Are you trying to decide between a do-it-yourself electronic dog fence system and one that is professionally installed? There are an increasing number of self-install fence kits available online and in stores, but how do these fences compare to the professionally installed fences, such as those offered by DogWatch®, Invisible Fence® and others? What skills do you need to install them? What do you need to know about dog training? Is a D-I-Y electronic dog fence really a more efficient and cost-effective choice for you?

First, an Overview of How a Hidden Fence (or an Invisible Fence®) Works

A hidden fence is an underground pet fencing system that uses a radio signal to keep your dog in a designated containment area, such as a yard; or out of an area, such as a swimming pool, patio, or garden. Hidden fences can also be used to create indoor boundaries that work inside your home to keep your pet off a couch, out of a room, away from a kitchen counter – or wherever you need it.

Outdoor hidden fences are created by burying a ‘boundary wire’ a few inches underground around your property. The buried wire carries a harmless, low level radio signal from a transmitter installed in your house or garage. Your pet wears a lightweight, waterproof receiver collar that recognizes the radio signal. As your pet approaches the buried wire, the receiver collar emits a warning signal (audible or vibration). If your pet travels further, he will receive a mild but safe stimulation (also called a “correction”) from the receiver collar. Through a training program, your pet learns to recognize his fence boundaries and learns to stop at the warning signal. Although there are differences in some of the product features, this is how all hidden fences work (DogWatch®, Invisible Fence® and other radio fence brands).

While the goals of the two systems are similar, there are a number of factors to keep in mind when choosing between a self-installed and professionally-installed pet fence.

Boundary Wire

A properly selected, installed and protected boundary wire is crucial to keeping a pet fence operating day to day, year after year. A break in the wire means that the signal is interrupted and the fence will not work. Wire breaks can be caused by weather, landscaping, small burrowing animals and more.

To avoid frequent wire breaks, DogWatch recommends using wire that is rated for underground burial, typically 14 or 16 gauge wire. Many self-install electronic pet fence kits include 20 gauge wire, which is thinner and therefore more prone to breaks. Locating wire breaks can be difficult and time-consuming and the cost of repairing breaks on your own can add up. More importantly, more wire breaks means more chances that your pet will leave the yard.

You also want to consider the time it will take you to adequately dig, lay and bury the wire around your property. Most DogWatch Dealers and other professional underground fence installers use a special trencher (see photo above) designed to simultaneously dig a small trench in the yard and lay the wire in place. Professional fence installers also have other specialized tools to help them cut through driveways, walkways and other trouble spots with relative ease. All of these tools and expertise help turn what could be a month-long project for an average homeowner into an efficient process that can usually be completed in only a couple of hours.

Professional installation is more expensive than do-it-yourself, but ensuring that the wire is good quality and properly installed can save you time and lots of headaches. The benefits of professional installation often off-set the “savings” of purchasing a less expensive self-installed system. Plus, a faster, more thorough installation means that training can start right away, and you’re one step closer to unleashing your pet!

Note: there are also wireless pet fence options available for purchase online. To learn more about how these wireless fences compare to traditional wired (underground) electronic dog fences, check out this blog post.

Training

All electronic dog fence systems require training for your pet to understand and respect the boundary. Good training is crucial to successful containment and happy dogs. This cannot be overstated.

When considering off-the-shelf fencing options, check to make sure the system includes easy to understand training instructions and a sufficient supply of sturdy yard flags. The yard flags will be used to mark the location of the boundary wire and create a visual barrier for the dog that is crucial in the early stages of training.

Some dogs may pick up on the training right away, while others may take longer to adjust to their new boundaries. Be ready to set aside significant time for training your dog, and know that these fences are not “plug and play” items – they require time and effort to function as intended and to keep your pets safe.

After installing a hidden fence, DogWatch Hidden Fence Dealers work with their customers to ensure that their pets are properly trained to understand the fence. Most professionally installed systems will come with a performance guarantee of some sort and your local Dealer will be available to provide assistance and service, should you need it. For those pet owners with limited dog training experience, this assistance alone can be worth the added cost of professional installation.

Battery Life

Most traditional underground electronic pet fences use a replaceable receiver battery with a lifecycle ranging from 3 months to two years. Most D-I-Y pet fences sold online fall on the low end of that spectrum, and require replacement batteries every 2-3 months. Replacing batteries 4-6 times per year can add up, especially if you have multiple pets. Keep that in mind when estimating overall cost of your pet fencing system.

Some underground pet fence systems have a receiver battery that is rechargeable. While this may seem appealing, keep in mind that while the receiver is charging, it won’t be on your dog. And if you forget to charge it and the battery dies, there will be no audible alerts (or corrections), which increases the likelihood that your pet will leave the yard. Longer battery life provides more safety for your pet.

Warranty

Another question to ask when shopping for an electronic dog fence is: does this product come with a warranty? You’ll want a system that can last long after you’ve installed it, and one that can keep your pets safe from puppyhood through their golden years.

Some of the most popular D-I-Y electronic pet fences on the market offer only a 1 year or 2 year warranty on their fence kits. DogWatch offers a Lifetime Equipment Warranty (including dog chews!) on outdoor hidden fences systems installed by an authorized Dealer.  DogWatch also offers a limited 30-day money-back guarantee if a customer is not satisfied with the system.

Customer Service

In addition to a Warranty, you’ll also want to find out what kind of customer service is available. With a self-installed pet fence, it is a good idea to make sure there is a manufacturer customer service department you can contact with any questions about their product. It is probably a good idea to confirm this before you purchase the product! Talking to a knowledgeable representative over the phone can be helpful, but know that you’ll be responsible for making any repairs and adjustments on your own.

One of the advantages of a professionally-installed electronic dog fence is that you have a known resource who can provide you with personalized assistance, on the phone or in person. DogWatch, and most other professionally installed brands, have ‘local’ representatives available to help you when you need it. Many of them own their business so they have a vested interest in making sure their customers are happy. They can help you diagnose, fix and prevent wire breaks, help you train a new dog to use the fence, help you adjust the fence line to accommodate new landscaping, and more. The value of this post-sale customer service can pay off over the years, so be sure to factor that into the overall cost of your pet containment system.

Product Quality

D-I-Y are almost always a lower price-point than professionally installed systems, which makes them initially appealing. But it is important to remember that you often “get what you pay for” – i.e. you may be sacrificing important safety features and longevity that over time, may outweigh the savings from the less expensive self-installed system.

At DogWatch, we are frequently called to replace D-I-Y pet fence systems for customers who find them too cumbersome to install and maintain themselves, or worse, unreliable when they’re needed most. For example, a DogWatch Customer from Michigan recently shared with us that he switched to DogWatch because he and his family “live next to a busy road and lost a beloved dog a few years back when she was hit when our ‘do it yourself’ from the pet store containment system failed.” After his DogWatch hidden fence was installed, he reports that now “our dogs stay in the yard!!” He adds: “It has been a huge peace of mind and relief knowing they are safe.” For many pet parents, that peace of mind is well worth the price.

Customer Reviews

Still “on the fence”? Check out these reviews from DogWatch Customers about why they chose a professionally installed DogWatch Hidden Fence for their pets.

Lea T. – Palmetto DogWatch Customer

“Excellent underground dog fence system & top-notch customer service!
Excellent, professionally installed underground dog fence system. Never fails like the inferior do-it-yourself fencing systems do. Collars are high quality, easy to adjust the signal strength, and the blinking light gives you plenty of notice that the battery is getting low. We even bought 3 indoor boundary discs that are awesome!

But just as important is the high level of customer service. When Jamie conducted the training session with me and the dogs, he had no set time limit. He was there for however much time we needed to feel like we were completely trained. Very accommodating, did not rush. When a landscaper cut the fencing line I texted Jamie and he was here the next day to repair it. He respects the idea of keeping pets safe and secure in their yard and he quickly made the house call. I also contacted him another time about purchasing a new collar for one of my dogs who was outgrowing her current one, and even though it was not an emergency he made arrangements to meet me in between appointments a day or so later so that I would have it quickly. Exceptional customer service.

I highly recommend Jamie and Palmetto DogWatch!” See review on Trustpilot

Alan – DogWatch Hidden Fences of Portland Customer

“Great way to keep your dog safe!
Great prices compared to the competitor. I hired them recently to install an invisible dog fence and they were quick about the installation, did the job in one day. I had previously bought a kit online to install a system myself but I returned everything once I realized how much work it would be. To first dig the trenches, to bury the wire around my entire perimeter, mount/set up the hardware then train my doggy would have taken me at least a week or two. Glenn was very helpful and his years of experience in training was apparent because my puppy learned where he could go and how to respond when the collar was triggered. I am happy to report that my smart Pomsky figured it out and has been well contained in our backyard for over a month now.” See review on Trustpilot

Kevin Stiadle – DogWatch by Kriger Fence Customer

“Life changing for my family and our dogs. System works great and dogs learned very quickly. Kriger fence installed and it was done right and they took the time to educate us on how to use. I would highly recommend having system professionally installed. I am a do it yourself kind of guy, but leave this to the experts.” See review on Trustpilot

 

* Invisible Fence® and Invisible Fencing® are Brand names, products and registered trademarks of Radio Systems, Inc.