Basics

Dog Containment Systems and Pet Containment Systems

How a Dog Containment Fence Works

Dog Containment Systems, also known as Invisible Fences*, Pet Containment Fences, Radio Fences, Dog Fences, or Underground Fences, work using three main component:

  • Transmitter Box – the transmitter box usually resides in the your home or garage and sends weak radio signals out through the boundary wire. The controls on the transmitter box control how wide the signals radiate out from the boundary wire.
  • Boundary Wire – the boundary wire is laid around the perimeter of your yard to mark the boundary line that your dog cannot cross. There are wireless dog fences that do not require boundary wire, but they have drawbacks like less precise boundaries.
  • Receiver Collar – the receiver collars are worn by your dog, and listen for the radio signal sent out through the boundary wire.  When the dog nears the boundary wire, the receiver collar beeps to warn the dog to retreat. The collar corrects the dog with a mild static shock if they do not retreat.

To learn more about the different kinds of Dog Containment systems take a look at our Reviews of Dog Fence Systems or Dog Fence Recommendations to figure out which fence would work best with your dog.  Or learn about planning and installing your system and training your dog.

Why a Dog Fence Works

The dog learns there are negative consequences for approaching the boundary and so learns to avoid the boundary.  In much the same way we learn not to touch a hot stove by being told that it is bad and having a couple of bad experiences touching a bad stove, the dog learns not to go near the boundary by us training it to think crossing the boundary is bad and by having a couple of bad experiences going near the boundary and receiving the correction.  Psychologists call this process Operant Conditioning.

Idle Speculation

We have been installing Dog Fences for a while now, and have a theory as to why they are so successful.  We think that Dog Fences mimic the boundaries a dog would have in nature. The closest relatives to our domestic dogs were nomadic but they had boundaries. The boundaries were marked by geographic features such as waterway or biological features such as the presence of competing animals as indicated by scent. The wild dog knows where it is safe to go and more importantly it knows where it is not safe to go.

The domestic dog does not have any of that.  It is not obvious to the dog that it cannot go outside your yard or that it cannot go onto the road. The dog fence fills the gap. It gives your dog a territory and teaches them that leaving the territory without you can be dangerous.

You will find it fascinating to see the change in your dogs once they learn their boundaries. Dogs that were running wild, digging under traditional fences or darting out open doors seem to transform. Suddenly, they are happy in their territory. The dog is at peace and does not worry about things outside the boundary, it does not even see them.  We speculate that dogs crave boundaries and that the dog fence provides the boundaries they crave.

187 Comments

  1. Gail says:

    We have had a Petsafe buried wire fence for several years and love it – our dogs (we seem to always have one Lab and one Corgi) respect it perfectly. Problem is we have a new very active Lab who goes into whatever of my many garden areas after I have been working in there and does a lot of destruction. Is there a movable system that we can employ – even if it needs a different collar but operates in a way they are used to that we can set up (this would be inside our 2 acre in ground wire area, but needs to be portable since the dog loses interest after a bit). I read about some fences to take while camping or on the road, but wasn’t sure what I am asking for.

    ADMIN – Hi Gail,

    You can use wireless units or create perimeters within perimeters.

  2. Jo Jo says:

    I have a toy yorkiepoo that is only a puppy. She will probably weigh 5lbs. when she is full grown. Is there a system that will work for this size dog. I am researching this type of fencing for future use.

    ADMIN – HI Jo jo. Because your dog is so small, we recommend contacting your veterinarian to see if an electric fence is a good fit for your dog due to size. If you do decide to try an electric fence, we recommend the PetSafe Elite Little Dog PIG20-11041.

  3. Renee Linstead says:

    We have a 70 pound German Shepard already trained for use with electric color. We would now to install an underground fence. We have a 1/2 acre lot, so I’m figuring about 555 ft of wire. Do you have a brand you recommend? We have been looking at the Sport Dog or Extreme Dog system (don’t care for the batteries in that one.) Do you have any knowledge that could point us in the right direction as to the best brand?
    Thanks much,
    Renee

    ADMIN – Hi Renee. I would recommend looking at the SportDOG SDF-CT: https://www.dogfencediy.com/reviews/sportdog-contain-train/
    SportDOG SDF-CT Dog Fence is the only system that offers Containment and a Remote Trainer on the same collar. You can have up to 3 dogs on the system and still use the remote feature. This collar is rechargeable and is appropriate for dogs 10 pounds and up but is bulky. This collar is also waterproof to 5 feet. If you do not need the training function on the collar, this system is also cross collar compatible and works with MOST PetSafe collars but DOES NOT WORK WITH THE YARDMAX COLLAR. This system would allow you to use the PetSafe Deluxe Collar (Standard correction levels, good for dogs between 5 and 90 pounds, $69.95), Stubborn (for large dogs or dogs that need more corrective power that are over 40 pounds, $79.95), PetSafe Rechargeable In-Ground Fence Receiver (A rechargeable collar with 4 correction levels ($119.95), Elite Little Dog (for dogs under 10 pounds, $99.95), Cat or standard SportDOG collar ($99.95) collars. These collars would work for containment only and WOULD NOT offer the remote function. This system only operates in traditional mode. This is a good, reliable system that will work well in most configurations. The transmitter will power up to 100 acres of containment boundary wire. This system comes with 1000 feet of 20 gauge wire.

  4. Lynn says:

    I have 2 large dogs.
    The Female was a rescue that already had a history of running.
    A 2 year old 86lbs long hair Female German Shepherd I had her fixed a few months ago and she is gaining weight because she can’t exercise properly her lead line only allows her from the deck 30 feet and that just isn’t enough.
    A 1 year old 87lbs medium hair German Shepherd male pup out there with him. he is fixed as well but I can let him run in my back yard as long as i’m standing there so he gets a lot of exercise so his shape is good.
    My property is just under an acer I would like them to have use of almost all of it.
    the outer rim I would like to use is L 249′ x W 90′ x L 265′ x W 83′ that still leaves me with a 10′ border all the way around from where they could go to the property lines.
    She loves to run off and play in the woods and pond behind my property.
    He only runs when she gets away but he comes back fairly quickly she doesn’t come back till shes worn out and dirty.
    They are both used to wearing collars but I have not had much luck with her responding to the collar if there is an outside stimulus like deer or rabbits and I have plenty of both on my property.
    I hate that she bothers my neighbors when she gets away but she is very friendly.
    Is there a system that would work for her that won’t cost us 2000.00 to 2800.00 because the system I had quoted is just something I can’t get my husband to go for at this price he would rather put in a regular fence and that would limit the use and give me even more work to do since I take care of everything. I want my dogs safe and to have fun with the most freedom possible.
    Any suggestions ?

    ADMIN – Hi Lynn. I would recommend looking at two different systems to get an idea of what your options are for your dogs:
    PetSafe Yard Max PIG00-11115: https://www.dogfencediy.com/reviews/petsafe-yardmax/
    The YardMax is a good, strong reliable system with a few extras such as the YardMax mode. This mode offers a run-through deterrent that would give a continuous correction for up to 15 seconds or until your dog returns into the yard once crossing the boundary. The YardMax collar is rechargeable with a lithium ion battery and has 5 correction levels so it can pack a good zap, if needed. The collar also has indicator lights that let you know if it is fitted correctly or if the battery is running low and needs to be charged. This collar is appropriate for dogs between 5 and 90 pounds. The YardMax collar will ONLY work with the YardMax system and vice versa. This system will support up to 10 acres of wire.

    SportDog SDF-100A Dog Fence: https://www.dogfencediy.com/reviews/review-sportdog/
    SportDog SDF-100A Dog Fence is cross collar compatible and works with MOST PetSafe collars but DOES NOT WORK WITH THE YARDMAX COLLAR. This system would allow you to use the PetSafe Deluxe Collar (Standard correction levels, good for dogs between 5 and 90 pounds, $69.95), Stubborn (for large dogs or dogs that need more corrective power that are over 40 pounds, $79.95), PetSafe Rechargeable In-Ground Fence Receiver (A rechargeable collar with 4 correction levels ($119.95), Elite Little Dog (for dogs under 10 pounds, $99.95), Cat or SportDog (most rugged and waterproof collar and is meant for dogs that are hunting or farm dogs ($99.95)) collars. All of these collars are battery operated and have indicators to let you know when the battery needs to be changed. This system only operates in traditional mode. This is a good, reliable system that will work well in most configurations. The transmitter will power up to 100 acres of containment boundary wire.

  5. John dorosk says:

    I have 6 acres to perimeter. What wire gauge to use?
    A 60 # German shepherd, whasystem do you recommend?
    How high on a fence can the wire be mounted?, is 4 ft ok?
    Love your website!
    John dorosk

    ADMIN – Hi John. We are glad you like the site! I would recommend looking at the PetSafe In-Ground Fence PIG00-13661: https://www.dogfencediy.com/reviews/petsafe-pig0013661/
    PetSafe In-Ground Fence PIG00-13661 is cross collar compatible and works with MOST PetSafe collars but DOES NOT WORK WITH THE YARDMAX COLLAR. This system would allow you to use the PetSafe Deluxe Collar (Standard correction levels, good for dogs between 5 and 90 pounds, $69.95, THIS IS THE COLLAR THAT COMES WITH THIS SYSTEM), Stubborn (for large dogs or dogs that need more corrective power that are over 40 pounds, $79.95), PetSafe Rechargeable In-Ground Fence Receiver (A rechargeable collar with 4 correction levels ($119.95), Elite Little Dog (for dogs under 10 pounds, $99.95), Cat or SportDog (most rugged and waterproof collar and is meant for dogs that are hunting or farm dogs ($99.95)) collars. All of these collars are battery operated and have indicators to let you know when the battery needs to be changed. This system only operates in traditional mode and does not offer the run through deterrent. This is a good, reliable system that will work well in most configurations. This system will support up to 25 acres of wire.
    For 6 acres, you will want to order 2500 feet of wire. This will leave you with some leftover but it’s never bad to have some extra wire on hand in case of a wire break.
    We do not recommend attaching the wire to a physical fence due to the fact that the dogs do not receive the correction until they cross the wire. If it is attached to a fence, then the dog is out of containment as they are receiving the signal and therefore may trap them outside of the containment area.
    With existing fences, we recommend laying the wire on top of the ground in the location you think you want it and testing the collar to make sure it beeps and corrects at the right location on the perimeter loop. This way, if you need to move the wire closer to or further away from the fence, you can do so easily. Once the correct location has been determined, then you can bury your wire 1″ – 3″ in the ground or tack it to the surface of the ground using lawn staples to hold it in place. If you do decide to attach it to your physical fence, we recommend no higher than 1 foot off the gorund and then setting a wide boundary so that the dogs receive the maximum notification.
    Keep in mind that your dog will not receive a correction until s/he actually crosses the boundary wire.

  6. Je says:

    I have a rescue we think is Catalouha Leopard Cur mix female just under 50lbs, esimated 1-2 years old and spayed. She’s sweet and sensitive but won’t respect fence boundaries. I can keep her if I can contain her. It’s 22 acres of ranch property with horse shock wire fencing. What would you recommend? Planning on only fencing approximately 15 acres due to layout. Also can the box be placed next to the horse shock wire box? Thanks in advance!

    ADMIN – Hi Je. I would look at the SportDog SDF-100A Dog Fence:
    SportDog SDF-100A Dog Fence is cross collar compatible and works with MOST PetSafe collars but DOES NOT WORK WITH THE YARDMAX COLLAR. This system would allow you to use the PetSafe Deluxe Collar (Standard correction levels, good for dogs between 5 and 90 pounds, $69.95), Stubborn (for large dogs or dogs that need more corrective power that are over 40 pounds, $79.95), PetSafe Rechargeable In-Ground Fence Receiver (A rechargeable collar with 4 correction levels ($119.95), Elite Little Dog (for dogs under 10 pounds, $99.95), Cat or SportDog (most rugged and waterproof collar and is meant for dogs that are hunting or farm dogs ($99.95), this is the collar that comes with this system) collars. All of these collars are battery operated and have indicators to let you know when the battery needs to be changed. This system only operates in traditional mode. This is a good, reliable system that will work well in most configurations. The transmitter will power up to 100 acres of containment boundary wire.
    To get pricing, you can click on the Add To Cart button on the right hand side of the review page. This will take you to a page with a light blue box with several drop down menus on it. This is where you can add or remove wire, upgrade wire, or select any other add on’s you may want/need. The pricing will update in real time, allowing you to get quotes for everything you may need.
    We recommend installing the transmitter inside a waterproof area that does not drop below freezing connected to an electrical outlet. The transmitter should be at least 5 feet away from metal and/or electromagnetic interference (e.g., metal siding, aluminum siding, metal roof, metal fencing, circuit breaker box, HVAC equipment, washer/dryer, refrigerator, etc) to avoid amplification problems, unintended corrections to the dog’s collar or signal interference.

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