Did you recently install a wireless fence, electric fence, invisible fence, or underground fence and had your dog just run right through it? Are you wondering what to do when your dog runs through an electric fence?
We’ll cover all that and more. First, though we need to define the exact type of fence you had in mind. There’s a big difference between a wireless electric fence and a truly electrified wire fence.
Then we’ll cover how to deal with each type of fence and training your dog to stay inside your fence.
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Table of Contents
- First Up – Definitions
- What Can Go Wrong With an Invisible Fence?
- What to Do If Your Dog Runs Through a Hotwire Electric Fence
- What to Do If Your Dog Runs Through a Wireless Fence, Invisible Fence, or Underground Fence
- Distraction Training Tips
- How Do You Train A Dog With An Invisible Fence?
- Can an Electric Fence Harm a Dog?
- How Long Does It Take To Train A Dog With An Invisible Fence?
First Up – Definitions
For our purposes, an electric fence in this article refers to a fence using electrified wire. Also known as a hot wire fence.
Typically dogs won’t be able to run through an electrified fence. The actual physical wires will prevent this.
Wireless Fence or Invisible Fence
Next, we have wireless fences or invisible fences. Those work using a transmitter and a collar receiver.
The transmitter is usually a small box that you plug in near the center of the boundary you are trying to create. It creates an invisible sphere around your property.
You then place a vibration collar or shock collar receiver on your dog. When that collar gets near the boundary it emits a beep, vibration, or electric shock. Usually a mix of the above depending on how close they get.
That tells your dog to turn around and stay away from the edge. This assumes the dog has been trained to understand these signals and know where the boundary’s edge lies.
This is the most common type of “electric fence” that a dog can run through.
Underground Fence Using Wire
Lastly, we have an underground fence. This uses a buried wire as the transmitter. It also uses an electronic collar.
Like the wireless fence, when your dog gets near the underground boundary line the collar emits a sound function, vibration, or electric shock.
Again it usually starts with a beep, a vibrate, and a small electric static shock as they get closer to the edge.
The difference here is just the wire. You would use an underground wire fence if you have a long yard or otherwise off shape that won’t fit in the sphere that a normal wireless fence transmitter produces. You can also use it to keep your dog away from pools, ponds, and other hazards.
Like the wireless fence, an underground fence requires boundary and electronic collar training. The dog needs to understand the edge and what the signals mean then what to do about it.
This is another “electric fence” that beginner dogs run through. Distracted dogs (e.g. squirrels, people, cats, and other dogs) will also frequently run through the boundary.
Distraction is one of the most common reasons that dogs run through an invisible fence.
Note – To make things easier we’re going to just refer to wireless fence or underground fences as Invisible Fences. This does not include true hot wire electrified fences. This article assumes your dog is running outside the boundary of an invisible fence.
What Can Go Wrong With an Invisible Fence?
The most likely problem with invisible fences is that your dog got distracted at the boundary by a squirrel, cat, another dog, or a person. Then it bolted through the boundary ignoring the collar.
Another problem is that your dog wasn’t trained for long enough to understand the boundary and the collar signals.
Lastly, you could have metal interference in your house or yard that is distorting the boundaries of your invisible fence. This will make shadow areas in the boundary that let your dog through or confuse them.
Boundary distortions make me think of the Velociraptors in the first Jurassic Park movie. They would constantly test the electric fence but never try the same area twice. They were looking for weaknesses. Smart little creatures probably like your dog who keeps running through!
What to Do If Your Dog Runs Through a Hotwire Electric Fence
A hot wire fence will physically prevent your dog from going through the wires. That’s because there are wires in the way. Plus the shock is a huge stimulus that your dog will quickly learn to avoid.
Tips for Training Your Dog Not To Run Through Hotwire Electric Fence
- Setup your fence so your dog can never get stuck on the electric fence!
- Read the manual that came with your fence kit
- Place flags around the boundary
- Teach them “come” first
- Use non-metallic collars!
- Use leashes without metal components for training (simple rope leashes)
- Use short 10-15 minute training sessions
- Use the same boundary training using a leash, treats, and praise as you would training your dog to stay inside an invisible wireless fence. See our training on that below.
- Read the distraction training section below and use a friend for help with distraction training
- Watch the video below for more tips – this one uses super simple hotwire fence training, a goat, and a simple treat distraction
Assume we’re dealing with an invisible fence (e.g. wireless fence or underground fence) not a hot wire or electrified wire fence. We’ll solve that problem in the next section step by step.
What to Do If Your Dog Runs Through a Wireless Fence, Invisible Fence, or Underground Fence
If it’s an invisible fence here’s how to solve it.
- Check that the transmitter is plugged in and working.
- Check that the collar is fully charged and working. Test it for the sound function or the vibration on yourself at the boundary.
- Look for large metal objects or other things that could distort the signal.
- For underground wire fences check that there aren’t any breaks in the line. Walking it with a charged collar is the easiest way to find if it’s broken. To find the actual break follow the steps in this article on finding breaks in an underground fence line.
- Repair any underground wire breaks if applicable.
- Get new batteries or a new collar if applicable.
- Get a new transmitter for a wireless fence if applicable.
- Be sure to get a new collar or transmitter for your exact same system. You may need to change the frequencies of the collar to match your old transmitter or vice versa. See your collar’s instructions for how to do this.
- Re-train your dog on how to understand an electric fence, wireless fence, or underground fence.
- Conduct manual training to keep your dog in your yard.
- Conduct distraction training. If you don’t have breaks in your equipment than distractions are likely the cause. Spend time manually training your dog to overcome distractions. See the next section for distraction training tips.
- Read our article on Shock Collar Recall Training for Running Away and Teaching the Command “Come”.
Distraction Training Tips
- Continue boundary training on the lowest setting – Reinforce what the collar means using the lowest setting and use treat and praise conditioning via leash training using a 10 foot leash. (e.g. have them walk to the boundary, the collar signals, pull the leash back. In addition to doing that the first few days you will want to do this once or twice a week for a distracted dog.
- Bring a friend with a dog – Have them act as a distraction on the other side of the boundary. When your dog backs away due to the collar give treats and praise. If need increase the collar setting by one. Continue using treats and praise when the dog backs away.
- Use more treats during distraction training
- Use more tasty treats
- Start with small distractions and work up to more intense ones
- Keep them moving fast around the boundary (with your friend on the other side) – Their speed will help get their mind off the distraction.
- Use manual shock collar training – Sometimes it’s too difficult to setup controllable distractions (with a friend or other dog) at the boundary. You can also use those same tools but with a remote-controlled shock collar so you control exactly when the signal happens. Again, use the collar like a clicker so it’s a signal for the dog to do a behavior (in this case come back inside the boundary).
How Do You Train A Dog With An Invisible Fence?
Invisible fence training proceeds as follows.
- Charge the transmitter and collar
- Turn on the transmitter and collar
- Walk the boundary and place boundary flags. These are usually included with the invisible fence kit.
- Walk the boundary with your dog and a leash. Begin boundary training. When they get close to the boundary and the collar beeps say “come”. Pull the leash as needed. Praise and treat when they come back.
- Repeat and eventually get away from saying “come.” You want them to understand the beep.
- Repeat and stop using the leash. You want to slowly ease them into using the collar beep as the trigger for them to come back. Praise and treat as they do this.
Can an Electric Fence Harm a Dog?
This depends on what type of fence you mean.
Can a hot wire or electrified wire fence harm a dog? Yes. They can get burnt by the wire or worse. They could get caught between the wire and the fence for even more damage.
Can an invisible fence (i.e. underground wire fence, wireless fence) hurt a dog? No, not the fence but the collar can. If you leave the collar on at night the prongs could rub and cause injuries to the dog’s neck.
Also, a dog that hasn’t been trained on an underground, invisible, or wireless fence can get hurt psychologically. They need to know the boundaries and how to deal with the collar signal.
Also, if the collar is set to high intensity, it can cause your dog physical pain. Never set the electronic collar higher than it needs to be. With proper boundary training, running away training, and distraction training you should never need to set it higher than the sound function.
How Long Does It Take To Train A Dog With An Invisible Fence?
It will take 1 to 2 weeks to train your dog to understand the boundary of an invisible fence and to understand the collar signals. It will take another week or so to finish with distraction training.