How to Find a Break in an Invisible Fence
Discerning dog owners with larger land sizes everywhere agree: invisible fences work. But boy howdy can they be frustrating when there is a break in the fence!
Invisible fences, also known as electric dog fences, are effective, humane, and far less obtrusive than traditional wood or wire fences. They tend to be especially popular with dog lovers who own lots of land, as they make going to the trouble and expense of installing acres and acres of old-fashioned fencing unnecessary.
No containment solution is perfect, though. These covert corrals come with their fair share of problems, some of which can cause considerable frustration.
One of the biggest is ground wire breaks. When you’re faced with a break, your fence’s most significant benefit suddenly becomes its most annoying flaw. How in the world are you supposed to find a break in a fence you can’t even see?
Luckily, it’s nowhere near as tricky as it sounds. You don’t need X-ray eyes, a magic wand, or a miracle. All you need is one of two inexpensive tools—and a little patience.
How Invisible Fences Work
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of troubleshooting an invisible fence on the fritz, it will be helpful to have an idea of how these products function.
As their name suggests, invisible fences are non-physical barriers that operate entirely out of sight.
The installation process for an invisible fence involves laying or burying a series of electrical wires around the area you want to close off. This perimeter line is linked to a unique collar worn by your dog, which contains a battery-powered “correction unit.”
When your dog approaches the perimeter, the collar emits a warning tone meant to startle her into turning around. Assuming she doesn’t, the correction unit in the collar generates a response that varies in strength depending on the intensity setting selected by the owner.
This correction response won’t hurt your pup. Most programmable collars start off with a gentle vibration and work up to an extremely mild shock. Even the highest intensity setting is only about as uncomfortable as getting zapped by a doorknob after walking barefoot across your carpet. In other words, it’s more surprising than anything else.
That’s the whole idea—to surprise wandering dogs and persuade them to return to familiar territory so they don’t get lost or end up someplace where they might be in real danger.
Finding a Break in Your Invisible Fence
Ready to track down that pesky break and get your fence back in working order? First, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared.
For this sort of project, it’s best to start simple and see if you can spot the break with your own two eyes before moving on to more involved detection methods.
Method 1 – Examining Uncovered Ground Wires
If you opted not to bury the wire that serves as the boundary line when you purchased your fence, hunting down the broken connection should be relatively easy, though it may take some time.
- Use context clues to narrow down the break’s likely location and pick a good starting point. For example, underground wires have a way of becoming severed in areas where you mow, weed-whack, or garden regularly. Vehicle tracks, fallen brush, and holes created by burrowing animals could also be signs that something is amiss with your fence’s wiring.
- From the starting point you’ve chosen, walk the perimeter of your fence slowly, inspecting the ground wire for splits, fraying, or other visible damage. It’s a painstaking process, but it’s the best way to identify above-ground breaks.
- When you find the break, hire an electrician to come out and fix it. You also have the option of attempting repairs yourself. However, I only recommend giving it a shot if you have experience working with small electrical components, as mistakes could result in further damage, voided warranties, or even injury.
Method 2 – Scanning for a Break Using Radio Signals
If your ground wire is buried, you probably won’t be able to pinpoint it by sight alone, no matter how good your vision is. You’re up against an electronic snafu, so you’ll need to turn to electronics for help.
- Purchase an underground wire locator that’s compatible with the brand of your invisible fence. These handy gadgets are readily available online for around $30-70 apiece. That may sound steep, but it’s less than the cost of paying an electrician to track down the break or replacing your fencing system entirely.
- Alternatively, you can rig up a makeshift wire locator using an AM radio tuned to the same frequency as your fence. There are plenty of in-depth tutorials detailing how to do this on the internet.
- Before you get started, take a moment to double-check that your invisible fence is on and active. Both of the devices mentioned above use radio signals to pick up on interference with electrical current, so it’s crucial to make sure there’s power running to the fence if you want the ground wire to be discoverable.
- If you’re using a wire locator, configure it according to the instructions included with the device. If you’ve decided to go the Macgyver route, switch your radio to “AM” and adjust the frequency of the receiver so that it corresponds to that being put out by your fence’s transmitter (this will usually be somewhere around 530-700kHz).
- Make a circuit of your fence’s perimeter on foot, waving your device back and forth over the general area of the ground wire as you go.
- Listen closely to your device. If you’re using a wire locator, it will stop beeping when it passes over the break. If you’re using a makeshift radio detector, you should hear the static cut out momentarily. Pretty neat, huh?
- Splice the broken wire back together or get in touch with a qualified electrical repair professional and have them come out and do it for you.
That’s all there is to it! As you can see, it’s not as daunting a task as it might initially seem. It’s mostly a lot of walking, hand-waving, and attention-paying.
Whether your property is surrounded by an invisible fence or the old-fashioned kind, you’re bound to end up dealing with a break sooner or later.
Finding a break in an invisible fence might sound a bit like finding a needle in a haystack, but in reality, it’s far simpler (not to mention easier on your allergies).
The key is to be patient, keep a keen eye, and let technology take the lead where necessary. You should have no trouble figuring it out, seeing as how you already possess enough tech savvy to go with an invisible fence in the first place.