In this article, we’ll go over the basics of pet containment systems, how they work, why people choose them, and if they’re worth the money. We’ll even touch on some of the controversy surrounding the Invisible Fence for dogs and similar products.
These days, more and more people are discovering the joys of pet ownership. Pets brighten our days and comfort us when we’re down. Naturally, we want to have happy, healthy relationships with them.
Part of that healthy relationship is setting boundaries, both physical and behavioral. Keeping our animal friends safe is the top priority. One way to do that is by keeping them from roaming around without us.
The Invisible Fence brand of pet containment systems has been around since the early 1970s. However, they’re not the only game in town when it comes to pet boundaries. Many companies have come up with variations on the theme.
Table of Contents
What Is a Pet Containment System?
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The purpose of a pet containment system is to keep your pets from straying off your property. They utilize a collar that your pet wears, a transmitter, and sometimes a wire boundary. When your pet tries to cross the boundary line, they get an electric shock via the collar.
The collars are primarily for dogs, but cats can wear them too. They have two small electrodes that sit against your pet’s skin. When the collar is activated, an electric charge goes through the electrodes and shocks your pet.
Some collars allow you to adjust the strength of the shock, but not all of them. If it’s working correctly, the shock shouldn’t be strong enough to harm your pet; just get their attention. They’re best used in combination with training to help your pet understand the new rules.
Many pet containment system installers offer pet training programs. If you don’t want to pay for training, you can do it yourself. However, it’s essential to train your dog once the fence is in place. Inadequate training could lead to anxiety, aggression, and other behavioral problems.
Since an invisible fence for dogs is by definition invisible, your dog will be confused at first. You can help them understand the new boundary by setting up construction flags along the fence line for a couple of weeks.
For the first week or so, let your dog wear their collar without turning on the system. Then, introduce your dog to the boundary while they’re on a leash. When your dog tries to cross the boundary and gets a shock, bring them back into the boundary and have them sit down.
Safe and effective use of a pet containment system relies on your commitment to training your dog. Without this critical step, these systems can do more harm than good. Don’t just set up the boundary and let your dog figure it out on their own.
Wired Vs. Wireless Invisible Fence for Dogs
Pet containment systems come in one of two types: wired and wireless. With a wired system, a physical wire connects to a transmitter on your property. Then, you or the installation professional runs that wire along the boundary you want to set.
Once you determine where you want the containment area to be, you bury the wire a few inches underground. If you’re crossing pavement or other hard surfaces, you can run the wire through a drainage pipe or along a crack.
Wired fences can block your pet along the property line and keep them out of flower beds, swimming pools, and compost bins. Since the wires are flexible, just about any shape can be blocked off. The wires ultimately need to form a loop, reconnecting at the transmitter.
You can think of wireless pet containment systems as a sort of spotlight. They work by detecting the distance from the collar to the transmitter. So, you can only set a circular boundary with the transmitter at the center.
If you use two wireless transmitters, you can form two circular areas that overlap, giving your pet more space. It’s not always easy to get this circle to conform to your yard’s dimensions. However, there’s no digging or burying involved to install the system.
Why Use a Pet Containment System
It’s not always easy or preferable to have a fence installed around your yard. Some HOAs and local municipalities have rules against them. They can also be expensive to build and hard to maintain. By comparison, the average cost of an Invisible Fence for dogs is more affordable.
Your dog might dig underneath or leap over a traditional fence. With a wireless pet containment system, there’s no fence to clear. The transmitter will deliver a signal to the collar once your dog gets near the boundary.
Keeping pets contained keeps them out of the road and away from altercations with other animals. Any pets that haven’t been spayed or neutered will often try to get out to meet other pets. Before you know it, you could have an unplanned litter on your hands.
Dogs that have a strong prey drive, very protective, or are frightened by storms and fireworks tend to bolt unexpectedly. They can go after deer, raccoons, cats, other dogs, and even cars and skateboards. A loose dog can violate ordinances or attack someone, bringing legal trouble home with them.
Downsides of Pet Containment Systems
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Despite the benefits, pet containment systems are a controversial subject. Many people feel that these systems are inhumane, causing unnecessary pain and fear to the animal. Some European countries have banned them, and there are calls to expand the UK bans further.
The Humane Society of the United States is opposed to shock collars and other invisible fence systems. It states, “While they may suppress unwanted behavior, they do not teach a dog what you would like them to do instead.”
The VCA Animal Hospital takes a more balanced approach. It considers pet containment systems to be convenient, reliable, and aesthetically pleasing. However, VCA also says some dog collars can shock dogs trying to return home, keeping a runaway dog out of their yard.
Under the entry for Invisible Fence on the Consumer Affairs website, users have complained about slow connections between the transmitter and collar. Some also said the system didn’t work, training was too short, and collars malfunctioned.
Since the Invisible Fence and other pet containment systems similar to it aren’t actual physical barriers, a determined dog can still get past them. What’s more, pet thieves, other dogs/pets, and wildlife can access your yard while your dog can’t escape.
Invisible Fence for Dogs – Final Thoughts
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A traditional fence tends to be safer and more reliable than invisible pet containment systems. However, it’s not always possible to install or repair one. If you can’t afford to put up a fence or aren’t allowed to, it’s still a good idea to keep your pet safely at home.
If you decide to have a system installed, you must train your pet to understand the new barrier. You don’t have to spring for an expensive training package to do it. It’s simple to train your dog with a bit of time and patience.
Neglect the training piece, and you can wind up with much bigger problems than a roaming animal. Dogs can become scared, aggressive, and anxious when they’re left to figure out the invisible barrier on their own.
These systems are not suitable for puppies since they’re harder to train younger than six months old. Dogs smaller than 10 lb. may not fit into the collar properly. You should always double-check the requirements with the system provider before making a purchase.
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