How Does an Electric Dog Fence Work?

The working principle of an electric dog fence is simple. It transmits electric current to the collar. If the dog tries to cross, the collar gives a shock.

The working principle of an electric dog fence is simple. It transmits electric current to a special collar that your dog has to wear. When the dog approaches the fence installed underground, the collar generates a warning sound. If the dog tries to cross the fence, the collar gives the dog a small electric shock.

With time, the dog builds a reflex action and learns to stay within the confined area of the underground fence. An electric fence is a wire equipped with a transmitter that is buried. When the dog is in the proximity of the wire, the transmitter sends a radio signal to the collar, which administers a correction upon reception of the signal. 

There are three main aspects to an underground pet fence.


The transmitter must be connected to an electrical outlet and mounted in a dry location. You can either use screws or some strong adhesive to mount the transmitter. Most fence systems contain a standard or a deluxe transmitter. The main differences between the two are coverage area and the correction options.

Almost all the transmitters can be used in a standard electrical outlet. It creates a radio wave that travels through the installed wire underground. Therefore, a single transmitter can handle as many pets as you have collars for. If you want to contain a female pet that is in pregnancy or mating season, please discuss the options with your vet first.

Underground Wiring

The buried wire is normally a single strand of well-insulated wire. It should start from the transmitter and loop back to the transmitter covering the area of containment. Before starting to install the wire, you may want to lay your boundary out with some kind of marker.

This will give you a visual representation of how your system would be. The wire should be buried 1 to 3 inches underground. Although burying the wire is not mandatory, it reduces the risk of someone tripping over or the wire being cut by a lawnmower. You should also be aware that twisting two wires together can cause interference in the signal, reducing the system’s effectiveness.


Most basic electric pet fence kits will have at least one waterproof, lightweight receiver and a collar. If the included collar does not suit your pet, you can buy an after-market collar and put a receiver on it. For each pet that requires containment, you must purchase a receiver-collar set.

Any stray animal or other pet that does not have a receiver collar will not get any signal to stop entering the yard. Most kits come with the initial battery, but you should replace the battery at least every three months for better results.

How It Works

The principle behind an underground dog fence, regardless of the manufacturer, is the same. In all these systems, the transmitter broadcasts a radio signal through the buried loop of wire. The signal is mostly very simple sinusoidal, or possibly two sine waves at different powers. Similar to electromagnets, the buried wire acts as an antenna and converts the signal into electromagnetic waves.

The transmitter is usually not power-hungry, so the signal generated around the wire has a small range of 10 to 15 feet. In some systems, the transmitter emits two signals, one at low power and one at higher power. In these systems, the collar can understand the distance from the wire based on signal power and provide different correction levels. There is a small radio receiver inside the collar.

When this radio is close enough to catch the signal from the wire, it triggers a correction so the dog knows if it is near the boundary. Apart from the electrical fence itself, this also requires some training of the dog to be successful. Different dogs have different abilities to get used to such systems.

So, as a pet owner, you need to show some patience and perseverance. Do not expect a miracle from the moment you set up the fence. You should also keep track of your dog’s mental health to ensure this kind of electrical shock-based containment system does not create any adverse effects. 

An underground pet fence is an easy to install simple containment tool. With a small investment in time and resources, you can get good results from it. Underground electrical fences for your pets are simple ways to keep your pet safe in a customizable area. Here are some points on how such a system works.

Photo by John Price on Unsplash.