How well do invisible fences work? We need one for our dog.
January 5, 2005 9:17 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for an invisible fence for our 15 pound Schnoodle. Are the store-bought models sufficient, or should we go with a professionally installed system (i.e. these folks)? Do they work when there's snow on the ground?
posted by schoolgirl report to Pets & Animals (9 answers total)
I can't help with your fence question as I don't have a dog or invisible fence. When I saw your question, I thought "schnoodle," what the heck is a schnoodle? I thought that you named your dog Schoodle. Then I googled and found that it is a mixed breed and really cute.
posted by Juicylicious at 10:10 AM on January 5, 2005

The site you listed says: To maintain optimal performance of your Invisible Fence, we recommend that you not pile the snow on your Invisible Fence boundary line. This can create an exit path for your dog if the snow is piled higher than your Invisible Fence signal field.

Also, it's my opinion that you could probably go with the store-bought models if you like, but for peace of mind and wear and tear, I'd go with something professionally installed.

I, too, had to google schnoodle. Google schnoodle google schnoodle.
posted by Specklet at 10:33 AM on January 5, 2005

I have neither dog nor fence but my brother does. I helped him install it around a 1/2 acre lot and it was a lot of work (dug small trench around most of property to have cable underground. Cut slot in drive to run cable under pavement.). If you're at all handy it shouldn't be a problem. He's had to repair his occasionally (he keeps hitting it with a shovel) but that too hasn't been difficult - you tune a portable radio to a particular frequency and it will signal line breaks.

His dog took about two weeks to learn where the cable was and to stay away from it. Once she's learned it she'll go a long time before she forgets it's there. Most recently they discovered that the thing had been off for at least a year yet the dog stayed in the yard.

Snow hasn't been a problem, but again, it might be hard to tell if it isn't working because she won't go near it anyway.
posted by TimeFactor at 10:52 AM on January 5, 2005

Response by poster: Hah, yeah, I should have explained the Schnoodle thing. There are lots of -oodles around: Labradoodles, Goldendoodles, Cockapoos, Yorkipoos. They don't shed and are good for people with dog allergies (like my wife). Spike, our Schnoodle, is super cute if a wee bit yappy and prone to greet other dogs up close and in person. Hence the need for the fence.

As far as snow goes, sounds like I'll need to know the signal field and shovel accordingly. The store-bought models aren't too expensive, so maybe I'll give one a shot and see how it works out. Thanks for the help!
posted by schoolgirl report at 11:16 AM on January 5, 2005

I'd suggest you do a bit more research before you decide for sure that this is appropriate for you. Regardless of what the manufacturers say, every dog has something that they will withstand the zap for (squirrels, cars, other dogs, etc.) no matter what, and once they're out, they're unlikely to want back in enough to brave another zap. The invisible fence also doesn't keep other things out of your yard, some of which can harm your dog (like people, other dogs and wildlife), and some of which your dog can harm (like children). Personally, I feel they can give a dangerously false sense of security and would not rely on one if I were planning to leave my dog unsupervised (a proper six-to-eight foot physical fence with a locked gate is the only confinement method I'd trust). That said, I'd go with a professionally-installed one if I had to use one.
posted by biscotti at 11:19 AM on January 5, 2005

After spending a weekend installing a 4 foot chain link fence, I found out that my dog can easily jump 4 feet. So I decided to get an invisible fence. I looked around at the usual places like Petsmart and Petco, and then found was much cheaper. I order one from them and have had it installed for about 2 weeks.

Basically, its a control box that you plug into a regular outlet, and a long wire that you string around the area you want to fence in. It was easy for me to install, I just wove it through the chain link fence and then buried it under the gates. The control box has a nob to adjust how big the correction field is (i.e. how close the dog gets before he gets a shock) and another switch to adjust the correction level (i.e. how big of a shock the dog gets). The collar takes a standard battery.

Be careful training your dog though. I made the mistake of letting mine of the leash to early. Long story short, he got stuck in the correction zone for about 30 seconds and is now scared to go in the back yard.
posted by gus at 11:44 AM on January 5, 2005

A couple of points after speaking to my brother.

He has an original Invisible Fence, which was ridiculously expensive to install. His model has an adjustable field strength so even if you live in Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, or Buffalo you can turn it up strong enough to compenstate for any snow fall.

You will need to be able to drill a hole from the inside of the house. His model, at least, is not weather-save, so you'll need to run the line through the external wall and have an outlet handy inside.

My brother discovered you can use ordinary lamp cord instead of the expensive replacement cable. Separate the two strands, strip the ends, and attach to original cable with wire nuts. This is for repairs or if you need greater length.

I will always defer to biscotti in animal matters, and all your points are valid. In my brother's case, though, a hardware 6"+fence would have been so expensive in comparison that his dog would have essentially ended up in a little pen (and his dog can jump 4 feet - border collie/shepard mix). Now she gets the run of most of the yard and is I think much happier. They live on a busy and dangerous street so the options were to keep the dog inside, build a prison cell for the dog, or give the dog up for adoption, none of which my brother (and his kids) was willing to do. And it's worked for 12 years (and at two locations - my brother moved his setup from one yard to another when he moved). I have heard of others with more determined dogs that will learn to tolerate the zap to get out and those like gus's that get traumatized and just won't go outside but neither's been a problem for my brother.

By the way, my brother tried the collar and fence on himself, thinking he wouldn't subject his beloved dog to something he wouldn't tolerate. He said it was more of a buzzing than a shock. His dog reacts as though she's annoyed, not in pain, when it goes off.
posted by TimeFactor at 1:42 PM on January 5, 2005

When the telephone company has to run wires underground, they use a machine made expressly for it, and so they avoid the huge effort of digging. Do the Invisible Fence contractors have one of these?
posted by smackfu at 6:42 AM on January 6, 2005

The machine is called a ditch witch. You can rent them in different sizes depending on what size cable you are burying and how deep it has to go. The business end looks like an over sized chain saw.
posted by Mitheral at 9:54 AM on January 6, 2005 [1 favorite]

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