pets name) learned very quickly  where the boundaries were with the flags we set up. They say it takes three weeks to get used to it, but she learned with one shock. You are supposedto bring her into the area several times to teach her (she’d get shocked,) but thankfully we did not have to do that!!! She also learned that the beeping on the collar means she is getting close to the boundary line and she should not go any further. She has gone through the barrier about three times in three years, but that was only because the battery on the collar was dead, or the line got cut during construction on our house, and when it was accidently cut it with the rotertiller. Nothing has happened in the past year. When she went through, she did not wait, she just took off after some other dogs. Yes, she was hesitant at first to go back into the yard. She has learned now that when she has on a regular leash, it’s time for a walk and she can go through the barrier with us. There’s no hesitation anymore. In the beginning she was scared, but I always said “OK, we’re going for a walk now,” to cue her it was okay. We are very satisfied! I especially like that there’s warning beeps so she doesn’t have to get shocked. Sometimes when another dog comes by, she gets so excited that she gets a little too close to the boundary and then she hears the beeps and backs off. I also like that you can put it anywhere. We did just our backyard at first, and then due to construction, we did the front yard. It’s pretty simple to change without having to dig up your yard. One thing that is annoying is that she will run along the boundary line, back and forth, when other dogs come by. Because there are so many dogs going by our yard, it’s making a path in the grass. Also, sometimes I feel like she has too much freedom and I have less control. However, you may have these issues with a regular fence too. I don’t really remember the cost, but I know it was less than $200. We paid less than it costs at Petco by buying it online.

Comment #8: Invisible Fence – installed in May 2009. Professionally installed. The dog has never broken through it. Yes, we are very satisfied. He is much happier that he can run around the yard without being on a leash.

Comment #9: I wanted to send you a reply on the dog containment. We have one for (pet’s name) that has been the best thing. It is the Innotek Ultrasmart Contain and Train. It contained all the underground wiring, the transmitter and the wire for that, the collar that is rechargeable so we don’t have to buy new batteries every year (charge lasts about 2 months and system comes with charging base), hand held remote control that I can take anywhere( we have property up North and can use this system there to contain her), and DVD that explains all the set-up and use and training for the system. We got all of this for $350.00, which is a great deal. I had a quote from Invisible fence that did not include the remote for $1200.00, so I saved a lot of money. We installed the system ourselves. It took about 5 hours from start to finish, but it was also raining off and on that day so I think without the rain it would not have taken so long. It was a pretty easy process. She has not broken through at all. The system works very well. She has plenty of temptations, but will not go close to the boundary line. The remote has worked very well at our property up North. It’s just like having the system at home. She has not had any behavior issues from the fence, and many people who visit can’t believe how well it works. I would highly recommend this product, not because it works so well, but it is also very affordable. If fact, my husband and I are planning to install this system for a friend of ours who would like the system too.


There you have it. That was all of the feedback I received. People have mixed emotions about the Electronic Containment Systems (ECS). I am lucky to have a traditional fence, which is my preference.
I just listened to Dr. Patricia McConnell on the Diane Rehm show. A caller explained that she is in a neighborhood that has many dogs, some of them in an ECS. She asked Dr.McConnell her thoughts on the systems. Dr. McConnell said that they work very well for some and cause a lot of problems for others. They should not be installed in front yards because the dogs are constantly stimulated. Since dogs can be territorial, this can be a problem. Picture this from the dog’s point of view. The dog in the ECS sees someone walking their dog. They get close and closer. The dog starts to bark at the person and dog passing by. The person and dog continues on their walk and the dog in the containment system concludes that their barking made these two go away. The dog is reinforced for barking. This can escalate and get out of hand. Here’s another one to consider. A friendly dog in a containment  system sees a person walking their dog. As they get closer, the dog begins to walk toward the boundary to greet the visitors. Zap, the dog gets shocked. The dog associates the zap to the person and-or dog passing by. This experience leaves the dog associate people and-or dogs to pain.
If using an electronic containment system, please take these two previous scenarios seriously. I personally feel that all fences, not just ECS, shouldn’t be in the front yard or right aside of a public sidewalk. Mine is and I hate it. I am seriously considering moving it back 15 feet from the sidewalk. Although my Harley is quite the social butterfly, I
don’t want him barking at people and dogs passing by. By moving the fence back a few feet, I am confident that his training would go much faster and stay consistent. Trolleys and tie out also have their pros and cons. This would be a topic for a future article.