Sunday, February 15, 2015

Confused About Electronic Pet Fencing?

OK, so you're searching for containment solutions for your pet. It doesn't take much searching on the internet to learn that there are tons of different options available when it comes to electronic pet containment. It can become very confusing because of all the different systems, brands and features that are available. They quickly begin to all look and sound the same. So how on earth can you make a sound decision? As a professional installer of these types of fence systems, I have been asked a lot of questions over the years. "Whats the difference between invisible fencing and wireless fencing?" "Whats the difference from one fence brand and another?" "What about features?" "Should I install it myself or hire a company?"

I will try and clear up some of your questions, like the ones above, plus explain the advantages and disadvantages of installing a fence system yourself vs hiring a professional.

Where did electronic pet containment come from?

In 1971, Richard Peck, a traveling salesman from Trexlertown, PA, invented what we now know as an electronic dog fence. Peck was troubled by all the stray dogs and looked for ways that owners could keep their dog inside their property without an expensive and visually obtrusive fence. Working with an electrical engineer, Peck came up with the idea of using boundary wires in conjunction with a receiver collar to keep a dog contained. Peck patented his invention and called it "Stay-Put."

Fast forward to today, Peck's original patent has expired and tons of other brands and products have since hit the market. So, where do we begin?

Let's start with the terms used to describe electronic fencing. "Invisible Fence" is a registered trademark of Radio Systems Corp. and is a protected name brand. Much like "Kleenex" is to tissue paper. But, most folks describe this type of fencing using this term, Invisible Fence. But, to make sure we respect this companies trade name, we will use the term underground fencing instead.

Underground fencing is pretty simplistic. It consists of a radio transmitter that produces a radio signal through a wire, much like the antenna on your car. From the transmitter, this wire is buried in the ground along the edge of your property, with the other end of the wire coming back to the transmitter, completing a loop. Then your pet wears what is called a receiver collar. This collar responds to the radio signal that is produced by the transmitter through the buried wire. The collar, when approaching the buried wire, will begin to "sound" or "beep" which acts as a warning for your pet. If the collar comes too close to the boundary wire it will deliver a harmless static correction. Most folks refer to this correction as a "shock." However, the correction is not really a "shock." Instead, it acts as an irritant. Much like what you feel, when you rub your sock-covered feet across the carpet in your home and then reach for a light switch. Most of us have experienced the "pop" that is created from the static when touching the light switch. This is what is felt by your dog. The pop repeats continuously until your dog retreats from the buried wire back into the safety of your yard.

Long before your dog feels this correction, they are put through a training process that teaches the dog to avoid the boundary. This lets them know that approaching the boundary is an undesirable behavior. When the dog experiences the correction, they will soon put together that the boundary is something to stay clear of, resulting in successful containment.

Pretty simple right? Then why is it so hard to decide which system to purchase or which company to have install it?

Well for starters, most of the fence systems on the market today, whether they are sold in your local pet store or by a franchised full service provider, are owned by just a couple of very large companies. These companies often offer DIY kits that are sold under various brand names in local pet stores and online as well as offer full service franchises to install it for you. So although you may see several different "brands" on the shelf, they are usually coming from the same place. I discovered this very quickly when I first started to research this industry when I decided to offer this service to my customers.

Now let's look at the advantages of installing a system on your own verses hiring a service provider.

Installing a system on your own can be very rewarding. Knowing that you successfully contained your pet by your own hard work can be satisfying and very cost effective. DIY fence systems on the market today vary in cost. They are usually priced from $99 on up to $400 depending on the features that are included with the system. Features can vary such as how large of a yard the system can handle, systems made for small pets, systems designed for hearing impaired pets, systems with remote trainers, and the list goes on. Keep in mind that the simple warning/correction concept will apply to all of the fences. These DIY kits usually include 500' of lightweight boundary wire along with training flags, a transmitter and a receiver collar. Installing a "wired" system can be somewhat of a task. This process may take a couple of weekends to complete, depending on how large your yard is or how difficult the terrain is. The wire that is included is on the small size. At only 20g this wire will eventually need some attention, as animals, soil changes and regular lawn maintenance can damage this light gauge wire. There are also wireless fences now available that make installation a breeze. With no wire to bury, you simply plug in the wireless transmitter and it sends out a wireless radio signal that is shape like a circle. As long as the receiver collar that is worn by your dog, stays in this circle, your dog will be contained. The limitations to these wireless systems is in the amount of area they are able to cover. Usually the circle can only be adjusted from around 40' to 210' in diameter with the transmitter located in the center. So if you have a large yard and want to take advantage of the whole area, you will need to install a wired system. Instructions on how to install the system and a manual with training tips are included with the DIY kit. These instructions are usually very limited and the training process is explained briefly. So, do your research on how to properly train your dog. Remember, not all dogs are a good fit for an electronic fence. Dogs that are known to be violent or vicious could become increasingly problematic when on an electronic fence system, as this type of containment will make these types of dogs more territorial. Older dogs with known health issues, such as heart defects, should also look for other means for containment. It is best to check with your veterinarian before investing in an electronic dog fence.

If installing it yourself doesn't sound appealing, than you may want to look into a service provider.

Just like the vast variety of systems on the market, it is no different when it comes to service providers. Depending on your area, you probably have a half dozen providers available to you, ranging from national franchises to locally owned providers. All of which will take on the back breaking labor of installing a fence system so you won't have to. Most providers offer training support. This is a huge benefit over the DIY option. Most respectable fence providers will offer a training program as part of the service to you, which should be designed in leaving you feeling confident in conducting the training with your dog. Simply put, you will take the hard work and trouble shooting out of the process and have the advantage of the personal training support when you have your new system installed by a professional.

So how do you choose which company to use?

You could start with inviting each of the providers out to your home to provide an onsite estimate and to discuss features of the system they install and the service they will provide. You will see that most of them offer very similar products and they all usually claim to be "the best." They will explain why they are better by focusing on a particular feature that their system has over the others. Remember, the same correction deterrent applies to all of the systems and the outcome should be the same no matter who you decide to go with. The investment cost to you for a professionally installed system will vary by company but not by a huge margin. One feature to consider are batteries. All of the fence systems require a battery to operate the receiver collar. Some collars take a replacement battery and others are rechargeable. Most service providers prefer the disposable battery option. They often offer a "battery plan" where they will auto charge your account and mail out fresh batteries to you. This makes replacing the battery in your collar easy to remember. Replacement batteries vary in price, but most average $20 each and typically last 3 to 4 months. This reoccurring cost can add up, especially if you have multiple pets. Personally, I enjoy the rechargeable collars. The rechargeable battery technology today is extremely reliable and long lasting. Our most popular rechargeable system takes about an hour to charge and lasts up to 3 months on a single charge. This is really convenient and economical.

When trying to choose a fence provider, my personal opinion is to focus less on the special features and pay more attention to the "service" part of what they have to offer. Ask about the training process they use, how they conduct the training, what techniques do they use to train your pet, or is it left entirely up to you. If they do offer the training, do they charge extra for it or is it included. Do they seem genuinely concerned for your pet? Do you feel comfortable with leaving your pet in the hands of this provider?

Then ask about the installation. Do they install premium gauge wire with a protective jacket? Do they take their time installing the system properly, taking precautions to prevent issues in the future? What kind of guarantee do they offer on their work? This guarantee is separate from the "warranty." Usually a warranty only applies to the equipment, excluding the wire and the workmanship. So it's good to ask specifically.

After you have interviewed all of the providers in your area and have followed the above mentioned guidelines, you'll be much more qualified to make this important decision. Remember, your pet's safety is what is most important. Go with what your gut tells you and you'll soon have your pets running freely, all the while safe in your yard!

Hopefully I have left you feeling a little more confident in your quest for a pet containment solution. Please feel free to visit my website for more information about the service we offer at as well as DIY dog fence kits available on our online store

Good Luck! - Adam Hatela
Owner / Operator of Outdoor Pet Solutions located in Nashville, TN

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