When a Dog Fence Stops Working

Reader Heather asks what she should do when her underground fence stops working for two of her dogs.

I have 2 large Rottweilers and a German Shepherd Mix with extremely thick double under coats about 90 lbs and 1 small terrier about 15 lbs, undercoat is not a problem with her. We have an underground fence and the 3 collars. When we first got the 2 large pups, they were fine, we introduced the fencing to them at about 4 mos old when they started to leave the yard. They did great for about 4 mos, then for some reason they would just run through the boundary and it wouldn’t phase them at all, so we turned up the box from 4 to 8, but then noticed that the little dog wasn’t able to tolerate it at all. In the past, we used the fence above ground as we had a 4 ft no climb fence around our yard, and instead of burring the wire we just attached it to the existing fence to keep our German Shepherd in and it worked great with her thick coat.

The dogs have since dug up the wire and snapped it, and the snow accumulation is over 5 ft this winter and I wonder if that would have interfered as well with the productivity.

The skepticism I have with the productivity of a wireless fence is that, we also have a metal (aluminum) roof, that at times our cell phones don’t work well indoors because of it, and not to mention the thick double undercoats of the 2 large dogs and the greater sensitivity of the 3rd small dog. Also we live on a “lot” (perhaps 1/2 acre?) the house and garage takes up most of it and we have neighbors with fences on either side. I want to be able to keep the dogs from running down the street and to the park across the street from our house, but still be able to be in the yard with out feeling confined to close quarters so to speak.

I am doing this research quickly before the summer hits as that is when they are most active, and people are at the park all summer long. Our pups are not aggressive, but they could cause a raucous if they steal someones tri-tip off the grill……. YIKES!

Need to find something that is going to be easy on the pocket as well, we are a family of 4 and in California no doubt. Oh that can expand as well when needed, as we are renters, and my goal is to find a home with quite a larger yard! (and less neighbors….. ….. )

Thank you for your advice.


Hi Heather,

From the symptoms that you describe, that the dogs would run through without a reaction, the system has either stopped working or the collars aren’t fitted properly and the dog’s aren’t getting the correction. Start by testing the two collars, and seeing if they are still shocking when you take them to the boundary line.

The snow does block the signal and that could also explain why your dogs were able to go past the boundary without getting the correction. During winter, when the snow accumulates on the ground, you need to turn up the power at the base station (usually a knob labelled Boundary Width or something similar) to get the signal to penetrate all that snow. You will then turn it back down when the snow melts in spring.

If they are still shocking, the issue is most likely that the collars aren’t getting good contact through that thick undercoat. Thin out the fur a little with some scissors, and when putting on the collars, use your fingers to move fur out of the way so you can actually feel the collar prongs touching skin. You also want to fasten the collar tightly enough that you can only slip in 2 fingers, between the collar and the dog’s neck. If they have been getting out, you will also want to repeat the last week of the training.

If the system you currently have works, then stick with it. If the system is defective or otherwise needs replacing, the PetSafe Stubborn would be a good choice. You could use the PetSafe Stubborn collars (plus the optional long-prongs) with the two bigger dogs, then add a milder PetSafe Deluxe collar for the smaller Terrier. If you wanted something rechargeable, the Dogtek EF-6000 would also be a good choice (and has small enough collars that it could be used with all three dogs).

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