If you are a pet parent looking to invest in an in-ground electric dog fence, you may be concerned about safety.

Today’s guide explores whether it is safe to use an in-ground fence for small dogs. We will also explain what these containment systems do, and addresses the issue of whether or not electric dog fences are humane.

Will In-Ground Dog Fences Hurt My Small Dog?

The first electric dog fences were introduced around 40 years ago. The early iterations of these fences were not suitable for small breeds. The main reason for this was the bulk and weight of the collars bundled with the systems. Most early collars utilized heavy 9-volt batteries. Advances in technology mean that collars are now much more lightweight, many designed specifically for smaller breeds.

Some of the collars you can find today weigh just 1oz and come equipped with compact and lightweight 3-volt batteries.

So, in terms of the collar, most modern in-ground fences can be considered safe and harmless for use with small dogs. The collar, though, is only one part of the equation. Before we highlight the overall suitability of these containment systems for pet parents with small dogs, some basics on in-ground fences. This will help you make a better informed decision as to whether this type of system is safe or harmful for your furball.

What Is an In-Ground Dog Fence?

An in-ground dog fence goes by many different names, including:

  • Invisible dog fence
  • Wireless dog fence
  • Underground dog fence
  • Electric dog fence

Most of these containments systems work similarly and consist of the following components:

  1. Transmitter
  2. Wire
  3. Collar with receiver

Although sometimes known as underground dog fences, you will only bury the wire.

You locate the transmitter somewhere dry and watertight above ground. You might place the transmitter in the house, the garage, or in an outbuilding. The transmitter plugs into a standard electrical outlet. You would benefit from installing a simple surge protector. Most transmitters have a range of 15 feet or so.

Once installed, the transmitter will emit a radio signal that travels along a loop of buried wire. This signal might be a single sine wave or two sine waves that vary in terms of power.

Buried underground, the wire acts as an antenna. This antenna turns the signal into electromagnetic waves.

Your dog will wear a collar that contains a small receiver like an AM radio. If this receiver gets too near the wire you buried under the ground, the radio sends a signal along the wire. This will administer some form of correction to your dog – typically a mild static shock or a spray of liquid scented with citronella, depending on the type of collar.

If you opt to install an electric fence, you shouldn’t be worried about harming your furball, even if you have a small breed like a chihuahua. An electric fence should be a purely psychological devices, not a punitive device.

If you are concerned about the static shock your dog receives, you should try using one of the collars on the back of your hand. This will show how mild the shock is. It is intended to distract only and should not hurt a small dog.

How long will you need to use the fence for, then?

Is It Necessary to Use an Electric Dog Fence Permanently?


There is no universal answer to this question. Much will depend on the personality of your dog, as well as his natural prey drive.

As a rule of thumb, if you have already started training your dog before he starts to exhibit escaping behaviors, you will find that he takes to training with the fence quickly, never even challenging the fence.

That said, if you live somewhere with nearby game birds or livestock, it is worth using the electric fence on an ongoing basis for the sake of security.

Overall, consistency is paramount when using an electric dog fence. Unless your small dog immediately complies with his new boundaries and never challenges the fence, it is advisable to leave it in place. Confusion can set in if you only activate the fence from time to time. This will mean that sometimes you dog can breach the boundaries without being challenged, while on other occasions he may receive an unexpected correction. If this occurs, your furball could exhibit all sorts of destructive or negative behaviors.

Now, while this type of containment system can be highly effective when combined with proper training, electric dog fences have some disadvantages for both small and large dogs.

What Are the Drawbacks of Electric Dog Fences?

These are some of the most common drawbacks of electric containment systems for dogs:

  • Your dog could become afraid of the following things: the yard, the area around the boundary, being on a leash handled by someone new – potentially the trainer who introduces the dog to the containment system.
  • Your furball could become frustrated. If this occurs, he may start barking or lunging. This can be distressing for passersby. For pedestrians unable to see an invisible dog fence, your dog’s behavior could seem intimidating and possibly even threatening.
  • The way your dog behaves can cause reactivity in other dogs, whether on or off their leashes. This can become inflamed if your day is left unattended and frequently demonstrates negative behaviors.
  • If you fail to properly train your dog with the fence, they may feel prepared to tolerate a brief shock from the system when confronted by an appealing sight like a deer crossing the street or a female dog in heat in a neighboring yard. If you have a smart and highly-motivated hound, you will need to invest more time into training him to respect an electric dog fence.
  • In some rare cases, using an electric dog fence can trigger aggression, even in dogs that were previously not aggressive. If this happens, problems can occur at the boundary. Your dog could end up biting a passerby or attacking another dog.
  • Your dog could even become physically injured by the fence equipment, although this should not happen.


If you arrived here today at GO Boxer Rescue with no idea about the ethics of electric dog fences and their suitability for use with small breeds, today’s guide should have cleared up any confusion.

It is worth underscoring that these fences are not liable to produce positive outcomes unless you train your dog first. You should only need to spend 10 to 15 minutes daily for a few days to a few weeks, depending on the temperament of your dog. Once you are confident that your furball knows his new boundaries, you can leave him unattended in the back yard, keeping him safe without restricting his freedom.

Take a minute to bookmark our blog before you leave. Pop back soon for advice on choosing the best dog equipment and informative guides on all areas of pet parenting. We’ll see you soon!

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