WiFi Fence First Look

by Gajan Retnasaba on June 27, 2009

The Perimeter Technologies WiFi Fence has gone into production and will be delivered to pre-orders in the coming weeks.  We were able to get one of the early units this week from Perimeter and have been playing with it for the last week.  Our initial thoughts are that it is a significant improvement on the PetSafe model, but it does have a few kinks. 

Wifi_fence_box

The first thing we noticed when we got the unit in the mail is that the box is smaller than we expected.  The design is clean and reminiscent of Apple packaging.  It is certainly a few steps up from most of the packaging in the dog fence industry. 

Wifi Fence 

Cracking open the box you find a (1) base station, (2) power adapter, (3) collar, (4) instructions, (5) 50 boundary flags,  and (5) a small baggie of doo-dads including short and long prong attachments for the collar.

The Base Station

The control box has a nice modern design with a clean curvelinear face with an lcd screen and a simple control pad in the centre.  It also has two big rabbit ears coming out the top like a might seen on a router.  Controls are simple and intuitive and we rarely needed to refer to the instructions to get everything working.

One of our concerns was that being WiFi it would interfere with our wireless network.  We set the unit up right next to our wireless route and neither our office network, nor the WiFi fence suffered any ill effects.

base-station

wifi collar

Collar

The collar is one of the larger units in dog fence’s.  It is about the same size as the PetSafe Wireless collar.  You would probably not want to use this on a dog under 20 pounds.  The collar uses the snap type connectors on the collar band which is much superior to the buckle type that is on some systems.  The waterproofing on the collar looks like it was very well done, just as it is on other Perimeter Technologies models. 

Batteries

The unit includes not one, but  two rechargeable batteries.  The rechargeable batteries are removable, which we believe is a first in a dog fence system and is a very clever addition.  You can charge both batteries at the same time in the back of the base station.  One battery gets put in the collar, the other stays in the base station and supplies power to the base station in the case of a power failure.  Having two batteries is great, because the instant one battery dies, you can quickly replace it with a fresh battery that has been charging in the base station. The battery level for the collar is also displayed on the base station, so it is easy to figure out when the collar needs charging. 

This is to our knowledge the first dog fence units with a removable rechargeable battery.  That is a nice touch, because if the battery dies on you, you can replace the battery instead of the whole collar.  It also lets you recharge a collar instantly by just swapping out the battery instead of having to take the collar out of action for a couple of hours to charge it.

The rechargeable battery is a 3.6V lithium ion battery.  You can get replacements from Perimeter Technologies or from specialty battery stores.  They claim it is good for at least 300 cycles (by our calculations 5 years).  The battery does not mark the positive and negative terminals, so we had to guess which way it should be orientated.  (the manual does explain which end is positive … we just think it would be even better on the actual battery)  (Note: a previous version of this post incorrectly stated that the battery was proprietary .. our thanks to the commenter below for figuring out that it is in fact available off the shelf)

One of our initial concerns was that the battery life would be short.  We aren’t sure how long the battery life is in the collar because we haven’t had the unit long enough yet to exhaust the first charge, but it is at least a week.  Plus since you get two batteries, battery life is unlikely to be a problem.

 

In Action

You start by pairing each collar with the system.  This is a pretty easy process, you just but the fence into pairing mode and then insert the battery into the collar and press “ok” on the control box.  You are limited to have  two dogs on each system, unlike the Petsafe PIF-300 where you can have as many as  you like. 

Setting the radius distance is intuitive.  You simply take the collar to the desired location, and then press the set key on the control box and you are ready to roll!

The boundary is a little imprecise.  You get a vague region of a couple of feet where the system may or may not give a correction.  This is also an issue with the PetSafe PIF-300.  The correction and warning tone are also a little sluggish, if you are moving quickly, it sometimes only responds a second after you have actually crossed the boundary.  It lacks the kind of precise, crisp correction zones as the in-ground models that you get on the in-ground units.  However, like the PIF-300 the WiFi Fence has a correction zone that goes out infinitely beyond the the boundary, so the dog cannot run through the boundary to escape the correction 

Range was a little disappointing.  The range is promoted as 200 feet.  In wide open spaces where there was a clear line of site, we got a reliable range of 260 feet after which reception got spotty. But when we put the unit in the middle of a house, we got a reliable range of 100 feet.  Putting the unit near a window got us the advertised 200 feet where there was a clear line of site, but on the other side of the building we would only get a reliable range of 100 feet.  Putting the unit in small wooden garden shed go us a range close to the advertised 200 feet.  Testing it head to head against the PetSafe PIF-300, the WiFi Fence won every time.  It clearly has the best range among wireless dog fences but the advertised 200 feet is probably a bit optimistic if you intend to place the unit in the middle of your house. 

One great feature, is that as soon as the dog break the boundary, not only does the collar beep, but there is an alarm at the base station so you know when your dog is challenging the fence and can immediately go outside and investigate.

Using the system with our official test Labrador this week instead of his regular wireless system, everything worked fine.   Admitted this was not a very tough test.  The test Labrador is already well trained and knew his boundaries so never challenged the boundaries.  It was neat to be able to know how  far away the dog was, this was the primary source of office and family entertainment for a while, although the feature really doesn’t help find the dog because it gives you no directional information.  We are installing one of these with a client in the next month so will be able to get a fuller in-field review in July with a dog that has not already been trained.

 

Construction/Quality

There were a couple of small quality things we noticed that suggest it is in the early days of production.  Both sets of contacts do not screw very easily into the collar.  We couldn’t screw them all the way in by hand and there was not tool included to help us (like on say the Innotek IUC-4100).  We had to use a pair of pliers to tighten ours fully.  The battery cover was similarly a tight fit, although this makes sense as they are trying to keep the unit watertight.

Also the included instructions seemed rushed and are not professionally printed.  The instructions look like they were photocopied then folded and stapled together in the middle to form a booklet.  This is no big deal, as the instructions were clear and did their job, but it was incongruous and a gentle reminder that this is a very new product.

As with all Perimeter Technologies units this model comes with a limited lifetime guarantee.  This really means it has a one year guarantee after which time they will fix it for a labor charge.

 

 Conclusion

We were impressed.  This is a step up from the PetSafe PIF-300, for about the same price. You get better range and some nice extra features.  Some things that could be better are the vague, slow boundaries and the range not being quite as large advertised.  Still we would recommend this unit over the PetSafe IF-300, the only caveat being that the unit has not been around so we don’t know how good the long-term reliability will be.  You will be taking a chance.  But, we have had good experiences with other Perimeter Technologies systems and the unit does include a limited lifetime warranty.

UPDATE:  The PetSafe PIF-300 has lowered it’s price to $229.95 now making it $70 cheaper than the WiFi.  It is now a pretty close call between the two.  Reliability seems to be a problem, the unit really has trouble where there is metal siding.  We would avoid using it where there are lots of obstacles, such as in the middle of a large house or where there are many trees.  Also keep in mind that neither wireless unit is anywhere near as good as an inground system.  So if you can do an in-ground system, that is definately the way to go.
UPDATE2: THe Wifi Fence has a new higher price of $329.95. The more we experiment with the unit, the more temperamental we see it being with obstructions. The PetSafe wireless fence is now the clear choice unless you need the range of the Wifi.

Look out for a full review in late July once we have had the unit for a month.  (Find it here:  Wifi Fence Review)

You can order the wifi fence now at our online store.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

math December 5, 2010 at 7:33 pm

is the antenna on the base station unscrewable like a computer router? if so is the antenna the same? you could by a bigger antenna or run a cable to put the antenna outside.

ADMIN – Hi Math,

The antenna is removable, and I think that your idea has merit. If you get better results doing it that way, please let us know.

Bradley August 7, 2010 at 10:06 am

Attempting to setup the wifi fence. The control panel is either not responding each time a selection is made or it responds by thinking that it was pressed twice – or so delayed that you press the selection and 7 seconds later it follows with that selection. I have read the instructions, am intuitive with technical products and can tell this has to be a defective product. No way any user could program the way this unit is acting. Will have to return and after reading this reviews I am most likely not looking for a replacement.

Amy April 25, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Im reading all these post and is wondering if I should buy this system or not. We live on a farm and of course we have a metal barn back behind the house and is wondering if that will interfere with the wifi. My second concern is my dog is a small dog. just at about 10 lbs..is it safe for him? please help!

ADMIN – Hi Amy,

You will get interference around the metal barn. Also I think the collar is going to be much too big and heavy for a 10lb dog, our sense is you really want to avoid putting this on any dog under 20lbs.

It does not sound like a great fit for your pup or property. A much better choice woudl be a PetSafe Little Dog wired system.

Cheryl October 13, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Most of these reviews are from July. I was wondering if the unit has been improved since then. I have a 100 lb. German Shepard. We have about 5 acres on a lake. Wondering if she can go in the water with it on. We also have a couple of buildings on the property so I imagine that is going to affect the signal???

ADMIN – Hi Cheryl,

You can see some more recent reviews on the main review page for the WiFi Fence. But not much has changed. Still has a lot of trouble creating a steady boundary line, dealing with obstacles and with signal drop-outs. Hopefully that will be fixed in future generations, but as it stand it is still nowhere as good as an inground fence.

It is waterproof and does work in water.

S. Noblitt September 6, 2009 at 4:05 pm

09/06/09
Am posting for the first time as what just happened to my dog was very scary and maddening! We have had the PetSafe Ultrasmart for about 3 years and have loved it – if you have a break it is pretty easily found – however, and we just found this out if you have a ‘nick’ it is impossible to find, and we have a very large area. You have to get an rf choke and portable radio yada yada yada – still couldn’t find it – could possibly be moles or any rodent of course or whatever (thankfully we had purchased the heavy duty black wire and 3 years is pretty good probably)..so decided to order the wifi and installed it 8/29/09. I certainly agree with the lost reception and the need of an external antenna, along with a few other things.
Today when I came home my dog met me at the car and jumped in as soon as I opened the door – he was scared, salivating and shaking (and he doesn’t even like to get in the car) It was a cloudy day so I thought perhaps he heard a rumble of thunder – as I get out of the car to go to the house he just runs to the door and barrels in and I reached down to get collar off and I hear a beeping – the stupid COLLAR is beeping and of course he is as scared as I am mad. Of course I get collar off – I truly don’t know if the base was beeping also or what and didn’t much give a crap, I just want the noise to stop for him. I punch select on the base and hold down for a couple of seconds – tried this twice and didn’t work then I just unplug base – collar still beeping – I then just take battery out of collar, which I should have done in the first place and the beeping stops. I insert other charged battery and lo an behold no beeping. The thing is I had to replace the 1st battery after about 4 or 5 days, in which the BASE alerted me with the alarm not the collar for heavens sake. The second battery has only been in collar for a 2 or 3 days and now I just don’t know what to think.
I am going to find the phone number and call the Company about this problem. Jury is out – so is the dog with no collar – but thank you God for him being a ‘wonderful dog’ and already trained. Oh and yes we were absolutely in the ‘safe zone’.

Karen Engle August 9, 2009 at 10:29 pm

Personally, I’m disappointed with this product so far. I’ve had it about 2 weeks…went throught the training process with the collar set to tone only (0) setting. Ready to train our dog and the collar doesn’t even beep before she’s shocked…it scared her to death. I called and was told, “maybe the battery is low so you didn’t hear it beeping”. I knew that wasn’t the case, but recharged already charged batteries and tried it again. Same thing happened. The collar is still not beeping when it is set 1-8…it only beeps on 0. I don’t want her to be shocked without the opportunity to hear the beep first. I emailed the company, but so far am thinking REFUND.

Duke the wi-fi beagle August 9, 2009 at 3:58 pm

We got this system about 2 months ago, and we love it! Yes, I agree the beeping is annoying when Lost Reception! comes up, but if at any time the Fence is Challenged the beeps get faster to let you know. Our dog was an absolute night mare before this, he would bolt out the door any chance he got. Now is is able to wonder around the yard anytime he wants. He has ran through the fence a few times, chasing a cat or the neighbor, but he comes right back because the collar is still beeping. He was trained in about 3 hours to be honest. We just took up the flags, he has tried a few extra steps but as soon as he hears the beep, he turns around. I would recommend this!!! Maybe not if you are super close to a main road but otherwise give it a try!!

DAP July 23, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Just recently started getting the Lost Signal message periodically during the day after 2 weeks of use – not sure what the cause is and why I am not getting this. Also, it seems that there is a spot along the perimeter of our yard (adjacent to garage) that is a
deadzone for this. Elevating the signal would help I think. With my experience I am also “on the fence” with whether I can trust this. My dog loves to run beyond our yard every chance she gets and I need to be able to rely on a consistent signal.

Greg Cooper July 22, 2009 at 3:56 pm

I would really like to try this product. I have a small dog and my main concern is the collar size. She is mostly an indoor dog but let her out during the day 4-5 times to run and “potty”. How difficult is it to return this product if for some reason it does not work out for my size dog?

S M July 20, 2009 at 6:13 pm

Matt, send your WiFi back, it just doesn’t work in certain situations.
Over 95% are very satisfied with the WiFi and its performance.
Perimeter and its authorized dealers will refund your money if your not satisfied.
Make a post here if you need help with your contact info if you can’t get help. The WiFi has difficulty with reception through exterior walls constructed out of aluminum, steel, block, brick and logs. Metal sheds and chain link fencing close to the transmitter can also distort the boundary line. An external antenna that would be mounted on the roof or in the attic seems like the way to over these obstacles. We have had an opportunity to have received some great feedback from a range of impressed to very disappointed pet owners. Improvements are bound to come along soon and I am sure that anyone buying now will be eligible for any upgrades made to the product. Perimeter is an American made product and they have always stood behind everything they’ve ever produced.

matt July 16, 2009 at 12:03 am

Lost signal all day long. The dog can literally lay right next to the transmitter, and it will say lost signal. For 300.00, this is a wast of money. This thing can not transmit through walls, windows or curtains. If the dog walks in a cirlce or around the corner, the lost signal alarm goes off. I will re-set the collar, and within an hour it is beeping again. I have put the transmitter everywhere–the attic, the shed, the carport, all the bedrooms and still get lost signal. Don’t waste your money!

JS July 14, 2009 at 11:31 am

Great product and one that we will keep (for portability alone) yet we have many of the same issues mentioned above:

…the attenna needs an extension (with booster if needed for line loss) to get the signal up as high as possible. We’re transmitting ‘down’ through a window maybe 24 foot high aimed at a 24′x32′x14′ (peak) garage 100 foot (horizontal) away and are receiving “Lost Signal” on the other side.

…until we solve the “Lost Signal” issue (which is obviously very time consuming; yet expected) we cannot proceed further with any fair evaluation of the product. Wifi is not for those who expect plug-n-play in every environment….you sometimes need to set the boundary….move the base station around within said boundary…adjust the boundary again…move the station once again…etc.
I could be wrong; yet I think that we are dealing with what can be be produced legally/practically from the system itself (signal/interference-wise) along with the overall capacity of the batteries themselves in both the station and in the collar. We’re giving it a fair chance; as there may be a distance set vs placement that we haven’t come up with yet…and it will take a good deal of patience to come to that conclusion either way.

…we have also experienced the phantom “Signal Lost” beeping when the unit is indeed setting right next to the collar. As the poster indicated; we will be contacting the factory as to what they will be doing about this…as we are reluctant to keep working around the aforementioned garage problem if there are other issues producing the same fault code.

Sidenote: Li-Ion 14500 (AA) batteries are not all built the same. Take a close measurement of your cell before you try and replace it. For instance, the ‘protected’ 14500s used in my high drain LED flashilghts do not fit the collar. Treat Li-ion batteries with respect and do NOT charge if either the base station charger or cell is suspect.

I’d alo like to add that the customer service here has been first rate. Everything about this product has been brought out into the open (even before it was released) and the frankness/honesty displayed here has made jumping in as a ‘beta-tester’ much more easier than expected. Kudos to DIY for this forum and truly caring about our input, either way.

Joe Romph July 10, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Have had the unit a couple of days and am finding areas of “lost communication” while walking around the house approximately 60 feet from the unit. Am trying different locations in the house, but don’t like the fact that the base unit beeps when communication is lost, but the collar does nothing, so the dog could potentially keep going farther away. Would like the collar to shock the dog when communication is lost so the dog would head back towards the house. The jury is still out if this will work for me.

Wondering if the “radio collars” would be “safer” because I believe that they shock the dog when out of range. Not sure if that is true, but if anyone knows I’d appreciate their response.

Steven McJuary July 8, 2009 at 1:25 am

Another first in the industry for Perimeter Technologies Inc.
We have sold many of these and agree with most comments. Exterior walls made of aluminum, steel,block,brick or logs cause resistance to the signal transmitted through it. Moving the unit to a rear window, moving it to the second floor or crawl space can help. I have mentioned to one of Perimeters engineers an idea I had recently. Making available an additional external antenna roof or attic mounted. It would be the ideal way to overcome boundary problems. It could be sold as an accessory for those who need it.
Even buying it to improve the fence still would make this a very inexpensive high tech containment system. It has technology that no one else in the industry can even come close to. This technology can only get better from here on.

Billy Dubois July 7, 2009 at 9:02 pm

I purchased this unit and found it to be a pain to set up as you need 2 people. One shaking the collar, while the other sets the distance from the base unit. The biggest problem is the collar gives a one second warning then 5 seconds of shock that can’t be adjusted. I think we ruined our dog as he won’t leave the house with out us dragging him outside. He has soiled our house several times. We are not pleased.

admin July 2, 2009 at 7:41 am

Thanks Ian. You are correct, the battery is not proprietary … it is an 3.6V Lithium Ion Battery available from specialty battery stores (thanks also to JS for pointing this out).

We got about 10 hours powering the base station from the spare battery.

We also had a customer comment that the first time they used it, it did not go into pairing mode and that they needed to do a master reset (which is in the manual under Collaboration. (again thanks to JS) Seems like a simple fix, it just needs to be properly documented. Note, that we did not have this problem on our test unit, it went straight into pairing mode.

Ian M June 28, 2009 at 11:11 pm

Also just received the WiFi Fence…and have had very similiar experiences as described in this article. Overall it is a great unit. Line of site is definitely required or else a much limited range. Line of site works fine in my yard but I could see that in some situations this would be far from ideal.

Additional features not mentioned here are:

- since it runs on battery spare battery if unplugged from wall means that in theory you could take it with you camping etc and just plug in the battery as needed. Not sure how long the battery would last but I would think several hours.

IMPORTANT: There are slots to charge two batteries simultaneously and the base unit will only run from ONE of the slots (at least on mine). Did not see this documented.

- the battery is NOT proprietary. Yes it’s unusual as it’s a 3.6V lithium AA sized battery …but you can purchase them almost any electronics outlet ie: Radioshack for $16. Likely cheaper elsewhere.

http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2104708

- I totally agree the collar transmitter appears very well constructed with hard plastic and a well sealed battery screw-in cover. It should last a long time.

Problems:
- my base unit beeps and displays ‘Signal Lost’ a few times a day for about 10-20 seconds. Problem is the dog is either in the same room or just one room over and hasn’t moved! One time this happened and it would not recover on it’s own even after I moved the collar within a couple feet from the base unit. The fix was to unscrew and rescrew the battery cover from the collar transmitter to make it reset. This has only happened once but I am making these problems known to the vendor.

- when I first powered on my base station it didn’t go into ‘Pairing mode’ and instead was looking for a different collar that I assume it was previously paired with. After a bit of fumbling around I performed a master reset on the base station to get it to pair with my collar provided. This process was not documented and should be as I thought the whole works was defective.

Overall highly recommended…although the kind of support I receive on this intermittent signal lost problem will be the cincher for me.

Thanks for your review.

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