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Troubleshooting: What To Do When Your Dog Runs Through The Invisible Fence

Key Takeaways

  • When a dog runs through an invisible fence, it may be simply stubborn and refuse to stay within the confines and not minding the stimulations given by the receiver collar.
  • Solutions: check the batteries of the collar, check the base station, adjust the boundary range, etc.
  • You may need to revisit boundary training with your dog or forgo the use of invisible fences if nothing works.

Invisible dog fences, whether they be in-ground or wireless systems, seem like a great technology in theory. I love using these tools for my dogs because I can safely allow them to run free, without needing to be confined by a runner at all times. This prevents the need to constantly untangle the leash and also puts the fear of the dog potentially getting hurt by the leash at bay, especially if a yard has uneven ground.

Even the best invisible dog fence is not without its shortcomings though. There is a legitimate concern for your dog’s well being if they don’t take well to training on a wireless fence or in-ground containment system. First of all, there’s the obvious concern with the dog getting electric stimulus when they exceed the boundaries as the collar emits sound or vibrations when it happens. Most dogs I’ve trained in the past learn to play by the rules quickly, but other dogs are simply stubborn and refuse to stay within the confines of invisible fences. This can easily make me feel quite bad as a pet owner. Then of course there is the concern that once the dog escapes the boundary, they can run loose and get into even more danger. They could run into the street, towards other animals, or any number of dangerous situations.

So what do you do when your dog keeps running through their invisible fence? Hopefully with a little bit of troubleshooting you can get the issue sorted out, but in some cases an invisible fence just might not be the right fit for your dog. Let’s take a look at some of the common problems you could have and the remedies I suggest for each of them.

Check The Batteries In The Collar

German Shepard looking off to the distance | The Pampered Pup

One common issue that can arise with electric fence or invisible pet containment systems is dead battery and they simply need to be replaced or the batteries in the collar could be improperly seated. This is definitely the first thing you should check if it seems the system isn’t functioning properly, and there should be instructions on how to verify proper operation of your particular collar in the owner’s manual for the product. While many modern containment solutions are rechargeable (Check out our Halo Collar review as an example) there are plenty of older designs that still run on disposable batteries. If it turns out that your batteries do indeed need to be replaced, you’ll need to see what kind of batteries your invisible fence collar uses and how to install them— this can also be found in dog owners’ manuals. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your battery levels even if you’re not having problems with your dog running through the invisible fence, as it could eventually become a problem if not monitored.

Check The Base Station for Proper Operation

If you’ve given your dog’s collar a proper inspection and everything seems to be in thorough working order, the next thing to consider is that there might be an issue with the invisible fence system’s base station. Check that the unit is properly connected to power. If it is a system that utilizes RFA-67 batteries, make sure that there is still plenty of life left on it. If there is not, try swapping it out. Also give the base station a once over, the owner’s manual should give you some guidance as to what the indicators are that the system is functional and operating correctly.

Dog with ears flopped forward. | The Pampered Pup

Other Considerations

There are a few other more technical factors that may be affecting your invisible containment systems operation. Wireless dog fence systems, for example, can have issues when they are used on terrain that is not level. Essentially, drastic grading in the terrain can cause gaps in the boundaries, and your pup will be able to run free if they find these gaps. Unfortunately the best way to try to adapt to this type of issue is to change the range of the boundaries to try to avoid these problem areas altogether.

Although they can have similar problems, how in-ground dog fence systems work is different and they are often a bit more complicated to diagnose. What can happen is that the contacts that supply power to the underground fences can become disrupted, usually accidentally by digging or other landscaping. The good news is that your base station might well be able to help alert you that there is indeed a connectivity issue. The bad news is that it’s going to be up to you to isolate the physical location of the issue and to fix it. As with all things electricity, make sure the unit is unplugged and completely isolated from power before making any repairs. If there is any doubt whatsoever, you should always get in touch with a professional who is experienced in this type of work.

Sometimes An Invisible Fence Just Isn’t Right For Your Dog

Fluffy dog laying on lawn. | The Pampered Pup

Unfortunately sometimes your dog and your invisible containment system simply aren’t compatible. If you’ve already tried everything discussed above in the article and you’re still having issues, you have to consider that this may well be the root of the problem. If it turns out that this is the problem then you really don’t want to force it. Every time Fido escapes through the invisible fence they are receiving whatever stimulation from the collar which you have set. Overstimulation is not good for dogs in the long term.

What you can try is to keep the invisible dog fence system running as normal, but then to put the dog on a retractable leash or a runner to reinforce the idea that they are supposed to be confined to a specific area. Also make sure to put out the boundary flags if you’ve removed them to really drive the concept home. If you decide to go this route, make sure to give it at least a couple weeks so that your dog gets used to the routine prior to trying out the invisible containment system again. As stated previously, if you go back to relying on the invisible fence system to contain your dog and they continually run through the fence line, then it’s probably time to call it quits. You may also try physical fence.

With any luck you’ll be able to get your invisible fence pet containment system working with a few tricks [1]. If the system works properly after a few adjustments, Fido can go back to being leashless in your property.


What happens when a dog runs through an invisible fence?

When a dog runs through the invisible fence, they are likely getting whatever stimulus is set on his collar such as sounds, electric shock, vibrations, or citronella spray which are not good for them in the long term.

Why does my dog go through the electric fence?

When a dog runs through an invisible fence, it could be because of many things including issues with the collar battery or the base station itself, an uneven terrain causing gaps in the barrier, broken wires for in-ground fences, or you may simply have a dog that is plain stubborn and refuses to stay within the boundary not minding the corrections from the collar.

Can dogs get through an invisible fence?

Yes. If it’s not an issue with the system itself, it may be because the dog is stubborn and would escape the confines, ignoring the stimulations from the collar.

Do electric fences work for stubborn dogs?

Electric fences can still work for stubborn dogs provided they undergo proper training and are using a reliable confinement system.

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