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Installing an Electronic Pet Fencing System

This article covers the principles of installing your electronic pet fencing system, including measuring the wire, crossing hardscaping and other considerations.

Part of the “Good Dog Education Series

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Planning and Installing Your In-Ground Dog Fence

These fences offer great protection, but they do require planning and installation. So prior to purchase, here are some things to consider. This is not designed to be a comprehensive guide, so we strongly suggest you contact your fence manufacturer for specific instructions. Some of the installation procedure involves the use of hand, and/or power tools, so please observe all safety procedures.

Components Outside and Inside

The fence wiring must be outside your house and the electronic parts of the hidden fence, such as the transmitter and the lightning protector, must be inside. This means that the wiring must cross from inside the house to the outside which may mean drilling a small hole through the wall, or running it under a doorway or window area. In some circumstances, it may be possible to re-use an existing entry/exit hole in the side of the building. If you live in a mild climate, such as the south east, it may be feasible to locate the electronic components outside in a weather-proof enclosure, but this is not normally recommended and we suggest that you contact the fence manufacturer for specific advice.

Dog Fence Wire Must Form a Loop

The fence wire will run from the output of the electronic transmitter, outside and around the perimeter and back to the input side of the transmitter. This does not mean that your dog will be shocked when he/she leaves the house, or that you have to put the collar on outside, because as we'll see in the next section, there is a special type of wire that is designed to allow your pets to come in and out without triggering the stimulation.

Two Types of Hidden Fence Wiring

Most fences have a total of 600ft of wire included with them. There are two types of wire: 1) regular fence wire which transmits the signal to the collar, and 2) twisted pair wire which carries the signal through it, but will not transmit to the receiver collar. Usually, an underground dog fence includes a 500ft spool of the regular wire and 100ft of the twisted pair. The purpose of the regular wire is to keep your dog enclosed in an area and the twisted wire is to allow for entry and exit from the house without shocking your dog.

How Much Fence Wire Do You Need?

Now we know what the different types of wire are for, we can assess how much of each type we need. Allow 10% for waste/slack in the wire - to get this multiply the amount you think you need by 1.1. For example, if you think you need 1,000ft of the regular wire, allow for 1,000 x 1.1 = 1,100ft. This will ensure that you don't run slightly short if your measurement is off, and that you have some spare to run around an unexpected obstacle, such as a tree root forcing a change in the shape.

Twisted Pair Dog Fence Wire

You will normally use the twisted pair wire only to run along and into the house, so unless you have a very large house, the 100ft spool should be sufficient.

Regular Fence Wire

This will join to the twisted pair, and normally runs from one side of the house around the property to be enclosed and back to join with the twisted pair wire on the other side of the house. Decide where you want the boundary to be and measure. The easiest way is with a measuring wheel that allows you simply walk the proposed boundary to accurately measure. You can also use a tape measure, and a pliable 100ft tape works best. You can use one of the retractable 25, or 30ft tape measures, but is more difficult to get an accurate measure when the boundary is not straight. Each wire spool is 500ft long, and one is included with the in-ground dog fence, so follow the steps outlined here to work out how much wire you'll need:

  1. Take your boundary measurement in feet and multiply by 1.1. This provides what you need with a little spare.
  2. If the number is less than 500ft, you won't need any additional wire kits, so skip to the next section
  3. Subtract 500ft because the underground dog fence includes this much wire
  4. Take this number and divide by 500
  5. Round this number up to the next whole number


  1. You measure 1,000ft
  2. Multiply by 1.1 to get 1,100ft
  3. Subtract 500 to get 600ft
  4. 600 / 500 = 1.2
  5. Round 1.2 up to 2
  6. In this example you will need two (2) extra spools of wire in addition to the one included with the dog fence

Wire Splices

There are devices called “splices” that allow you to join the wires together. You will use these splices wherever you need to join together the wire, such as at the end of the 500ft spool to join another spool, or where the regular wire and the twisted pair meet. The splices are included with the fence kit, and additional wire kits normally includes both splices and flags.

Where Will You Cross Hardscaping?

This can be one of the most challenging parts of your hidden dog fence installation. We have already discussed the twisted wire that will run along the house. This needs to be fixed in place which is easy in flower beds and lawn adjacent to the property. When it crosses hardscape up against the house, the wire should be fixed down to prevent movement (such as caulking in place) or it can be put through a standard exterior grade conduit.

A much more difficult situation is where the boundary wire of the in-ground dog fence needs to cross a sidewalk, or driveway away from the house. There are two choices here: 1) go under the driveway/sidewalk, or 2) cut a groove for the wire into the surface of the hardscape. Going under hardscaping is not an easy job and not recommended for amateurs.

The best choice is to snap a chalk line across the obstruction and use a circular saw with an appropriate masonry blade to cut a shallow groove following the snap-line. Remember to adjust the cutting height on the circular saw so that you are cutting only ¼" to ½" into the surface. After running the wire through the groove, you can then fill with an exterior-grade sealer, concrete repair, or other suitable product. Make sure the filler leaves a concave profile so that it does not sit proud of the surface. Otherwise, foot traffic, lawn equipment, or vehicles may push down on the wire repeatedly leading to a break in the wire. A break is fixable, but you want to avoid it.

Where Will You Locate the Transmitter?

Most of the time, the transmitter, lightning protector, and/or battery backup will be placed on an exterior wall with suitable access to the area you want to contain. Screened in porches may be a suitable location, except in really harsh climates, but we would not recommend a non-screened porch since it is too easy for water to get into the units rendering them inoperative.

Burying the Underground Dog Fence Boundary Wire

It is possible to leave the regular wire above ground and staple it down to keep it in place. In most climates and in most situations this is a really bad idea. Cold weather will make the copper wire brittle and more susceptible to breaking. In addition, the wire is within range of lawn equipment and copper has a property known as “work hardening” which means that if the same piece is repeatedly stressed it will become brittle and break. This is particularly true of where vehicle and garden equipment cross the wire.

Unless you have a compelling reason to leave it above ground, we strongly suggest that you bury the wire. Burying the wire is not difficult, but it does require some work and is much quicker for two people rather than one.

The wire does not need to be buried deeply - just a couple of inches below the surface - and it is not necessary to actually dig a trench. All you need is a slot, and we recommend a straight-bladed garden shovel. Just insert to 2" - 3", lift the ground slightly and tuck the wire down the slot.

Safety: You are digging around (most likely) your property boundary, so follow recommended procedures to ensure there are no buried cables before you start installing. This may involve calling your county, or state service to have the utilities marked. Telecommunications fiber-optic cables can be a particular problem since they are not normally buried very far. As always keep fingers away from the business end of tools.

Training Your Dog

A hidden dog fence is not a magic bullet. These systems are not designed for behavior correction, or punishment compliance. They are designed for containment. Flags are included with the wire kits and early on you will use these to provide a visual cue to allow your dog to identify the boundary of the underground dog fence. You should follow the recommendations of the hidden dog fence manufacturer, and remember to reward good behavior, rather than simply punish the bad.

Check Limitations on a Particular Underground Dog Fence Model

There are some limitations of particular models of hidden dog fence, such as the coverage area. All underground dog fences will be able to cover at least 5 acres, but if your design requires a bigger area to be enclosed, make sure to check the specifications of the fence to ensure that it can cover the area. In addition, some specialized products such the Contain ‘N’ Train products can only control two collars from the remote, but an essentially unlimited number of dogs for the fence.

Are These Products Right for You?

We hope this guide has assisted you in selecting, planning and installing your dog containment fence. Maybe you have decided that installation is a hassle, and you would like to check out one of the Wireless Dog Fences. Don't worry, there is a lot of information here, and as you sort through it you should find it is not as daunting a process as you thought.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, and a MuttFence makes a Good Dog Neighbor!

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