How To Test Invisible Fence Collar & Wire (Explained!)

Is your electric dog fence broken? Were you edging the lawn and possibly cut the underground boundary wire? Does it need new batteries? Is the dog fence transmitter malfunctioning? In this article, we’ll cover how to test your underground dog fence in a few easy steps.

We have another article on finding underground boundary wire breaks but don’t jump there just yet. There are a few other system items you should test first to make sure everything else is working.

Without further delay let’s jump right in.

Note: If you click some of the links in this article we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Step 1 – Are the Batteries Charged On Your Receiver Collar?

Check the batteries and replace or charge as needed.

PetSafe UL-275-67D, Dogs, In-Ground Deluxe Ultralight Collar

Step 2 – Use a 15 Foot Short Section Of Boundary Wire To Test All Systems

It’s hard to tell off the bat if it’s the receiver collar, invisible fence transmitter, or underground boundary wire that’s the issue.

If the underground boundary wire is damaged or cut you won’t be able to use it to test the receiver collar or the invisible fence transmitter.

Instead, disconnect the main wire and connect a short 15-20 foot wire to your electric dog fence transmitter.

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Turn on the dog fence transmitter and run the tests in the next step to check the collar and dog fence transmitter for issues. If those both work then there’s a boundary wire break in the underground wire. We’ll get to that step further down.

Southwire 55667123 Primary Wire, 14-Gauge Bulk Spool, 100-Feet, Black

Step 3 – Check the Dog Fence Transmitter and Receiver Collar With the Short 15 Foot Test Wire

This test will confirm that the dog fence transmitter is sending a radio signal along the short loop test wire and that the receiver collar is accurately receiving the radio signal.

  • Turn on the receiver collar and the transmitter.
  • Set the receiver collar correction level to beep or vibrate.
  • Adjust the transmitter to half power.
  • Test that the collar beeps or vibrates as you approach the collar. Note the distance that triggers it.
  • Go back to the transmitter and turn it up to full power. This should increase the distance from the wire that will trigger the collar.
  • Test the collar again. Did the distance increase?

Watch the video below for a demonstration of this test. We’ll discuss the results further below.

Video – Example of running the 15-foot line test for a PetSafe Underground Electric Dog Fence System

Results – Transmitter lights won’t turn on or it goes into alarm mode

You have a transmitter problem. Turn off the system and contact the manufacturer to help you troubleshoot further. It may be covered under warranty.

Results – Collar isn’t beeping or vibrating or it’s working inconsistently

You have a collar problem. Check the batteries and try again. Replace them if needed.

If it continues to work inconsistently or not at all then contact the manufacturer. Again, it may be covered under warranty.

You may be able to get a new collar for your system or use one from another system. Check our article on collar compatibility here.

Results – Transmitter and Collar both working properly

If both the receiver collar beeps when you approach the live wire AND all the lights are on the transmitter and it appears to be working, you have a problem with your underground boundary wire.

Now it’s time to move on to Step 4 and check for wire breaks in the underground wire.

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If the collar works at all places along the wire and the mid-power and high-power levels are working, the transmitter is also working.

Your problem lies with the underground wire. There’s likely a wire break in the boundary wire. Often this occurs at the splices.

Step 4 – Check For Wire Breaks in the Underground Wire

Heavy traffic, lawn edging, garden work, animals, and even ground shifting can cause an electric dog fence wire to break

The easiest way to find a wire break in an underground fence wire is to use a commercial locator and the short loop method. You’ll do this along the entire fence perimeter.

Before using the wire break finder, it’s best to walk the fence perimeter and do a visual check for any wire damage. Check for damage near bridges, driveways, and forests where trees could have fallen and uprooted the wire.

Follow these steps and the short loop test to use the locator to find the wire break:

  1. Turn off your underground wire transmitter.
  2. Connect the two clips on the Kolsol transmitter to the underground wire  – Use one clip for each different in and out wires to the underground transmitter.
  3. Turn on the Kolsol transmitter.
  4. Turn on the Kolsol detector and adjust the volume. The detector makes a noise when the sensor is within 80 cm of the underground wire.
  5. Walk the underground wire path.
  6. Short Loop Test to find the wire break – The Kolsol transmitter clips must connect to an unbroken length of wire to form a complete circuit. If there’s a wire break then the Kolsol detector won’t be able to see the wire. You’ll need to use the short loop method to find the broken wire. You’ll move the Kolsol transmitter and clips to different sections of the underground wire to find the wire break.

Kolsol Underground Wire Locator Cable Tester F02 With Earphone for Locate Wires and Control Wires Cables Pet Fence Wires

We also cover how to use an AM radio and a lawnmower to find underground breaks in a separate article. Use this method only if you don’t feel like buying a commercial wire locator.

Personally, I find it faster and easier to use a commercial locator. The lawnmower is a bit unwieldy to get around the yard for this.

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Watch this video for a demo to see the lawnmower method in action.