How the PetSafe Fence Works: Boundaries, Setup, & More

Good dogs sitting with SpotOn collars

When searching for a DIY containment solution to keep your pet safe, you have many options, including buried wire fences, wireless fences, and now satellite-powered fences.

One popular brand of DIY containment solutions is PetSafe® – but is this solution right for you?

How Does PetSafe Wireless Fence Work?

PetSafe offers several varieties of both in-ground fences (such as YardMax® Cordless In-Ground Fence™ and Stubborn Dog In-Ground Fence™) and wireless fences (such as the Free to Roam Wireless Fence™ and the Stay & Play™ Wireless Fence).

PetSafe in-ground fences function via buried wires in your yard, while PetSafe’s wireless options use a radio transmitter that acts as a base station for your fence.

Powering Your Fence: PetSafe Wireless Fence Transmitter

For your wireless PetSafe fence to work, you’ll need to house a transmitter that plugs in somewhere safe from the elements, like in your house or garage. The transmitter acts as a base station, emitting a radio frequency that forms a circular containment area. These base stations also communicate with a dog collar that will correct your dog if he tries to leave the containment area.

Some people do find that large structures in the yard like a barn or old-growth trees can interfere with the radio signals, so be sure to proof your boundaries. And if you’re on a large property, keep in mind that these transmitters usually only work effectively in smaller areas.

Planning Your Fence: PetSafe Wireless Fence Boundary Settings

The transmitter determines what size containment area you can create with your fence –  depending on which fence you choose, you can create a containment area of as little as .25 acres or as much as 25 acres, though customers report it does not work well for 2+ acre containment areas.

Be sure to check the box of your PetSafe wireless fence to see how much wire it includes and the maximum size for the transmitter. There are transmitter models that only work up to 5 acres. Most kits will only cover 1/3 an acre, but you can buy extra wire to extend the coverage area. You need ~1000’ of wire for an acre.

You can have an unlimited number of dogs on this system if you buy additional collars for $100-$150 each. However, all animals will be limited to the same boundary, so you couldn’t elect to give one more freedom than the other.

PetSafe Invisible Fence Installation

Setting up PetSafe’s in-ground fences typically takes a weekend to install if you opt for an in-ground version. The first step is to install the buried wire by digging a narrow trench about three inches deep and placing the wire in it. 

When installing a buried wire fence, there are a few things you have to consider: 

  • You must avoid rocky areas or bodies of water when installing your wire.
  • Wires must be buried deep enough that they can’t be damaged by your lawn mower or other landscaping & garden tools.
  • In colder climates, frozen ground may push & crack the wire (which means you’ll need to repair or replace your fence).
If this installation seems difficult, you can always opt for the Invisible Fence® product which can be installed by a professional. While it’s more expensive (around $2,000-$2,500 for an acre), it can be worth avoiding the hassle of a DIY wireless fence.

Setting up PetSafe’s wireless fences is much less involved than the in-ground version. It takes around 1-2 hours to get these wireless fences up and running – the most important task is choosing the right location for the fence’s base station. Because the circular shape of the PetSafe fence cannot be edited, you’ll have to pay special attention to where the boundary lies.

Be careful that your circular fence is not extending out to the street, your neighbor's yard, a body of water, or any other dangerous or off-limits areas that you don’t want your dog to roam.

One upside to wireless fences is that you can take them with you when you move and use them when you travel, provided you have a power source at the location. So, a new home or vacation home usually works well. They aren’t as useful at campgrounds, beaches, or parks.

Easier Setup & More Customization with Satellite-Powered Fence

Woman setting up her invisible fence perimeterThe SpotOn GPS Fence is the latest in wireless fence technology. It uses GPS and satellites to establish the boundary and therefore doesn’t require installation and eliminates the need for buried wires and base stations. You just take the collar hardware and walk the perimeter of any containment area and set it. The collar communicates with satellites to determine where the dog is and issues warning tones and optional static correction if your pup tries to escape. 

No longer will you need to spend your Saturday burying wires (which can break in the event of extreme weather, or be damaged by lawnmowers) worry about finding a power source, tinker with the circular radius, or pay for costly maintenance so your dog can stay safely contained on your property. In addition, the SpotOn System can set up containment areas in any size (.5-infinite acres) or shape and be modified in minutes. With its point-to-point snap feature, you can even use it over bodies of water or areas where you can’t walk due to uneven terrain. 

It’s totally portable, too. You can create up to 10 wireless fences of almost any size and shape and take them with you when you travel or move – you can even set different containment areas for each dog. It’s great both at a vacation home and in public areas like parks, campgrounds, and beaches. The SpotOn system also offers notifications if your dog breaches the boundary, as well as tracking to retrieve your dog if he escapes. 

 Learn more about how SpotOn GPS Fence compares to the PetSafe system.