Electric Dog Fence Installation

Overview of Dog Fence Installation

You should set aside about ten hours for the whole installation project. The first and second steps will take about an hour. Burying the wire will take about four hours (if you use a trencher or edger. Doing the driveway will take an hour. And if everything goes according to plan the final connection and testing will take another hour. (The extra three hours is for the unexpected challenges and the much needed breaks that accompany any DIY task).

The Steps of Installation:


Planning the Installation

The first thing we need to do is have your underground utility lines marked so you know where to be careful when digging. 811 is a free service that alerts water, sewer, electricity, cable and gas suppliers to mark your property with the route of any underground utility lines.

Simply call 811 and the utility companies will mark their underground utility lines with either flags or spray paint.  It can take up to  a week so you will want to call now.  If you have privately installed any utilities like a septic system or lines for gas cylinders you will want to mark these as well.  Most utilities are deeply buried (over a foot deep) and you will only be burying the cables a few inches deep so usually underground utilities are not an issue, but it is better to be safe than sorry and dig carefully in areas where utilities are located.

If possible mark the location of any sprinkler system lines or low voltage power lines for any outdoor lighting system you have had installed.  If you can’t determine the location of these lines, make your best guess.  Damaging a sprinkler line or a low voltage power line is not a big deal, both are easy to fix.  Just be sure to shut off the water and power before you start digging.

Diagram Your Yard

On grid paper, sketch a rough map of your property showing any buildings, paths, driveways, garden beds,  underground utilities and other obstacles.  Figure out which parts of the garden you want to give your dog access to and which parts you want to block access to.

Decide where you will locate the transmitter box.  The transmitter should be located near a power outlet and protected from the elements.  Inside a garage or electrified shed is ideal.

Now determine where you will run your fence.  The fence needs to make a complete loop starting and ending at the transmitter box.  You will use a pair of wires twisted together in places where you want the dog to be able to cross the wire safely. For more details on twisted wire, see here.

Design Principles

Some things to keep in mind when deciding on the placement of wires:

  1. Cross utility lines at right angles – you want to avoid running wire close to a utility line for an extended stretch because, in some rare instances a boundary wires running close to a utility wire can induce a signal in the utility wire making part of your home wiring trigger the collar receivers.
  2. Round corners –  boundary wires should turn corners gradually, avoiding sharp 90 degree turns.
  3. Separate parallel boundary wires – Boundary wires emit signals that will cancel each other out, so you want any boundary wires that are parallel to each other to be at least six feet apart.  Similarly, if your neighbors have a dog fence, keep your wires about six to ten feet from theirs.

Sample Layouts

Perimeter Dog Fence Layout

The most popular layout runs along your yard’s perimeter.  This layout allows your dog access to the entire property.

The twisted wire joins the house transmitter box to the boundary wire.  This enables the dog to safely walk over the twisted wire path.

Where possible lay the boundary wire two yards back from the road to give a good safety buffer for you dog and to allow a space for pedestrians.  Also try to allow three yards between the boundary wire and the house on at least one side to allow the dog room to pass between the front and back yard.

Backyard Dog Fence Layout

The challenge in doing a backyard only installation is that you want the house side of boundary to be inactive so your dog can freely enter and exit your home without getting the correction. However, for the system to work, you still need a full loop of single (untwisted wire). There are a number of approaches you can take:

The easiest way to make a complete loop, while only giving the dog access to the backyard is to make a loop that goes tight around the front of the house too. This completes the loop, but there is not enough space around the front of the house for the dog to have access to the front yard. When you do this type of layout, it is important to do a quick check with the collar inside the house to make sure that the signal is not inadvertently spilling into the house in rooms where you dog will stay. If there is a problem, just decrease the boundary width, or move the wire a little further from the front of your house.

Another popular method is go high over the back of your house. Run the wire up a downspout on one side of the house, across the gutter, and down the downspout on the other side of the house. This vertical height over the ground gives your dog enough space to get in and out of the back door without triggering the correction. As always, you want to test with the collar at the back door to make sure there is no signal accidentally reaching down where the dog will walk. Also test rooms near the gutter line to make sure there is no signal spilling into those rooms. If there is unwanted spill, turn down the boundary width setting on the control box until you are getting no spill. This method does not work with the PetSafe YardMax system in YardMax mode.

The final method is to go around the three sides of the yard, then double back on yourself to make a U-shaped loop. The two opposite wires need to be separated by at least six feet to avoid the signals from one loop from interfering with the other.  If they are too close you will not get a nice strong signal along the boundary, and you may have dead spots where there is no correction at all. If you already have a tall fence in place, on way to achieve this without digging is to run one leg of the wire along the top of the fence, and the return leg along the bottom of the fence, so you get the necessary separation. This layout will not work with the PetSafe YardMax system in YardMax mode.

Exclusion Zones
You can also add small exclusion zones to keep your dog out of small areas within your property. For example you may want your dog to have full access to your yard except a small garden bed.To do this you loop some boundary wire around the area you want to protect and join the loop to the main loop with some twisted wire. This does not work with the PetSafe YardMax in YardMax mode.


Figure 8/Hourglass Layout 

The hourglass layout contains the dog in both the front and back yard, but does not allow the dog to cross between the front and back yard. This is great if you want the dog with you in the front or back yard but do not want them crossing between them.
Note that the two loops are connected to each other on the left hand side of this diagram and that they both connect to the transmitter box on the right hand side. One note, where the wires are close to each other as it creates the center of the “hourglass”, you will still want to make sure that they are at least 10 feet apart so as not to have signal interference with its own signal.

Single-sided Boundary Layout

With a bit of inventiveness, you can create a single sided boundary. The only stipulation is that the twisted wire section can only be half the length of the looped boundary wire. For example, if your loop is 100 feet in a circle, you can only run 50 feet of twisted wire back. This install is very popular with people who live in a rural setting and they want to protect their dog from running out onto the freeway. You simply run a long length of twisted wire from the wall transmitter out to the road. Create a long, skinny loop of boundary wire, remembering to keep the parallel sections a minimum of 6 feet separated to avoid the wires interfering with each other. The key for success of this installation method is run your loop far enough along the road so that your dog doesn’t run around it. This layout will not work with the PetSafe YardMax system in YardMax mode.


Lake Front Layout

On a lake front property, if you’d like to incorporate the lake into your fence you have several options.  Do note that there is no danger for your dog to receive a correction when swimming.  The correction level will not change or pose any sort of safety threat.  When incorporating the lake, it’s useful to know if your lake front gradually gets deeper or simply drops off.  Depending on what you’re trying to accomplish will determine how you go about incorporating the lake.  It’s recommended when sinking wire into a lake to run it into a water hose or irrigation hose and sink it to the bottom.  This will protect the wire from critters and fishing hooks.

Lakefront Option One is to simply submerge extra boundary wire out into the lake at your desired distance. Do you want your dog to just be able to walk into the lake a few feet so she can get a drink or lay down in the water to cool off? Or do you want to sink the wire over 10 feet so that she can go for a deeper swim or freely jump into the boat when the family goes out? You’re goal will determine how much wire you plan to sink.



Lakefront Option Two if you have enough yard space, you can use a double back approach to create a three-sided boundary. Simply set an extra length into the lake when doubling back so that your dog will not be able to easily run around the fence. This layout will not work with the PetSafe YardMax system in YardMax mode.



Lakefront Option Three is a modification of the first where you incorporate the dock and boat house, but the lake is otherwise not incorporated into the fence plan.




Gate on the Boundary

The Boundary Gate allows you to create a “gate” along the boundary where there is no correction. This is useful where you have a physical gate that you want to use in this section instead of the electronic fence. For this layout to work, you will need to use the double back layout and keep the parallel wires separated by at least six feet. Where you get to the non-correction gate area, you will bring the two wires together and twist them. This layout will not work with the PetSafe YardMax system in YardMax mode.


Since this requires a lot of extra wiring, many people find it easier to use a non-layout solution. Instead when they create a virtual gate, training the dog that when they you take off their collar and give them permission, they can walk through the gate without fear of correction. This is covered in more detail in the Dog Fence Training section of the website where we look at walking your dog through the boundary.

Load more information on Step One


Mounting the Transmitter Box

The control box (or transmitter box) is the main control unit for the dog fence. It creates the signal that goes through the dog fence boundary wire and creates the boundary.
From the control box, you can set the boundary width (how far out from the wire the warning and correction start).

The control box also includes an indicator that tells you if the fence is operating correctly and will usually sound an alarm if there is a break in the dog fence wire.

Locating the Control Box

The control box needs to be:

  • Near a Power Outlet – preferably, the control box is near an electrical receptacle so you can easily plug it in. When installing a lightning protection module, the power outlet must be grounded (i.e. three prongs instead of two)
  • Near an Exterior Wall – so you can easily run the boundary wire outside.
  • Protected from the Elements – the control box must be sheltered from the elements, particularly moisture, and kept above freezing. Many system manufacturers state that the control box needs to be kept above freezing point, our experience has been that if the box freezes overnight, this is fine as long as it warms up during the day. You may want to test your system in the morning after a cold night to make sure the system is functioning properly.


We usually put the control box in some out-of-the-way location like the garage, garden shed, or in a closet/cabinet on the inside of an exterior wall. After completing the initial installation, you will rarely use the control box, so ease of access is not particularly important.

Weatherproof Box

You can also put the control box outside in a weatherproof box. Weatherproof enclosures can be found at any hardware store, and are found in the electrical section. The weatherproof box provides extra protection if you are placing a control box outside under an eave or on a deck. However, remember, your box does need to stay above freezing.

Mounting the Control Box

Screw the transmitter box to the wall using the supplied mounting screws. If you are mounting onto drywall or masonry, you will need to use the appropriate anchors to get a secure mount. Control boxes are light (around 1 lb), so there is no need to mount them directly into a stud.

Installing the Lightning Protection (optional)

In geographic regions that experience frequent lightning strikes, or for large installations (over 5 acres), it is worth installing the lightning protection module. The module is included in most, but not all, systems. In all other systems, it is available for an additional $40.

The lightning protection module plugs directly into any grounded power outlet. Instead of the boundary wire connecting directly to the control box, the two boundary wires connect directly to the lightning protection module. Two wires are then used to connect the lightning protection to the control box. This configuration protects the control box from surges originating from the boundary wire or surges originating from your home’s electrical system.

Getting the Wire Outside

If the control box is mounted indoors, you need to run the wire outside. If there is some convenient venting or wiring already running outside, then use this opening to run the dog fence wiring. You can also run the wire through a window, or under a garage door. Do not run the wire through dryer ducting. Dryer vents get very hot when the dryer is in use and the insulation on the boundary wire will melt when exposed to this heat.

For most installations, the easiest way to get the wire outside is to drill a hole through the wall, pull the wire through the hole, then caulk the hole to ensure a good seal. Exterior silicone caulk works great for this application.

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Laying Out the Wire

First we lay out the wire above ground and connect it to the transmitter box to check that everything is working before we start burying the wire.

Start by laying out the sections of wire along the path indicated in your plan.  As you lay out the sections of wire, Leave about 20% extra wire to allow for burying.  Use twisted pair wire in the twisted pair wire sections, and ordinary single strand boundary wire for the boundary sections.

Now splice all the sections of wire together and connect them to the transmitter box.  Power on the transmitter box.  The transmitter should should show that everything is ok (usually indicated by a green light).  If the system indicates there is a problem (usully an alarm or flashing light), check that all the sections of wire are properly joined so that current can flow and check the wiring layout to make sure the wire forms a loop.

Now test the system using a collar to double check that everything is operational.  When you approach the boundary the collar should beep.

When everything is working, power off the system, disconnect all the sections of wire and proceed to the next section on burying the wire.

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Burying/Mounting the Wire

There are five principal ways you can bury or mount the dog fence boundary wire.

Many garden centers and home improvement stores rent trenchers with a cable installation attachment.  This machine digs a trench, lays the wire and then buries the wire (saving you a heap of time).  If you have everything ready, you should be able to do a fairly large property (about 1000 feet of boundary) in a half day.  Expect a half day rental to be about $40 including gas.  See for example.

The larger models are easier to use, but are more expensive and may not fit in the trunk of a car.  The smaller models work fine unless you are doing a very large area.  (e.g. over 2 acres)

Various trenchers will work differently, so ask the shop assistant to give you a demonstration of how to operate it.  Of course, always use safety glasses!

The video below gives you a general idea of how trenchers lay wire.  Note that the video is an advertisement for EZ-Trench, and therefore makes it seem easier than it is.  Pulling the trencher is not so effortless through most soils.  Still, trenching is much easier than laying boundary wire by hand.  The trencher is by far the best way to do the job.

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Driveways and Pathways

When you have to lay cable across driveways or pathways you can either: go through the driveway (using either an existing expansion joint, or cutting a slot with a circular saw); laying wire on top of the driveway; or tunnel through the driveway.

The first option is the most popular, because it hides the wire and is easy. Laying the wire on top of the driveway is more visible. And, tunnelling under is very time consuming, so we would reserve this method only for a narrow ornamental pathway that you just cannot cut through.

Expansion Joint Method

If you have a conveniently located expansion joint in your driveway you are in luck. You can just lay the wire in that joint, and caulk over to hold the wire in place.

First, Clean Out the Joint. Clean out the expansion joint of accumulated debris so there is a nice deep trench for the boundary wire, and to help the caulk better adhere to the driveway. A screwdriver makes the ideal tool for this task. Then use a pressure hose or broom to clear away the remaining dirt.



Second, Lay the Wire. Place the wire in the expansion joint, poking it down if necessary with that screwdriver, so that it is as near the bottom of the crack as you can get it.



Third, Caulk. Caulk over the wire with a waterproof caulk. Note that for most caulks to set, the temperature has to be above freezing. So either wait for a warm day, or warm the cement with a torch or similar.



Cutting a Slot with a Circular Saw Method

If you aren’t lucky enough to have a convenient expansion joint in the driveway, the circular saw method is the fastest and easiest way to get across a driveway.  You should budget about an hour for a driveway and about half that time for a pathway.  Professional installers usually do it this way, because you have more control over where you place the wire and it is fast.
Tools Needed:

  • Circular Saw with concrete/masonry cutting blade
  • concrete caulk
  • caulking gun

Find and Mark the Location for your Cut.

Look for a seam that is already in the driveway or path. Cutting along seam will result in a much easier and neater cut. Clean out the seams, these joints often accumulated debris over time. A high pressure washer works great if you have one, otherwise you can use a stiff broom.

If there is no convenient seam, mark out a line across the driveway using chalk. The line will help you make a neat cut.

Second Cut Along your Line with a Circular Saw. 

To make a neat cut, a circular saw will make life easy (a cheap $30 model is fine). You will also need a blade for cutting concrete. Cheap masonry blades are available for under $5 and will be good enough for most cuts – you will only need it for one small cut. For some tougher jobs, you may need a diamond tipped masonry blade which will set you back about $15. Now use the saw to make your cut. The cut only needs to be a half-inch deep. When cutting go slow letting the saw do all the work. If you are making a long cut, take a break every minute to prevent your saw from overheating. Always wear safety glasses when making the cuts as debris will be thrown up. If you need to make lots of cuts. consider renting a concrete cutter from you local home improvement store. (about $50 per day)

Third, Lay the Wire and Caulk. 

Now clean out your cut with a broom. Next lay the wire in the slot you have cut. You may need to use a stick to poke the wire to the bottom of the slot – the warning flags that came with your dog fence work great for this task. Finally caulk over the wire with a concrete sealant. You can buy cans of quick drying concrete at your local home improvement store, they will cost about $3 a canister. We like using Liquid Nails brand Concrete Repair, and the DAP brand Concrete Sealer. Cheaper brands are available in the $1.50 range, but we think the Liquid Nails brand is worth the extra in this instance because it tends to be more durable. Most caulks require a caulking gun for use, if you don’t already have one then you can buy one for less than $5 home improvement store.

When caulking go slow and be neat as the caulk will be visible on your driveway. If you are not confident, use masking tape to cover the driveway on both sides of the cut and remove once you have finished caulking for a neater finish.

Protecting the Ends

The most common place for the dog fence to get a break is at the edge of the driveway where the wire goes from the driveway back to the lawn. This section of the wire is a prime target for your garden edger or weed-whacker. To protect that segment of wire there are easy things you can do:

Bury the Wire Deep. You only need to make a very shallow cut across the driveway. But it really helps if you make a deep cut on the edges of the driveway where the wire crosses over into the lawn. Set you circular saw to full depth and make a cut. This allows you to bury the wire deeper and hopefully keep it out of harms way.


Protect the Wire. Slipping the wire into a short length of PVC pipe will protect the wire against being hit by an edger. The noise will also alert anyone edging to stop edging in this area. Instead of PVC pipe you can also use a old hose pipe, or even put a rock on top of the wire.



Laying Wire Over the Driveway Method

You can simply lay the wire over the driveway. The wire is surprisingly resilient to being driven over. It does tend to wear down over time, but you will typically get 1-3 years of wear out of the wire before you need to replace the section over the driveway. Even better, protect the wire by placing it in an old hose pipe, or a section of soft tubing from an indoor sprinkler system. With this kind of protection the wire will last a lot longer.

One thing to be wary of is that if the wire is not tightly secured to the ground it can become a tripping hazard. So if possible staple it tight to the ground on either side of the driveway.

Tunnel Under Method

Tunneling under is tougher but neater.  You will be creating a passage under the path or driveway.  This avoids putting any cuts through the path and may be useful if you later decide to put in a sprinkler system or outdoor lighting.  The downside is that it is time consuming, you will need to budget two hours for an average width pathway.  Doing a driveway is a labor of love.

On the positive, tunneling under is something you would be unlikely to get if you hired professionals.  If you are willing to put in the time, you can get a dog fence with no scarring of your driveway or pathways.

Tools Needed:

  • PVC pipe (3/4 inch diameter)
  • hack saw

Cut a length of PVC pipe the length of the required tunnel.  Now cut the end of the pipe at a 45degree angle to make a sharp point.  Dig a hole on one side of the driveway about a foot long and a bit deeper than you want the tunnel to be.

Use the PVC pipe to bore through the soil and create your tunnel.  Go only half a foot at a time then remove the PVC pipe by twisting it and empty the soil inside the pipe.

One more thing to keep in mind, you will want to make sure that your tunnel is no deeper than 3 to 4 inches from the surface of your driveway. Any deeper than this and you run the risk of an inconsistent signal between the wire and the collar.

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Connecting and Testing

Last step. Connect the wires to the control box and power on the system. Hopefully you will get a green light from the system telling you that everything is working. Hoorah. Do a quick celebration jig!

(We have done a whole heap of installations and seeing that green light is still a whole lot of fun)  Bask in the glow of your victory!!!

If you are getting a broken wire error from the control box, don’t fear.  Nine times out of ten the break is at one of the splices where you joined two pieces of wire.  Check all the joins.  If that didn’t fix it skip to the section on finding a break in the dog fence wire and hunt down that break.

Now the last part of the installation is setting up the boundary flags.  Adjust the boundary width on the control box so that the boundary reaches the desired width.  Make sure the boundary is at least three feet wide on either side of the wire, much narrower than that and it will be hard to train the dog.  It is easier to start wide, then narrow the width after the dog is trained to give the dog more space than to try and train them with a boundary that is too thin.

To test the boundary, take the collar and the included test light tool (making sure you are not touching the probes), and hold it at approximately the height of the dog’s head and get closer to the boundary wire until you hear it beep or see the collar light flash.  Now using the collar as your guide set the boundary flags at the point where the collar begins to beep and/or flash.  Try to space the flags no more than two yards apart, preferably closer.

In places where you cannot plant the flags in the ground such as the driveway, lie the flags down on the ground.

Congratulations.  Take a breather.  Then when you are ready, lets get started on the most important part, training your dogs to use the system.

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  1. Clayton says:

    I live on a farm with 3 sides of my yard already fenced, can I put just one line across the front of the house, or does it have to be a loop?

  2. paul says:

    my back yard is fenced in but id like to remove the south fence to install a invisible one.THE SOUTH FENCE IS ABOUT 160 FT WIDE do I need to loop it or can I run it straight

    ADMIN – Hi Paul,

    You will need to configure your loop to be oblong following the single sided configuration provided here

  3. steve says:

    I have a 1200-foot old invisible fence wire which has a number of partial breaks that are difficult to find. I want to install a whole new wire fence with better insulated, higher grade wire. Was is the best wire and wire gauge to use? Do I have to remove the old wire? Thanks.

    admin – Hi Steve. The thickest wire that will fit into most transmitters will be a 14 gauge wire. You will want a high density polyethylene coating for durability.

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