Do Electric Dog Fences Work in Snow? TIPS to Winterize

You open the door to let your dog out and see a foot of snow on the ground. You are immediately tense as your dog bolts for the edge of your yard. 

Will your electric fence be able to keep your dog in your yard while there is this much snow on the ground?

We’ll discuss some things you can do to ensure your electric fence keeps working, rain, shine, or snow!

Do Electric Dog Fences Work in the Snow?

dog running in the snow
An electric dog fence will work in a few inches to a couple of feet of snow as long as the power is on.

Yes, your dog’s invisible fence will work in the snow as long as the power is on to the transmitter box, and the snow is not more than a couple of feet deep.

Be aware that the deeper the snow is, the closer the dog can get to the boundary because the snow reduces the signal.

It’s negligible at 2 feet or less, but once the snow is 3-4 feet or more, signal loss increases.

If you live in an area where the snowfall is deep and remains deep, make a winter routine of readjusting the boundary width after the snow accumulates to ensure the fence will still work.

We answered the question, “how close can a dog get to an invisible fence?” in this article to help you do just that.

What Factors Affect the Invisible Fence in Winter?

Winter weather can bring normal life to a screeching halt, especially when snow quickly piles up. So do invisible fences work in winter?

Your in-ground electric fence should work fine during normal snowfall levels up to 2 feet.

Here are some other factors that can change how well the fence works.

  • The amount and thickness of snowfall – Very deep, heavy snow can dampen the signal, allowing the dog to run over the boundary.
  • How low temperatures drop – Excessively cold temperatures cause batteries to not work. Batteries like heat. Your dog’s collar may not respond to the fence signals in temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Power outage – The system relies on electricity to the transmitter. If the power is out, so is the fence. See our related article, Invisible Fence Beeping After Power Outage, for more info.
  • Boundary visibility – If the snow is deep enough to change the look of the property, the dog may not visually recognize where the boundaries are. This combined with a dampened signal may let the dog run away.

We recommend taking the collar out and testing it before letting the dog roam the yard to ensure that it’s still working properly.

Consider placing boundary flags in the deep snow if it’s going to stay.

Generally, these fences will not have any issues working properly with snow on the ground.

The exceptions would be intense snowfall or low temperatures that are uncommon during standard winters.  

Electric dog fences will work better in shallow snow, but with proper preparation, they can also work in heavier snowfall as well.

To see just how effective electric dog fences can be in the snow, take a look at a real dog owner’s experience in the video below.

Read More: Why is My Electric Fence So Weak? If your fence isn’t performing as it should, here’s what might be causing it – and how to fix the problem!

How Does Snow Affect Invisible Dog Fences?

While nothing is 100% guaranteed to work all the time, invisible dog fences shouldn’t have any issues working during the winter.

Cold weather can affect dog fences when the temperatures reach extreme lows, or snow levels are extremely high. 

The best way to prevent anything from happening to your electric dog fence during the wintertime is to purchase high-quality equipment with long-standing records of performance.  

Before you purchase a system, consider looking for:

  • Systems with thicker wire – 14 gauge is the thickest dog fence wire and will put out the strongest, most reliable signal.
  • Systems that come with a sturdy yet comfortable waterproof receiver collar.
  • Reputable companies with years of experience.
  • Systems designed specifically for snowy areas – will likely have thick wire.

Read our related article, Can You Use 14 Gauge Wire for Underground Dog Fence? to learn more about this wire and its benefits!

Are Electric Dog Fences Waterproof?

dog in the rain
If your dog has to spend time outside, you’ll need to know that the collar is waterproof.

Parts of your electric dog fence system are waterproof.

The wire that is placed into the ground is protected from wet weather such as snow and rain. 

Provided that the line is not broken or stripped in any place, the wire insulation is waterproof, giving you a reliable signal no matter the weather.

Even though how deep invisible fence wire is buried is generally pretty shallow, it should still be enough to keep it from getting cut, unless someone has cut it while digging for landscaping or fencing.

If it’s in one piece, it’s waterproof.

The receiver on your dog’s collar is also waterproof. 

Most signal receivers are made of material resistant to water, sometimes up to 10 feet, so even if your dog rolls around in the snow they, and the collar, will be protected.

The part of your fence that is not waterproof is the transmitter.

You can place it inside an acrylic waterproof box, if you’d like, to make sure it stays clean and dry. Most of the time it’s mounted indoors.

Need some installation tips? Check out our article article, Does Invisible Fence Have to Be in a Closed Loop?, where we cover the nitty-gritty of wire installation.

Will My Electric Dog Fence Short Out in Deep Snow?

Does invisible fence work under snow?

The only way that deep snow will cause shorting is if the wire has been broken in some way.

This should not happen if the wire is buried properly and the box is installed in a protected building.

An electrical short means that there is a break in the wire somewhere that allows the electricity to go astray.

As long as the fence has been securely installed this shouldn’t be a problem.

Can My Dog Run Through an Invisible Dog Fence in the Snow?

Just as during times of normal weather, if your dog tries to jump over above-ground fences, they will try to jump over electric fences. 

Snowy weather is a favorite for fence-jumping dogs.

If the snow is too high and thick, and the signal too weak, your pup can make it over the electric fences without a hassle.

Try increasing the boundary width to make up for the added snow.

For most fences, a boundary width of 10 makes a boundary that is 20 to 25 feet wide. If your snow is 10 feet deep, that still gives you 10 to 15 feet of boundary.

Double-check before letting your dog out and decrease the boundary width as the snow melts or your dog will get an inappropriate correction that could make it scared to go outside.

However, in mild to moderate snow, there should be no issues with electric fences working properly.

Are Receiver Collar Batteries Affected by Cold Weather?

Any type of battery will be affected by temperatures that reach dangerous lows, and this includes the batteries in your dog’s collar.  

The cold reduces the charge that is available for batteries to draw on.

The longer the collar, and your dog, are outside the less charge will be available to the collar.  

This does not mean the battery is not working, just that it will not work correctly for a temporary amount of time when it’s too cold.  

A perfect way to gauge if it’s too cold for your dog outside is if it’s too cold for you! No dog should be left outside during very cold weather.

Keeping dogs inside and just letting them out when they need to do their business will keep batteries warm and fully charged even if the weather outside is brutally cold.

Does an Electric Fence Shock Spread Through the Snow?

Shocks will not spread through the snow. Quite the opposite happens.

The snow will act as an insulator and can prevent a shock from occurring. 

The collar may not work reliably though, if it can’t get a clear signal through drifted snow or thick ice.

How To Prepare Your Electric Dog Fence for Snow

Dog in the snow
Whether you’re dealing with rain or snow, it’s critical to keep your dog safe in cold weather.

Test the System Before Letting Your Dog Out

You might think that your electric dog fence system is working until the day your dog walks right through it, and into the neighbor’s yard.

Don’t wait until your dog realizes your fencing is not working properly to test the system. 

Before winter and the arrival of the snow, test all the parts of your invisible dog fencing system, and repair or replace any parts that are not performing as needed.

Test the system after a deep snowfall to make sure it’s all communicating well before you let your dog run and play.

Make sure you test all parts of the system including:

  • Receiver collar and its battery component
  • Invisible fence transmitter
  • Underground boundary wire

Take the collar off the dog and walk to the boundary area.

Note where you hear the warning beep and if the shock works. Adjust the boundary width until the fence works as needed.

Read our related article, Does Cold Weather Affect Invisible Fence? for more tips and tricks to winterize your system and keep your dog’s training up-to-date!

How Far Down Is Your Electric Dog Fence Wire?

Sometimes when a company installs your invisible fence wire, they may not be sure how deep to bury dog fence wire for it to be effective in the snow.  

Most fences specify that the wire should be buried only 1-4 inches deep so the signal continues to work even under snow.

How High Is Your Electric Dog Fence Signal Field?

A common issue with snow is that it can create drifts in places such as those around fences, or other areas in your yard.  

If your electric fence signal is, for example, only 3 feet high, and you have drifts higher than that, your pup can get out, because it will be above the signal. 

This is the exact same setting as your boundary width. In normal weather, we tend to think of the boundary as extending across the ground.

However, the boundary signal actually wraps around the wire.

That boundary extends up into the air in all directions, creating a boundary your dog can’t jump over or run through if it’s set wide enough.

So if your boundary is set to allow the dog to sniff around within 4 feet of the wire, then you get 2 feet of snow, then your dog will likely be able to walk over the wire and explore the neighborhood.

Give it a test and increase the boundary width if needed.

Be sure to read our related article, Can a Dog Run Through an Invisible Fence? for more tips and tricks to keep your dog contained.

Do You Have a Solid Fence Along With an Invisible Dog Fence?

Occasionally dog owners will have a solid fence along with their invisible dog fence for double protection against their dog escaping.  

In these cases, snow can drift up along the solid fence causing drifts that your furry friend can make use of to jump over the fence.

The snow can get deep enough to stop the signal from the wire and create an escape ramp for your dog.

Keep an eye on drifts around any solid fences or other objects the dog can jump on to escape and remove snow that piles up against them.

How Does a Dog React to an Electric Fence Covered in Snow?

some dogs love to play in the snow when it's not too cold
Dogs react differently to boundaries when it’s snowy. You may need to do some reinforcement training to keep the dog home.

Dogs can have different reactions to electric fences once they are covered in snow.  

These include several behaviors such as:

  • Continuing to follow the boundary regardless of the snow, because visual elements are there such as flags.
  • Testing the boundaries to see if the system is still working, because the environment has visually changed.
  • Disregarding the boundaries, because the environment looks completely different due to the snowfall and the snow has rendered the fence ineffective.
  • Decreased ability to smell the area, scent tracking, means the dog may wander too close to the wire without realizing it.

Knowing how your dog will react to an electric fence covered in snow is an important step in preventing them from running past it.

Consider placing boundary flags on top of the snow so your dog can see them and understand that the normal boundary is still in effect.

Dog Training Tips: Snow-Covered Electric Dog Fences

Here are a few things you can do to reinforce the boundaries, even if they’re going to be covered by snow for a few months.

Set Up Boundary Flags

An easy way to help your dog see the boundary of your electric dog fence even in the snow is to get yard flags to put up around the edge of the fence. 

These will help your pup both with and without snow on the ground to see where the limits are.

Retrain Them After The First Snow

When you first install your electric fence you have to then know how to train your dog with an invisible fence so they learn to respect the boundaries and acknowledge the collar corrections.

A good tactic is to take your dog outside after the snow has covered the yard, and retrain them through the same steps. 

Some simple things you may need to do with your dog after it snows are: 

  • Show them where the boundary of the fence is again in the snow
  • Take your dog up to the boundary line, and let the warning beep go off without the collar shocking them
  • Reenforce what happens when they cross the boundary by taking them over to it, and letting the collar shock them
  • Praise your dog for staying within the boundary once you bring them back
  • Watch them off-leash so they can roam with your supervision

This way they learn what the area looks like both before and after it snows to prevent any unwanted “testing” of the fence.

Consider Alternative Fencing During the Winter

gps tracking app
Using a GPS dog can help keep your dog home because the fence is set by satellites above.

GPS dog collars that have built-in virtual fence capabilities are a great option for those with significant acreage that gets a lot of snow.

The only thing you need to use a GPS virtual fence is the GPS collar and the included app for your phone.

The virtual fence is set based on the location of the collar, with the collar being the center when you set up the perimeter.

Once you define the perimeter, it will warn and correct the dog to stay inside the perimeter.

Dog training is needed, but it will work no matter how deep the snow gets because it relies on GPS satellite connection rather than a buried wire.

The only drawbacks are that the collar can lose GPS connection in heavily wooded areas, and they aren’t accurate to within a few feet like wired fences are.

However, they are an affordable alternative that is worth considering for many dog owners who need to keep the dog home when the snow gets deep.

Read our related article, Do GPS Dog Fences Work? for everything you need to know to make an informed decision!

Final Thoughts

If you live in an area that gets snowfall that melts off every several days, the electric fence should work normally all winter long.

If you live in an area where the snow falls and accumulates for months, you’ll need to keep retesting and adjusting the fence to ensure it is sending strong enough signals to keep your dog in.

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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