Dear Old Trainer: My wife and I are moving to the country in July. We have three large mixed breeds and two small dogs. We have 160 acres at our new place. There is a barbwire fence around the property, but we want to fence off five acres for the dogs. Does an invisible fence work and can it enclose an area that large?
E. W., Colorado Springs, Colo.
Answer: Invisible fences are cheaper than wire fences and work just as well. The setup consists of two parts. A single electric wire placed around the perimeter of the area in which you enclose your dogs, and a lightweight electronic collar that receives a signal from the wire if the dog ventures too close.
The collar emits an audible beeping sound as a warning when a dog gets close to the wire. If a dog ignores the beeping and gets closer to the fence than the distance you have programmed into the system he receives a static shock. A static shock is the same as you receive when you slide across a car seat. The dog is not harmed, but learns to avoid the fence.
Installing the fence is only part of the solution. You must train your dogs to understand what the signal means, and the training is the most important part.
If you install the fence and hope the dogs figure it out, they may end up like the citizens in "High Plains Drifter" when Clint Eastwood leaves them to face the bad guys.
A hint to save training time: Train your lead dog first and give him the most training. The others will stop when he does as they approach the fence.
A good system handles five acres with ease, but you have to take one extra step because of the disparate sizes of your dogs. One wire will do the trick, but you need different size collars and lower settings for the small dogs.
If any dogs have thick fur around the neck you need a special collar unless you keep the fur clipped in the collar area.
The wire can be strung on posts or buried and is the same as any other home repair project if you are handy with tools it is easy. If not, hire a professional to do the job.
Some suppliers include installation and, or dog training as part of the price. Others sell the system and leave the installation and training to you.
Make sure any system includes solid-core 14-gauge wire. If not, buy it from an electrical supply shop. You also need lightning protection and a battery if you live in an area that suffers thunderstorms and power interruptions.
Costs vary from $130 for self-install systems that work fine in most cases, to several thousand dollars for a system that includes installation and dog training.
Do some research on the Internet. An excellent place to start is: www.dogfencediy.com.
The site contains detailed comparisons between vendors. The concept is proven. All you have to decide is which brand works best for you.
Jack Haskins writes as The Old Trainer. A trainer for more than 30 years, he has rescued, trained, and placed more than 2,000 dogs. Send questions to email@example.com.