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A Beginner’s Guide to Choosing the Right E-Fence for Dogs

A Beginner’s Guide to Choosing the Right E-Fence for Dogs

Pet owners want their dogs to be able to run free and play. But keeping them safe is just as important. Finding the balance between off-leash dogs’ freedom and safety is delicate. This is because pets tend to expand their playground beyond the yard boundaries.

Physical fences could arguably do the job of keeping your pets contained. But physical fences come with related costs and labor. Not to mention the eyesore an erected fence can be. Good thing invisible fences are there to fill the gap.

This blog will guide you on how to choose the right electronic fence for your dogs.

If you’re in a hurry, you can go straight to the part where we tell you what to consider in buying an e-fence. But if you’re a beginner, learning some valuable insights about dog fences would be handy moving forward.

Why Do Electronic Fences Work Better Than Traditional Fences? 

E-fences are also called pet containment systems or invisible electronic fences. Electronic fence systems allow your pets to roam around your property while keeping them within the set boundaries. Unlike traditional fences, e-fences do not require physical barriers to be built in your yard. Physical fences can be unsightly and impractical, especially if your Homeowners Association prohibits them.

Some e-fence systems work on other terrains that are otherwise unsuitable for standard fences, such as water, woodlands, and hills. You can also create customized boundaries with e-fences, marking off areas (e.g., garden, pool, or patio) from dog access.

E-fence systems are easy to install, low maintenance, low cost, and substantially better than traditional wooden or chain link fences.

How Do E-Fences Work?

Invisible dog fences are mainly of two types: wired (in-ground) and wireless. The main distinction between these two e-fence systems is how the boundaries are set.

1. Wired E-Fences

These are commonly known as in-ground e-fence systems. As the name implies, an in-ground e-fence has wires buried shallowly underground to mark the boundary you want to set. The pet fence works with an e-collar worn by your dog, which delivers the stimulation once triggered.

When your dog nears the boundary, the fence transmits feedback to your dog through the dog collar. This warns them to retreat from the boundary line.

A typical underground fence system includes the following:

  • Wall-Mounted Transmitter - transmits a radio signal to the underground wires
  • Receiver Collar - picks up the radio signal and sends feedback once your dog nears (or crosses) the boundary
  • Boundary Wires - are buried underground to form a loop and mark the boundary
  • Training Flags - serve as visual training aids that let you know where the boundary lies
  • Power Adaptor - connects the transmitter to the outlet or surge protector
  • Receiver Charger (for rechargeable units) - is used for charging the receiver collar

Wired E-Fence Package Inclusions

2. Wireless E-Fences

Wireless e-fence systems work the same way as in-ground fences, except that they don’t have wires. A wireless fence sends a radio signal in all directions, creating a circular boundary your dog shouldn’t cross.

The e collar detects the radio signal and emits the stimulation once your dog approaches the boundary.

A typical wireless fence system includes the following:

  • Transmitter - transmits a radio signal in a circular shape
  • Receiver Collar - receives the radio signal from the transmitter
  • Training Flags - act as visual indicators for dogs to see where their boundaries are
  • Power Adaptor - connects the transmitter to the outlet
  • Receiver Charger (for rechargeable units) - is used for charging the receiver collar

Wireless E-Fence Package Inclusions

Can an Electric Fence Hurt My Dog?

Like remote training collars and no bark collars, electric pet fences do not harm your dog but teach them to stay inside your property. Although some people may refer to static stimulation as a “shock,” modern shock collars are generally safe for use. The correction only sends a mild tingling feeling to your dog’s neck, enough to interrupt them from doing undesirable behaviors.

Dog fences are not at all similar to traditional electric fences. The latter uses high-voltage shocks to keep farm animals within the agricultural property. Electronic dog fences don’t work that way. Many e-fence systems have e-collars with vibration and tone options on top of the static correction. Some even went further by having a built-in safety time out to avoid overstimulating your dog. If appropriately used, e-fences are effective tools in training your dogs to stay within property lines.

Importance of Buying the Right Electronic Dog Fence

Just like buying new clothes, gadgets, and home appliances, you want to get the product with a good value for money. Choosing an electric fence for your dogs is the same. You need an excellent e-fence system that does the job. However, there are many to choose from, and they don’t deliver the same results.

Should I get a wired or wireless fence for my dog? How large of an area can the e-fence cover? Which e-collar fits comfortably for my dog? What correction mode would work, or should I opt for more options?

Answering these points will give you the features you need to look for in an e-fence. Getting the right pet containment system is only the initial step. To ensure that you’re on track to dog training success, starting right with the best tool is the way to go.

The Criteria - Choosing the Right Electronic Fence as a Beginner

1. Coverage Area & Boundary Shape

Sample Image of House with Wired Fence Boundary

Pet containment systems can cover small or large areas, depending on the type of fence. Consider how large your property is and the shape of the area where you need to set the boundary.

In-Ground Fence Systems

  • Can cover areas from 5 to over 100 acres (for high-power transmitters)
  • Allow you to customize the coverage area to the size and shape that you want
  • Can be used to restrict access to your garden, pool, or patio
  • Are great for any terrain or landscape

Wireless Dog Fence Systems

  • Can cover smaller areas, typically less than 5 acres
  • Are limited to a circular-shaped boundary
  • Are portable to go for any picnic or adventure
  • Don’t work well on rectangular-shaped perimeters or oddly shaped areas
  • May not be effective in areas with many obstructions, such as dense woodland, or metal structures

2. Installation Process

Illustration of Person with Shovel and Boundary Wire Spool

Wireless e-fences are easier to put up than wired fences since there are no wires to bury during installation. You can have a working wireless fence in less than an hour by just plugging the wireless transmitter, while an in-ground fence takes longer and requires a little labor.

3. Dog Size

Two Dogs Wearing PetSafe Collars

Another key component to consider in choosing an e-fence is the receiver collar. Regardless of what type of fence you’ve decided to buy, getting the correct collar based on your dog’s size is equally important. Not all e-collars are adjustable to any neck size, and the receiver box attached to the dog collar may be too heavy for your dog. If you have a small dog, look for a lightweight receiver collar that won’t strain your pet’s neck.

4. Stimulation Level and Modes

Vibration Correction Mode Icon

Multiple correction levels help you find the right level of stimulation, enough to get a reaction from your dog and redirect their attention. Some dog collars in e-fence systems have only 5 stim levels, while others can go up to 30 levels or more. So, find an e-collar that has adjustable static correction intensity levels. Having more levels is always preferable to less. The incremental adjustments, meaning the jump between levels, won’t be as surprising for your pet.

Also, consider collars that offer other correction modes than static, especially if you have a small or sensitive dog. Many modern e-collars have a beep or vibration option as a warning mode before administering static correction. Thus, if your dog backs away from the boundary line after the warning, static correction is no longer needed. The warning mode may even be the only feedback they need to keep away from the “fenced” area.

5. Expandability

Unlimited Expandability Icon

If you have more than one dog or plan to have more in the future, you need a fencing system that caters to multiple dogs. Some may be only expandable to a limited number of dogs, whereas others can accommodate more as long as each dog has a receiver collar.

In terms of coverage area, an expandable e-fence only applies to in-ground systems. Good wired e-fences can cover an extended area by adding expansion wires.

6. Rechargeability

 Rechargeable Collar Vs Collar with Battery

Rechargeable e-collars are always the better choice. Compared to collars with disposable batteries, rechargeable collars can save you extra costs from buying replacement batteries.

However, if you want to reduce downtime, an e-collar with disposable batteries is a good option. Just make sure you always have extra batteries available. The downside is that most collars use proprietary batteries that are usually expensive and hard to find.

7. Safety Time Out

Dog Lying on Grass with Collar with Text of Collar Settings Overlayed

Most dog collars, if not all, have built-in safety features to prevent overstimulating your dog. Depending on the manufacturer, some automatically shut off after 12 seconds, 30 seconds, or a minute of continuous stimulation. It’s an essential component that should come with the e-fence system.

8. Other E-Collar Features

Fence Collar with Parts Labeled

Aside from the above considerations, ensure the collar is durable and waterproof. You will never know when your dog jumps in the pool or the rain starts pouring while your dog is enjoying off-leash freedom in your yard.

It’s also good to look for collars with battery life indicators to let you know when to charge or replace the battery.

9. Wire Breakage Alert

Illustration of Fence Wire Break

This criterion is only material if you’ve decided on an in-ground pet containment system. It may not be a usual occurrence, but getting alerts in cases of line breaks is helpful to ensure your e-fence is always functional.

10. Battery Backup & Surge Protectors

 Dogtra Lightning Surge Protector

Both wired and wireless e-fence systems connect to an outlet to work. This means neither fence would work in the event of a power outage. A battery backup, such as an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), keeps your fence up and running to ensure your pet stays protected even if the power goes out.

Surge protectors keep the in-ground fence from damage caused by power surges due to lightning. Consider this component if you live in an area prone to lightning strikes.

11. Cost

Brown Dog Against Blue Background with Word Budget

Good features factor into the cost of buying an electronic dog fence. More features mean higher price points. You can have a reliable e-fence starting at $150, but high-power fence systems with chock-full features can go as much as $500 (and over). It’s a matter of deciding what features you value the most and what your dog needs.

Making a Choice

Now you know what makes the best e-fence for your dog. You're on your way to making a more informed buying decision.

Key Takeaways in Choosing the Right E Fence for Dogs

  1. Decide on whether you’ll get an in-ground or wireless fence based on the coverage area, the shape of your property, and ease of installation.
  2. The e collar fence should be proportionate to your dog’s size.
  3. Opt for multiple stimulation levels and correction options.
  4. Go for an expandable fence that allows you to add multiple dogs and expand the coverage area.
  5. Look for e collar fence with rechargeable batteries.
  6. Get an e-fence with a safety feature to avoid overstimulation of your dog.
  7. Contemplate getting a durable and waterproof collar with a battery life indicator.
  8. Consider the wire breakage alert, battery backup, and surge protector in your deliberations.
  9. The safety of your pets should be the top priority in buying an e-fence.

If you’re ready to make that first purchase, we have a few recommendations to help you out:

Best Overall In-Ground E-Fence: Dogtra E-Fence 3500

Dogtra E-Fence 3500 Underground Containment System

The Dogtra E-Fence 3500 is an underground containment system that keeps your dogs safe and secure in your property. It comes with 8 levels of adjustable stimulation and is perfect for dogs 15 pounds and larger. Moreover, it features an advanced radio frequency filtering system that ensures accurate activation. It also has a field width adjustment knob, allowing you to easily adjust the signal width based on your property size. This system is expandable to cover up to 40 acres.

Best Easy-Install In-Ground Fence: E-Collar Technologies PF-1000 In-Ground E-Fence


E-Collar Technologies PF-1000 E-Fence Self Install Kit In-Ground E-Fence


The E-Collar Technologies PF-1000 E-Fence Self-Install Kit is a safe and humane way to keep your dog contained in your yard. The kit includes everything you need to set up a containment system in just a few hours. This electronic fence can be configured to your property size and shape. The collar receiver is customizable to your dog’s temperament with adjustable stimulation levels. The kit also features a tone-only mode for highly sensitive dogs, over-stimulation prevention, and a run-through prevention system.

Best Wireless E-Fence for Small Dogs: PetSafe PIF-300 Wireless Pet Containment System

PetSafe PIF-300 Wireless Pet Containment System

The PetSafe PIF-300 Wireless Pet Containment System is an easy-to-setup e-fence system that keeps your dogs within the boundaries of your home. The system features a 1/2-acre circular area of coverage, 5 levels of correction, and a tone-only mode. The system is fully wireless, so you can take it with you on your next outdoor adventure. This is excellent for dogs 8 pounds or larger with neck sizes between 6-28 inches.

Best Portable Wireless E-Fence System: Petsafe PIF00-12917 Stay and Play Compact Wireless Fence

PetSafe PIF00-12917 Stay & Play Compact Wireless Fence

The PetSafe Stay & Play Compact Wireless Fence is a wireless fence system that allows your dogs to roam safely in your yard or on the go. It features a 3/4-acre circular area of coverage, 5 correction levels, and a tone-only option. This e fence system has a waterproof receiver collar for dogs 5 pounds or larger.

Best Wireless E-Fence for Stubborn Dogs: PetSafe PIF00-13663 Stay and Play Wireless Fence

PetSafe PIF00-13663 Stay and Play Wireless Fence for Stubborn Dogs

The PetSafe Stay and Play Wireless Fence for Stubborn Dogs is a wireless fence that helps contain your dogs within your property. It has a wide range of correction levels, allowing you to tailor the correction to your dog’s needs. With its tone-only mode, this is excellent if you have a dog that is more sensitive to static correction. This fence has a 3/4-acre circular coverage area and is ideal for dogs 5 pounds or larger.

Best In-Ground Fence for Small Dogs: SportDog SDF-100C Rechargeable In-Ground Fence System

SportDog SDF-100C Rechargeable In-Ground Fence System

The SportDog SDF-100C Rechargeable In-Ground Fence System features a 100-acre coverage area, 7 levels of static stimulation, tone/vibrate warning, and a wire break transmitter alarm. The system comes with a waterproof collar receiver, which can fit dogs as small as 8 pounds. This electronic fence is also fully customizable to fit your yard layout.

For more high-quality e fences, check out our collection from these reputable, industry-leading brands - PetSafe, Dogtra, SportDOG, and E-Collar Technologies.

Final Thoughts

Dogs naturally love the outdoors. They love running, playing, sniffing, and chasing in the yard or any open space.

As a responsible pet owner, buying an e-fence system helps your dogs enjoy being a dog. E-fences keep your pets happy within your property while, at the same time, giving you peace of mind knowing your pet is well protected.


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