Choosing An Electronic Canine Containment System
Our Final Choice And Its More Durable Replacement.
Which Containment System Best Suits Our Needs?
After moving from a yard that was 40 feet wide and 160 feet long, our dogs did not behave as well as they had used to once they were allowed to run around our new 5 acre yard. In fact they ran out of the yard and down the road several times before we decided to only let the dogs out if they were on leash or attached to a line. We wanted to allow the dogs to be able to have access to the entire yard so they could get adequate exercise, but had no way to keep them contained inside our yard without the expense of fencing in a large area of the yard. So we started researching electronic containment systems and talked to a few dog owners living in our neighborhood about the systems they use to keep their dogs in their yard. Our neighbors openly shared information about their containment systems, almost everyone uses the Invisible Fence or a similar variant. They also mentioned all of the issues that they have had as well, encouraging us to continue to research until we found a system that would work for us with the least amount of installation expense and physical labor.
The Invisible Fence
An invisible fence would work for us it would allow the dog to have free range of the area we designate as their area. The only thing slowing us down was cost and the need to bury thousands of feet of wire. The other drawbacks we learned from talking with other dog owners, most of which were coming to our house to retrieve their dogs that had eloped and ended up in our yard. We have met five other owners and their dogs, two of them have visited my house several times. Each of these dogs are wearing remote collars for the invisible fence containment system. One dog would run through the fence and be too scared to return in fear of getting stimulated by his collar. Two other dogs were dogs with long hair and their fur insulated them from getting "shocked" when they went through the boundary line. One dog simply had a dead battery in his collar and happened to notice it did not shock him when he crossed the barrier line. The last dog is a repeat offender, he is a very large and smart chocolate lab. He has learned that when he gets too close to the barrier his collar beeps before the collar sends a stimulation shock. What he does is he gets close enough to the buried line to activate the tone and then lays down and waits for the beeping to stop. When the beeping stops, he knows that he won't get shocked when he crosses the wire and he just wanders around the neighborhood at his leisure.
So it appears that having an invisible fence is expensive and time consuming to install. We would have to be vigilant making sure that the batteries were fresh and the collars were working. The other issue is that the buried wire does not know if the dog is coming or going, it just triggers the collar to stimulate the dog. A dog may not return home in fear of being stimulated while crossing the boundary coming back into the yard.
The Automatic Wireless System
The automatic wireless system seemed like a good way to go, the wireless control box was around $275 and it came with a remote collar. A second collar was $60 and we could add as many as four dogs to the system. Again the collars are battery powered and we would have to check batteries all of the time which also means we would have an ongoing expense to replace batteries. The remote monitoring system is hung on a wall or placed on a shelf and provides a 360 degree coverage to an area of about 300 feet or a rectangular area directly in front of a sensor array, usually covering about 300 square feet as well. Some control systems are not designed to be exposed to the elements, so it needs to be indoors and almost all of these control systems need to be elevated. An area of 300 feet, less the area lost due to being a physical part of the house or other structure, is not enough area for two dogs to properly exercise. It also meant that the dogs would be doing their business near the house or in an area of the yard where our children or guests could step in the waste. Again there is also the risk of the dogs escaping the coverage area and being too scared to return into the area out of fear of receiving stimulation from the collar. For our needs, the automatic wireless system would not work for us.
Wireless Remote Containment System
The wireless containment system seemed to be a logical system. The biggest downfall to this system is that it is not an automatic system, meaning that when your dogs are outside, they need to be monitored. If they are not monitored they are just wearing radio collars that do nothing unless the owner is paying attention to the dogs. Now once the dogs are trained on these collars, they are less likely to elope but only if the owner has taken the time to properly train themselves and their dogs using this system. The best thing about a remote controlled collar is that if they do leave the yard, there is no automatic response from the system upon their return should they return on their own. If your dog is in range they can be called back via a beeping sound from the collar or a stimulation that can be adjusted to as many as sixteen intensity levels depending on the brand and a dog owners intended use for the remote collar system. The collars and the remotes can either have disposable lithium batteries or rechargeable ni-cad or lithium batteries. Each has an indicator that indicates when the batteries are getting low by either a flashing red light on the collar and/or a power meter on an LCD screen. Most are only water resistant but some of the more specialized collars be submerged under water as deep as 25 feet.
Our Final Choice
We decided to purchase the wireless remote containment system. We initially purchased the PetSmart 1000 Series. The collars are easy to adjust buckle collar with a quick release snap making it possible to remove the collar without having to re-adjust it when putting the collar back on the dog. These collars are only water resistant, they cannot be submerged under water. The remote is good for a range up to a thousand meters, quite a distance to be able to recover a runaway dog. I live in a flat area so I can actually get the full range of the radio collar, users in hilly and mountain areas have reduced remote range. The dogs were trained in a day, and the stimulation mode of the collar function is very effective. The best part of the remote is that the dogs know that you are controlling the functions of the collar, something that an invisible fence or an automatic wireless device cannot do. The remote also serves to be able to address specific behaviors our dogs may have such as digging holes and getting into the garden and trampling plants.
After multiple collar replacements and the purchase of a new puppy, we again needed to buy a more durable remote collar system. We upgraded from the PetSmart 1000 to the Sportdog 800S and the 400 series. Each come with the same collar model (#FR-200B) and both the remote and the collar receiver have rechargeable batteries. They take longer to charge (16 hours), but they stay charged longer than the PetSmart devices. The range is comparable, about a half to three quarters of a mile. The biggest difference is that the remote and the collar are water proof and constructed of a much more durable plastic. The stap for the receivers is not built into the receiver, it is held in place by two clips on either side that are clamped into place by two screws on each side. The screws are Phillips head screws and the clips can be removed without having to purchase a special screw tip to remove the screws like the ones on the PetSmart collars. The Sportdog receivers are also water resistant to a depth of 25 feet, whereas the PetSmart collars are merely water resistant and cannot be submerged in water at all.
Dogs know you are in control and paying attention to them when they are wearing the collar.
The wireless remote can be utilized after the dog leaves your property, even if the dog is out of sight.
Remote training and containment systems can be used to address specific animal behaviors such as barking, digging, jumping on people, and chewing items they should not be chewing.
Most systems allow for multiple collars to be controlled from one single receiver.
A remote controlled containment system can be used any where, it is mobile.
There is no intensive labor or installation cost.
There is no system wire maintenance or labor cost to maintain a hand held remote system.
The rechargable systems come with chargers that can charge a two devices at a time.
Non-rechargable battery powered systems do not need power source to recharge batteries, not an issue if there is a lengthy power outage.
Collars for all three systems have a risk of strangulation due to collar being fitted too tight or by the collar getting caught on something.
Collars left on for long periods of time can cause bed sores from the metal contacts rubbing on the skin.
Some collars are not very sturdy and easily break especially with rough play or chewing by another animal, or from being snagged on something.
Collar materials can deteriorate and electronics can fail leaving a dog unmonitored.
Some models are not water proof and can be damaged if the collar or remote is submerged under water or are used during a heavy rain fall.
The PetSmart collar signal to the remote can be deleted simply by holding the power button too long after the collar has been turned off. The owner may not be aware of this until a dog fails to respond to a tone or stimulation.
Supervision is necessary even with an automatic system, there is no set and forget system that functions properly all of the time.
Collars linked to be used on a single receiver cannot be used on any receiver other than the one all collars are linked to. Other receivers to include the receiver packaged and sold with a specific collar will not work on any other remote but the one linked remote.
Remotes can break or be lost, collars can be broken or lost. Rechargeable batteries can be costly to be replaced, recharging for long periods may be an issue for some dog owners.
Non-rechargeable battery operated systems require on going expense of replacement batteries and some systems operate on unique batteries that are not easy to replace due to lack of availability or a discontinuation of a battery and/or a remote system.
Automatic wireless hubs and invisible fences are not mobile and do not function without electricity.
Invisible Fence and similar variants require labor intensive installation and maintenance. The in-ground wires need to be monitored for breaks and corrosion and the system is usually permanent.
Wireless hubs and inground wire systems are not mobile, they can only be used at home.
The automatic wireless hub and invisible fence systems are useless once a dog has left the containment area.
We cannot imagine not having this remote containment system, it provides protection for our dogs as well as training aids to encourage wanted behaviors and discourage unwanted behaviors. Our dogs are now to the point where they can be let outside for as long as thirty minutes without their collars, I have not had to use the stimulation on my older dogs in almost nine months, a single audible beep has them running to my side and two beeps lets them know that a stimulation is coming, I occasionally have to use the two beep warning but it works very well in ending an unwanted behavior. We coupled our in yard system with the Gentle Leader leash when we leave our yard to take our dogs for a walk (we have a leash law in our area), the gentle leader prevents pulling and tugging and allows us to train our dogs to ignore other dogs even barking and active or aggressive dogs. We believe that without the remote training system we purchased we would have had to spend more money getting our dogs trained and we may have had more issues with other containment systems due to system failures and lack of supervision in part by being overly reliant on automatic containment systems.