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* Tips and tricks you won't find anywhere else * Answers to readers' top questions * Reminders to check your dog fence batteries

Do invisible dog fences really work?

If your dog is an escape artist, you've probably tried more than one way to keep him in your yard. The creative solutions I've seen include: chicken wire and/or concrete pavers installed around the base of a traditional fence (sometimes even a few inches into the ground); chain link dog kennels that keep a dog cooped up all day; constant supervision; yelling, pleading, and tears.

Not only are some of these solutions pretty unsightly (especially the yelling and tears), they rarely actually work. A motivated dog — even a small one — can quickly destroy chicken wire or chain link; constantly supervising your dog gets really old really fast, especially when the weather is bad; and, finally, dogs just don't respond to emotional manipulation the way we humans tend to.

On the other hand, invisible dog fences really do work for almost any dog. Read on for answers to the questions folks commonly have when they hear that very definitive statement.

I know someone who tried an invisible dog fence, and it failed. Why would a dog fence work for me?

Electronic dog fences do occasionally fail. Most of the time, however, they work just fine. So, what's the difference? Why do most dogs respond well to a dog fence, while a small percentage don't?

The answer is that most invisible dog fence failures are not a result of the technology itself. Instead, they are caused by inadequate training or low-quality hardware.

TRAINING: An electronic dog fence is really nothing more than a training aid that teaches your dog to stay within a defined boundary. For your dog to respect the dog fence, you must spend at least 15 minutes a day for the first 10 - 14 days after you install it training him to understand how the electronic fence works.

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Along these same lines, once your dog is trained to understand how the dog fence works, you must make sure that he wears the dog fence collar (receiver) EVERY TIME he is outdoors. Also, you should periodically check the receiver to ensure that the batteries are charged and the unit is working correctly.

HARDWARE: Lots of different brands of dog fencing are available online, at retail stores, and through local pro installers. Unfortunately, not every brand has the features you'll need to reliably contain your dog. When shopping for a dog fence that will reliably contain your dog, you should look for the following features:

  • A transmitter that includes lightning protection (or get a separate lightning protection device)
  • A receiver (the device your pet wears around his neck) that includes a variety of correction levels, from very faint to relatively powerful
  • Comprehensive warranty support
  • Wire that is rated for outdoor use

My dog is really stubborn. Why would he respect an invisible boundary?

Most dogs — even really stubborn ones — can learn to understand and respect an invisible dog fence. The key word in that last sentence is "learn." If you just install a dog fence, slap the collar (receiver) on your dog, and then stick him in the yard to figure it out on his own, at best you'll confuse your dog and at worst you'll flat-out frighten him. But, if you use a collar with multiple correction levels and follow an adequate training process, your dog will likely learn very quickly to stay within his invisible boundary.

If your dog is particularly stubborn and you're really concerned about your ability to train him to respect an invisible dog fence, then you should consider working with a pro installer who offers a containment guarantee rather than going the do-it-yourself route. Pro installers are used to working with hard-to-train dogs and know the little tricks that help stubborn dogs respect their new boundaries. By the way, if your pro installer doesn't offer a containment guarantee that promises to refund your money if your dog really can't be trained, then you should look at other options.

Are citronella and sonic dog fences as effective as those that use static correction?

The short answer to this question is, "No."

Sonic and citronella fences are generally effective only for very timid or sensitive dogs. Most dogs don't find these fences aversive enough to avoid when distractions are high (for example, when local wildlife or neighborhood kids happen by). If you only need the dog fence to keep your dog out of a flower bed or the trash, a sonic or citronella fence may be worth a try, but don't expect it to reliably keep your dog in your yard.

If not, Google the keyword phrase "petsafe dog fence" to learn more:

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Invisible Fence®, PetSafe®, Guardian®, Innotek®, SportDOG®, RadioFence®, ComfortFit™, UltraLight™, Deluxe In-Ground Fence™, and Contain N Train® are trademarks of Radio Systems Corporation. PetStop®, Wire-Free®, and Perimeter are trademarks of Perimeter Technologies. DogWatch® is a registered trademark of DogWatch Inc. is not affiliated with Radio Systems Corp, Perimeter Technologies, or DogWatch Inc. and diclaims any interest in any trademarks not its own.

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