How Do You Activate an Invisible Fence? (Solved!)

There are two different invisible fence systems, the in-ground and wireless options. They both have electronic items in common, such as a receiver dog collar and a transmitter that sends out of the signal. 

However, the key difference is that the wires in the in-ground system follow an easily seen and customized boundary, the wireless system can only be in the shape of a circle and temporarily requires flags to visualize the boundary.

Both allow for trial-and-error setting by approaching the boundary and using flashing lights and beeps to establish the range. Both use settings to set the range or the boundary as you see fit. 

Distinguishing Between In-Ground and Wireless Invisible Fences

There are actually two main categories of invisible fences for dogs. This is important in knowing how to activate an invisible fence.

The in-ground one relies on a perimeter wire buried under the ground. The wireless one doesn’t rely upon a wire running under the ground or even upon fences, but rather follows an electronic range projected by a transmitter located inside the house.

What are the Advantages of Each Category?

With the greater strides yearly in the manufacture of global positioning systems (GPS) equipment, the wireless options are becoming more reliable and appealing. Plus, if the owners sell the house, they don’t have to worry about handing over the lawn’s underground wires to the new owners, who may not need or want them.

Plus, the wireless option is a lot easier to set up. No digging required!

The disadvantage of the wireless option is that you can’t customize your space. Rather, the boundary would be set by a circle set by the transmitter onto the front and back yards. So if your yards are square or rectangular in shape, or you have unique features (such as gardens) that you want off limits, the wireless option won’t let you set custom boundaries.

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The Electronic Components of In-Ground Invisible Fence

For now, let’s assume the underground wires are all set under your lawn and all you need to do is program the in-ground electronic fence. 

As part of the kit you purchase, aside from the wires and boundary flags, you’ll also receive two main electronic items; a transmitter and a specialized collar for your dog called a receiver collar. 

There’s also included a one-time set-up item: a test light tool which you attach to the receiver collar just one time when you’re setting up the controls. (The wires should be above ground at this point, still not yet dug in, in order to make sure it works before you do all that digging). 

Setting up the Transmitter (Both In-Ground and Wireless Options)

The transmitter would be set up inside the house and mounted to a call, close to an electrical outlet since it has to continually be plugged in.

In all cases, it’s recommended the transmitter not be too close to heavy duty appliances like refrigerators, washers, or dryers since the large metal mass of each could slightly interfere with the electronic signals. 

Remember also the transmitter is the epicenter of the wireless circular range, so keep that in mind when you have a wireless system. Finally, for in-ground systems, you need to locate the transmitter near an exit from the house for the attached wires to run outside the house.

Initiating the Boundary Width (In-Ground Option)

The boundary width is important because it will set the range in which your dog can play before it receives warnings that it is approaching the limits of the roaming range. 

As mentioned, you will need the test light tool to initiate the system. Attach it to your dog’s collar using the instructions, which usually point out certain access points. Don’t put the collar on your dog yet.

Rather, walk out and approach the boundary line as the wires will be laid out and arranged into position, but still have not yet been dug. The settings are from 0 to 10 on the transmitter; try setting it at five for now to get a sense of how far away from the boundary the signals start. 

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Hold the collar up (with the test light tool straight up) at the estimated height from the ground of your dog’s neck. There’ll be both a flashing light and a beeping signal as you get into range of the wire. 

Setting the Boundary Width (In-Ground Option)

Once you hear the beeping and see the test light flashing, observe the boundary width and decide for yourself if it’s too close to the wire. Do you want more warning for your dog?

If so, you can extend the boundary width by turning the dial on the transmitter closer to the maximum mark, around 10. It’s trial and error, so go back out and repeat as necessary.

If instead, you feel that your dog doesn’t have enough play area and that there’s too much of a buffer, you can narrow the boundary width by turning the dial on the transmitter closer to 0. 

Once you’re satisfied that the boundary width is just right, you (or a hired professional) can proceed to bury the wire. (It’s important to unplug the transmitter before burying the wire). 

Initiating the Range of the Signal (Wireless Option)

Unlike the in-ground option explained above, with a wireless system, we know the containment area for your dog will be in the shape of a circle, with the transmitter at the very center. So if your front yard is bigger than your back yard, you can place this transmitter at the front of your house.

Conversely, if your backyard is bigger than the front yard, you can place the transmitter at the back of your house.

While wireless invisible fence products vary, one common set of controls will have a dial to set the transmitter range, and a button to set the “high” and “low” range.

The manual will set out the approximate (and escalating) ranges for each setting on the dial of the transmitter. For example, in setting 1, the range may be 5-10 feet away (using the “low” setting) from the transmitter (recall that there is a margin of 1-3 feet on the circumference, as it is not an exact measurement). 

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For a setting of 8, the range may be 40-45 feet away from the transmitter (“low” setting).

The “high” setting extends the range in comparison to the “low” setting, especially at the higher scales. So if you find the range isn’t big enough at maximum (perhaps because you have a large property) try changing the setting from “low” to high.”

Setting the Range of the Signal (Wireless Option)

Like we did for the in-ground option, you’ll need to set the transmitter, then go outside to discover the true range, using the test light tool (again on top of the collar, pointing up, and at the dog’s usual height from the ground at the neck). 

Since there are no wires visible since the wireless option doesn’t use wires, the flags are important for visualizing the boundary. As you plant the flags, starting with maximum distance apart, you’ll see they follow a semi-circle pattern, honoring the transmitter as the center. 

If you’re not content with the initial boundary, increase or decrease the range and start over again by taking down the flags and re-planting them following the new range.