Wireless invisible dog fencing
March 2, 2007 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Is wireless, invisible dog fencing effective, and if so, which brand(s) would you recommend?

I'm needing to install an electric dog fence for our 2 dogs (1 boxer, 1 half boxer). Due to the rocky (a$$loads of shale) nature of our yard, the accessible area needing to extend into the woods and brush, and my own laziness, I'm looking at the wireless types of invisible dog fencing. Not having a clearly defined area, ie keeping them out of a neighbors yard, isn't an issue since there is no one nearby. We simply need to keep the pups near the house.

If anyone has any experience with these, I would love some feedback on their effectiveness, range, etc. Also any recommendations on particular brands would be much appreciated.

Thanks in advance.
posted by MrToad to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I haven't installed any of them myself, but I have survived countless assaults by my neighbor's attack dogs due to an invisible fence. Never got mauled once. Can't say as I know what brand he was using. Sorry.

Also, I'm not sure it was the invisible fence that was keeping them at bay so much as the dogs' instinctual recognition of territory and not to cross into "mine".

However, what I do have experience with is dog doors. Put one of those suckers in, and your dog won't leave (so long as you're feeding him well). We had dogs that just ran free, chasing squirrels and birds and whatnot; they always came back when it got cold, or they were hungry, or they just plain got bored and wanted to be petted. That won't work if you're near the road, though.
posted by mr_book at 10:52 AM on March 2, 2007

I can't speak to brands, as the fence I had was purchased by my parents when I was pretty young (about 15 years ago).

I will say, however, that you had better be damned sure you follow the training instructions closely. This is crucial. Our poor schnauzer was so frightened of the shock that he wore a path around our house no more than six inches from the foundation. He never strayed from this little moat he created for anything.

You only get one chance at the training so study hard.
posted by OpinioNate at 10:55 AM on March 2, 2007

Any of these are going to be completely ineffective in several ways.

First, they will not keep other dogs (or coyotes) from wandering onto your property and messing with, fucking, or killing your dogs.

Second, they will not prevent the creepy kid from next door from wandering into your yard, poking one of your dogs with a stick repeatedly until it snaps at him, and getting sent to the ER while your dog is euthanized as a menace and you lose your homeowner's insurance forever.

They can also be ineffective in other ways. If the dog is strongly motivated to leave -- ie there's a *very* sexy bitch in heat nearby, or a yummy bunny is running away -- it can leave any time it's willing to get a zap in exchange for the goodie.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:00 AM on March 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Are these dogs primarily indoor pets?

A super large outdoor kennel might work in this situation. You want something to keep the woodland critters OUT.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 11:13 AM on March 2, 2007

My brother-in-law has one for his young Vizsla, which is really high energy (the dog, not the fence). She respects the boundary, and runs freely in the yard. No problems.

My uncle had one for his dog, and it figured out that if it ran full speed, it could clear the fence. If he really wanted out of the yard, he'd take the hit, shake it off, and keep running.

Invisible fences, in general, can be effective for keeping dogs in, but their effectiveness will depend on the craftiness of your dogs.
posted by Gamblor at 11:26 AM on March 2, 2007

I have no experience as a customer of any invisible fence, but I can relate the following anecdote: someone in my neighborhood with a big corner lot set up an invisible fence to keep his two big (80+ lb) dogs in check. A couple months later, one of these dogs escaped and attacked a neighborhood kid.

That house is now surrounded by an 8' stockade fence.
posted by adamrice at 11:26 AM on March 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

They do work for containment for some dogs. I would never use one except as a last resort for the reasons ROU_Xenophobe mentions, among others. Too many possible points of failure, and the consequences of failure are very great. The failure of a physical barrier (fence gate left open, for example) are just as perilous, but the physical barrier will indeed keep stuff out. A dog who exits an open gate can also return through the gate. A dog who decides in a moment of adrenaline to bust the electronic barrier must now face being shocked to return home. If you go this route, do not take any shortcuts on the training.
posted by cairnish at 11:28 AM on March 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Both of the over-exuberant labs in our family responded very well with the invisible fence system. I'm not sure what you mean by "wireless" - ours involved wires buried in the ground, but perhaps there is another method. In any case, I'd imagine the training is about the same. Both of our dogs got to the point where they could be let out without the collar on, and they'd stay in the yard. Prior to that, we couldn't bring them outside without a leash or they'd bolt down the street. Now, the remaining dog will put skid marks into the grass to stop himself in time if he's chasing a ball that goes out of bounds before he can catch it. Obviously other people above have had less success with their dogs, but in some cases it works.
posted by vytae at 11:29 AM on March 2, 2007

A friend of mine had a dog who decided that the freedom was worth the shock. He'd jump through, go hang out with his friends, wander the neighborhood - and then come home, sit down about 6" away from the invisible fence and bark until my friend came out, took off his collar and let him back in. Right now, though, I'm looking at them myself, because I have one dog who will never, ever leave our conventionally, if somewhat haphazardly, fenced yard and one who clambers blithely over, under or through the fence on every opportunity. So I'm thinking about running a visible electric wire at dog nose level, like a cattle fence, and I've been pricing them. They seem to be a little cheaper than the invisible ones albeit a bit more complicated to install, but then you've got a fence that will keep other critters out as well as your dogs in.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:46 AM on March 2, 2007

All of the dog-rescue folks I know hate those things with a passion, and have horror stories of dogs winding up in shelters, or dead on the side of the road, still wearing their shock collars. Smart dogs can and do figure out how to game the system, like odinsdream's GSD. More stoic or stubborn dogs can of course just run right through the shock if something sufficiently tempting wanders along...but the shock may then deter them from coming back home. And as folks have already mentioned, the lack of a physical barrier means there is nothing to keep other dogs or wild animals from getting onto your property and attacking your dog, and nothing to prevent humans from teasing or even stealing your dog.

That said, it sounds a bit like you're in a more rural setting, so there's not the constant temptations or dangers of other dogs, friendly or mean neighbors, etc. that you might have in a more suburban neighborhood...but you probably have lots of small wild critters around, so if your dogs like to chase squirrels and such there'd still be lots of incentives for them to go through the "fence". Your boxers may not be as bad about escape-artistry and wanderlust as the sledding breeds I'm used to; if they're mostly homebodies and not too sneaky, maybe this could work for you. But it's still just not as secure as a real physical fence. I wouldn't be comfortable taking that gamble myself.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 11:53 AM on March 2, 2007

I second what ROU_Xenophobe said.
They can work, but not with all dogs., and dogs willing to take the zap to chase something, are not always willing to take it when returning home. I had a neighbor who lost a dog to an akita, who just came into their yard and stalked it.
posted by lobstah at 12:23 PM on March 2, 2007

dogs willing to take the zap to chase something, are not always willing to take it when returning home

This is Reason A-No. 1 to NOT use an invisible fence.

Dogs are dumb (but lovable). They chase squirrels and cats and cars and kids on bikes and whatnot. In the heat of the moment, they will gleefully forget the shock is coming (or disregard it entirely in the name of protecting territory) and blaze right through it. Then, when the squirrel is safely up the tree, the dog will get zapped coming back.

Don't have a fence? Well, don't have a dog...
posted by frogan at 12:39 PM on March 2, 2007

All of the dog-rescue folks I know hate those things with a passion, and have horror stories of dogs winding up in shelters, or dead on the side of the road, still wearing their shock collars.

Of course, dog rescue folks never see the examples of the fence working just fine, because they don't end up there.
posted by smackfu at 12:51 PM on March 2, 2007

IMO, a shock collar s/b just a tool to be used for training, not a replacement for a fence.
posted by artdrectr at 1:06 PM on March 2, 2007

Response by poster: I'm speaking specifically of wireless fencing...ie there is no underground wire buried along the perimeter of the yard. Like this.

Our dogs aren't super hard-headed and aren't the type that bust off after the first squirrel they see. We live in the sticks. By this I mean, there aren't houses for over a half mile in any direction. We have no issues with neighbors or other dogs or wild animals or any of that. Our dogs just sometimes like to take a little stroll that has gotten us worried a time or two. We simply want to encourage them to stay within a reasonable distance of our house without us having to keep our eyes on them the whole time they are outside. And yes, they are inside dogs.

I know plenty of folks that use the underground type of fencing but was curious about the efficacy of a wireless set like the one I linked above.

Thanks a bunch for all the responses so far.
posted by MrToad at 1:47 PM on March 2, 2007

Dittoing the "Dogs will chase something out of the yard and then not be able to get back in" comments.

So, sorry, but a better option is a regular fence that's too high for them to jump. (You'd probably be suprised at how high they'll be able to jump if they really want to, though I don't know about boxers specifically.) Would fencing in a smaller area and taking them on walks in the woods/brush area be an option?
posted by sleeplessunderwater at 1:52 PM on March 2, 2007

I don't know with other breeds, but I do know you absolutely cannot have them with sighthounds, because they will run outside the fence on seeing something they want to chase, then they can't get back home because of the shock as people have mentioned above.

Good fences make good neighbors. Get a fence. It doesn't depend on batteries.
posted by winna at 2:24 PM on March 2, 2007

Most people have already given their comments so no need for me to ditto. Just needed to say that if you have a dog who uses an invisible fence, never put a regular shock collar on him. To him, it's like being dropped in a minefield and many dogs will shut down.
posted by hindmost at 3:09 PM on March 2, 2007

I had a wireless fence for my Lab. The brand was PetSmart. I was very happy and pleased with the fence and would recommend it to you. I too, lived in a wooded area and was primarly interested in keeping the dog near the house. It was very effective. She only ran thru twice in 3 years.

The way this fence works is the collar will not shock as long as the dog is in the safe area. If they run out of the safe area, they will hear a warning noise and then the collar would start to shock. The collar will continue to shock as long as the dog is outside the safe area. It is very important to train the dog well and teach them to run back towards the house when they hear the warning sound.

The only thing you need to be careful about is if the electricity goes out. The collar will react (start shocking) as if it was too far out of range. What I did was take her collar off or remove the batteries if we had bad weather expected.

My dog was very respectful of the safe area. The collar battery would be dead several months before I would realize it. My dog stayed inside the safe area even if she was not wearing her collar. Fences were not allowed in my neighborhood. Without this wireless fence, I would have had to give up the dog.

Good luck!
posted by JujuB at 4:25 PM on March 2, 2007

How about for cats? Anyone used an invisible fence for cats?
posted by gottabefunky at 4:52 PM on March 2, 2007

We have a beagle who is primarily an indoor pet. We installed our invisible fence many years ago and have had nothing but positive things to say about it. You definitely have to follow the training guidelines to get the dog acclimated to the boundaries.

Even when chasing something, our dog has never actively breached the boundary. She always pulls up short of the line. Again, good training counts.

Just to be fair, you should shock yourself with the collar, just to see what your dog gets hit with.

A few years ago, I saw a variation on the shock collar. Instead of shocking the dog, the collar squirted a quick spray of citronella up into the dog's snout. It was touted as being more humane.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:14 AM on March 3, 2007

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