How to Test a Wireless Dog Fence (Reasons it Might Not Work)

Wireless invisible fences are a useful tool when trying to contain your pet. So congratulations on buying and installing it!

You’re almost done. But, how do you know your fence is working and how do you test your wireless dog fence?

You can tell a wireless dog fence is working if you can hear a beep coming from the device and see the lights flashing.

If something isn’t working, then it’s time to troubleshoot. This guide will cover how to test a wireless dog fence!

How To Test a Wireless Dog Fence

woman testing a wireless dog fence collar
A working collar will have a light that illuminates and a beep that sounds when you approach the boundary.

So, how do you test an underground dog fence?

The quickest way to test your fence is to hold the collar at the dog’s height and walk to and around the boundary.

Look for the light to illuminate and listen for the warning beep.

You can also touch the prongs to see if you get a shock when crossing the fence.

If you think the prongs aren’t working, use the testing key and touch the prongs to the metal pads to see if the key illuminates.

The light on the key will illuminate more brightly with a higher correction level set on the collar.

If you have a wired invisible fence, you will know if the wire is broken because the transmitter will beep indicating a broken circuit.

For wireless or wired invisible fences, if the transmitter is powered on and not beeping and the collar is not responding, it is likely the battery has gone dead and needs to be replaced or recharged.

Below are a few more things to check to make sure the fence is working correctly.

Read More: Why is My PetSafe Wireless Fence Not Working? If your PetSafe Fence is a dud, it may need to be reset. Here’s what you need to do!

Make Sure the Prongs Are Touching the Dog’s Skin

If the dog is running through a functional fence wearing a collar with fresh batteries, the prongs may not be making enough contact for the dog to feel the corrective shock.

This is a common problem for dogs with very thick or long hair. The hair pads the contacts so the dog feels little to none of the static shock.

Tightening the collar usually fixes the problem, but make sure it’s not too tight so as to cause discomfort or rub the dog’s skin causing injury.

Also, if your dog’s fur is too thick you might need to give your pup a trim to feel the static correction.

Your collar kit also likely came with 2 sets of prongs – one short and one long.

The set of long prongs is for dogs with long or very thick fur. Swap the prongs out and tighten them securely in the receiver box.

Another common problem with prongs that aren’t working is they’ve loosened over time.

Use a pair of pliers to make sure the prongs are firmly fixed in the receiver box so they are working right.

If you are wondering about the safety of using a receiver collar on your dog, check out this article where we talk in-depth about the safety of using invisible fences.

Replace or Recharge the Batteries

This is another easy fix. Usually, if the device is beeping or flashing once every second then that means it could be running out of battery power.

Most collars have a low-battery indicator warning that gives you time to buy a replacement battery or recharge the collar before it goes dead and your dog runs away.

If you miss the low-battery warning then the battery may die altogether making the collar useless.

Put it on the charger overnight or swap the battery for a fresh one and see if it starts working again.

Be aware that the correction levels you set may have been reset due to battery failure, so double-check everything before you put the collar back on the dog.

Check for a Bad Wired Transmitter

dog leaping over an invisible fence
If your dog jumps over the invisible fence, it could be a sign that your transmitter isn’t working.

NOTE: If you have a wireless invisible fence you can skip down to the next section where we will troubleshoot wireless transmitters.

If you have a wired transmitter, read this section to see how to test for problems.

This one is going to take a few steps, but it will help you figure out what the problem is.

  1. Make sure there’s a new battery in the collar and use the testing key to make sure the prongs are working and that the collar isn’t the problem.
  1. Cut 15 feet of boundary wire and strip about 3/8″ of insulation off the two ends to expose the wire.
  1. Remove the existing wires from the transmitter and replace them with the short test wire to make a new closed-circuit loop for testing, eliminating the possibility that the problem is in the wire.
  1. Adjust the power level on the transmitter by dialing it up to 10 (or full power) and then back down to 5 (or half power).
  1. Put your light tool on the collar prongs and slowly bring it up to the boundary wire as close as possible.

    Mark the distance at which the collar gives the warning and when it begins to shock.
  1. Put the transmitter on the highest setting (10). Bring the collar to the wire again, slowly coming closer to the test wire.

    Take note of where the collar goes off. It should be farther away than before.

Watch this PetSafe troubleshooting video showing you the steps to do to test your transmitter:

What Does It Mean?

There are 3 possible outcomes that you can encounter when doing this test.

You will be able to determine the problem based on the results you got from the test:

  • The collar is not working properly
  • The transmitter is setting off an alarm
  • Everything works as it should

The Collar is Not Working Properly

If you already replaced the battery, then you have a serious issue with the collar itself.

The best thing you can do is talk with the company and see if they can fix or replace it.

You can always test it out by touching it yourself and seeing if there is a shock from the collar. 

With your small closed-loop test system you are sure to feel a shock if everything is working.

Read our related article, Does Electric Fence Have to Be a Loop? If you’re wondering if you can place your electric fence in a straight line, check out this guide!

The Transmitter is Setting Off an Alarm

This is a transmitter issue. If you set up the loop correctly and the alarm is sounding, then the unit is not detecting the closed loop.

You can try again with a separate piece of wire to help eliminate any possibility that there is a break in the wire you don’t know about.

Unplug the transmitter and try cleaning the contacts where the wire is clipped into the transmitter with isopropyl alcohol and cotton swabs.

After the contacts are dry, plug them back in and hook up the wire.

If the unit is under warranty you can call the company for a replacement. Otherwise, it may be time to replace the transmitter unit.

The Transmitter Passes the Test

If everything seems to be working properly then that means somewhere within your boundary you have a cut or a damaged spot.

It is highly unlikely that you have a broken wire without causing the transmitter to alert you with a loud beeping alarm.

However, the wire may have a short or place where it is intermittently working.

Use an underground wire locator to find the break in the wire, or consider running a new wire.

It could save time if you have no idea where a break might be.

How To Test and Troubleshoot a Wireless Transmitter

Other Issues That Can Come Up
Wireless invisible fences can have spotty coverage because of object interference.

Here are a few things to troubleshoot before calling Customer Service for your wireless invisible fence transmitter:

  • Make sure the transmitter is not located near any metal objects.

    Metal objects will interfere with the radio signal transmission, creating “blind spots” or interrupting the fence completely.
  • Make sure there are no metal sheds or other objects in the yard that are interrupting the boundary line.

    Take the dog’s collar off and test it near and behind objects to make sure it’s still receiving a signal.
  • If the unit is plugged in but not receiving power, double-check any GFI circuits (press the reset button in the middle) and check the circuit panel to make sure there aren’t tripped circuits.

If everything seems to be set up correctly, call Customer Service for further troubleshooting advice or to get a replacement unit if it is under warranty.

Reasons an Invisible Dog Fence May Not Work

Sometimes there are other factors that can cause a dog to escape its boundary. They are just as common and should be taken into consideration.

  • A Stubborn Dog
  • Hard of Hearing Dog
  • Signal Interference

A Stubborn Dog

This is not as much of an easy problem to fix.

Your pet just might be stubborn enough to ignore the beeping, vibrations, or shocks. This is usually common in very energetic dogs

The first thing to do is increase the boundary width. This is done on the transmitter and can give the dog too much ground to cover inside the correction zone to get out.

A dog that finds it easy to jump across a 6-foot boundary will think twice about running through a 25-foot wide boundary.

Another way to handle this is to up the intensity of the shocks. This should deter them from pushing the boundaries.

We recommend stepping up the collar only one level at a time.

Here’s a good resource for understanding why or how your dog ran through the fence.

Hard of Hearing Dog

Some dogs, especially older ones, will have trouble hearing the beep of the collar once they get close to the boundary.

This can be an easy fix. Most collars should have a vibration setting on them. 

Set it to the vibration and make sure the fur isn’t too dense to where it will muffle the feeling.

However, you might have to train them that the vibration is bad so that they stay away from the area. 

Read more: How do I train a dog who is hard of hearing? Here is a great resource for training a deaf dog.

Signal Interference

Electric dog fence interference can be a tricky thing to figure out. The collar might work sometimes while other times it may not work at all.

This is usually only a problem with wireless models because they use a radio signal to set the boundary which can be interrupted by environmental factors and objects in the area.

Make sure the transmitter is located far away from refrigerators, freezers, cars, metal sheds, and other objects that can interfere.

Your in-ground wire should be at least three to four feet away from all electrical sources.

See our related article, Does a Metal Roof Interfere with a Wireless Dog Fence? We discuss how your invisible fence may be impacted by your landscape.

Final Thoughts

Invisible dog fences are typically really reliable and keep dogs in the yard very well once the dog is trained and the settings are dialed in.

We hope that these steps for testing your system help you figure out the problem if yours isn’t working as well as you need and expect it to.

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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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