Friday, October 12, 2012

Electric Dog Fence

We've always wanted to let our dog Akina roam free in the back yard, but didn't want to fence her in on all sides as it would be difficult to get the car all the way back.  We've since added Lucky, so that makes for a better reason to have the fence.  Without it, we'd eventually have two dogs on leads in the back yard getting tangled.

Pamela found DogFenceDIY.com and we reviewed the entire site.  We decided to give an electric fence a try.  As part of the setup process, we both put the collar on our arms and walked across the boundary to feel the shock.  It isn't fun even on its lowest setting but it needs to be serious to keep a dog from chasing a ball, squirrel, or child outside of the property.

The fence has been up for several months with Akina on it the whole period while Lucky needed to get a bit bigger until we thought he'd be old enough to understand and not be hurt by the shock.  I am happy to say both dogs adapted very quickly and we let them out without their electric collars on occasion (although this isn't a good idea).

Wireless vs. Wired
Wireless fences are easy to set-up and can be the best solution if it fits your yard.  You adjust the radius of the boundary from the device in your home, so the dog will have a circular "safe zone" to play in.  If the dog approaches the boundary, the collar first beeps, then sends an electric shock if the dog doesn't retreat from the boundary.


Wireless wouldn't work for us because we have a small, rectangular yard.  The problem with wireless fences is that they aren't 100% consistent and so they have a larger "warning zone".  If you have a huge yard, it wouldn't be a problem if this warning zone was 10 feet wide.  In our yard, the dogs would be confined to a postage stamp with a warning zone was that wide.

Wired
Wired systems work by sending a radio signal through a wire.  You run this wire around the perimeter of your yard.  You then adjust the "warning zone" width to fit your needs.  You can bury the wire, attach it to a house, garage, fence, etc.  The only requirement is that the wire makes a complete loop.

I spent a long time testing and searching for a method online to avoid running the wire around the yard in a loop as we already had the house and a fence blocking three sides.  The only way to do this requires doubling back but leaving several feet in of space in between the wires, otherwise the signals cancel out and there will be no boundary.

The original plan was to bury the wire along the edge of the driveway, but I decided to take a detour and install belgian blocks along the edge first.

I used long zip ties to attach the wire along the top of the fence, then ran it around the front of the house, then finally up the edge of the driveway.

Our System
We chose the Innotek UltraSmart and have been very pleased.
The collars have two metal prongs which need to touch the dog's skin - Akina's thick fur was problematic but Lucky's worked just fine.

When not being worn, the collars sit on a recharger in the kitchen.  They can go many days without charging if need be.

Training
The training process was outlined in a DVD and a pamphlet that came along with the dog fence.

The process is supposed to take a few weeks.  First, you take the dog on the leash to the edge of the warning zone where you planted flags, tell the dog "No!" and pull her back.  This is without the collar on.


Next, you do the same thing, but with the collar on, although you use the plastic caps on the collar so that it does not shock the dog.  This way, she'll hear the beeping and hopefully associate it with being pulled away from the warning zone.

After that, you use the metal caps and have someone walk across the boundary, while you have the dog on a leash.  The expectation is that the dog will follow and receive a shock ("correction").  The next stage of training is to throw a ball or have some other distractions on the other side of the boundary.  At this point, the dog should not want to cross the boundary, even if tempted by distractions.

The dog should then be ready to be off the leash, although still supervised.  If she does well, then you should be able to leave her unsupervised for longer periods of time.

Results
One difficulty we ran into in the beginning was getting the collar properly fitted on Akina.  When you remove the collar from the charger and put it on the dog it is supposed to beep signalling that it is making a connection with the dog's skin and will zap her if need be. 

With Akina, we found that the fur around her neck was too dense.  We took her to PetCo where they shaved two patches for the connectors but this wouldn't work as a long term solution.

Luckily, the collar worked well for the first few weeks and Akina learned her boundaries.  We put the collar on but more loosely.  She doesn't necessarily get zapped, but when she approaches the warning zone, the collar still beeps and that is enough to send her back.

All in all, the electric dog fence has been a great success and improved the quality of life for both dog and dog owner.  Akina and Lucky both love the additional freedom they are afforded, including being able to jump up on the hammock with us in the far corner of the back yard.  We get to open the door and let them out when need be, rather than attaching them to a run or walking them on a lease at all times.  This means more outdoor time for the doggies which they appreciate.

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