What Happens if You Don’t Ground an Electric Fence? (TIPS)

It can be a big job to install an electric dog fence yourself.

You have to plan the layout, dig the trench for the wire, hook everything up, and then train your dog.

You also need to make sure your fence transmitter is properly grounded when it’s installed. 

If an electric fence is not properly grounded and experiences any kind of electrical surge such as a lightning strike, it could permanently damage the fence system. 

If you have your fence professionally installed, your installers will take care of this for you.

But if this is a D-I-Y project for you, you’ll need to have your fence manual on hand for step-by-step directions. 

Why is Grounding Necessary?

Electric Fence
If you don’t ground an electric fence, the consequences can be catastrophic.

If your fence is not properly grounded when it experiences an extra electrical surge, it can cause some big problems, such as:

  • It could trip breakers 
  • It could cause shocks 
  • Your fence could stop working 
  • It could cause permanent damage to your fence system 

While you may not even notice whether or not your fence is grounded most of the time, your fence will be affected and damaged if there were any electrical surges. 

By grounding your fence, you’re preventing major damage from other electrical sources, namely lightning.

Even lightning strikes that occur a few miles away could send extra power surges into your fence’s electrical current that could permanently damage the system.

Read More: Can you put an electric fence charger outside? Knowing where to place your fence charger is the difference between and effective fence and your dog escaping.

Grounding Physical Fences

Electric fences are commonly used in conjunction with other physical fences, such as wooden fences or barbed wire, to contain cattle or other livestock. 

These types of fences are built sturdily, but also contain a wire that will shock when the animal pushes up against it, effectively keeping livestock in and predators out. 

To ground a physical fence, a galvanized steel rod about 4 ft long (usually made of pipe or rebar) is used to connect the live wire to the ground. 

These are considered grounding rods.

These allow the fence to operate properly as any extra electrical surges will pass safely through to the ground without damaging your fence (hence the name “grounding.”)

Without grounding rods, the fence won’t shock.

In order to work properly, the fence needs to be able to operate on a closed circuit, which it can’t do without being grounded. 

If your fence is long enough, it will most likely need multiple grounding rods in order for the rods to be effective.

Does rebar work as a grounding rod? See if rebar is the right choice and discover other materials that may work better for grounding!

A Grounded Invisible Fence

Invisible Fence
A Grounded Invisible Fence only works when the transmitter is plugged in and on a closed loop.

When a wire is electrically grounded, it provides an alternative, safe electrical path in case of a power surge or electrical malfunction. 

With invisible fences, your transmitter needs to be plugged into a grounded standard outlet and works similarly to a grounding rod used in a physical fence. 

Some electric fences will come with a three-pronged plug-in that requires you to have a grounded outlet as the third prong is considered the ground prong.

Therefore, it is easy to tell if an outlet is grounded because if you cannot plug a three-pronged device into the outlet, it is not grounded. 

Depending on the brand, grounding your electric fence may actually be mandated by the National Electric Code in North America

Grounding your fence may also be required by the manufacturer.

If your fence happened to receive damage from lightning due to improper grounding, it could void your warranty on the fence, depending on the invisible fence brand.

Alternatives to Grounding

For fences that don’t come with lightning protection equipment, or if your outlet isn’t grounded, consider plugging your transmitter into a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlet.

Besides protecting your fence in case of electrical surges, here is why GFCI outlets may be helpful: 

  • With GFCI outlets, this type of outlet will monitor all electrical currents flowing to and from the outlet. 
  • If anything abnormal is detected, the power to that outlet is shut down, saving anything plugged in (like your fence) from also receiving the extra electrical charge. 
  • It can be a cheaper and less time-consuming alternative to grounding an outlet. 

Check with your fence manufacturer for more information, and always make sure to carefully read the fencing manual when it comes to installation.

There are some fences that do not recommend GFCI outlets because they require grounded outlets instead. 

If necessary, we recommend hiring an electrician to install a grounded outlet or a GFCI outlet for you so that you can be sure that your fence has been properly installed.

If you have some experience with electrical work, you may be able to do this step yourself with the help of this video:

Other Protection Against Electrical Surges

Grounding your fence is the best way to ensure protection against electrical surges from lightning.

However, there are a few ways you can maximize that protection. 

  • When choosing your fence, check to see whether it comes with any additional lightning protection, such as surge protectors. Some fence brands may include this as a bonus feature to help protect against any electrical surges. 
  • You also may be able to add something called a lightning module for additional protection if you live in an area that is prone to bad storms. 
  • Be careful where you place your boundary wire and transmitter to avoid being damaged during landscaping or construction.
  • When burying your boundary wire, avoid running the wire alongside other electrical wires, cable lines, or telephone lines as they could interfere with your fence. 
  • The transmitter will need to be placed away from other potential interference, such as breaker boxes, satellite dishes, or large appliances. When you plug it into the transmitter, make sure it is the only device plugged into that outlet. 
  • If you’re home and a big storm is coming, bring your dog inside and unplug your electric fence, even if it is plugged into a grounded outlet to avoid any extra surges.

Hopefully, by following these steps, you will be able to protect your fence from damage due to electrical surges.

Read More: Can You Move an Invisible Fence? If you’re moving house or want to expand your fence, you can move your invisible fence. We cover what you need to know!

What Do I Do After a Storm?

After a storm, there are a few things you should do to get your fence up and running properly: 

  • If your fence is properly grounded and has a lightning protection device, always test the fence to make sure it still works after a storm before letting your dog out.
  • If your fence isn’t working properly, keep your dog inside until you can fix it, otherwise, your dog could run through the fence and escape the yard. 
  • Check breakers that could have been tripped by any electrical surges from the storm. 
  • Check power to the outlet. If you have a GFCI outlet, in particular, it may need to be reset. 
  • Be familiar with your fence’s warranty policy. If your fence was properly grounded and still received damage due to lightning, you may be eligible for a replacement. 

By following these steps after a storm, you will be able to ensure that your pup will stay safely in his yard.

Read More: My Dog Runs Through the Invisible Fence. Here are common problems that may affect your fence’s performance. Here’s how to keep your dog in your yard!


By grounding your electric fence, you are taking every possible step to protect your fence.

Grounding your electric fence is the best way to ensure your fence does not sustain permanent damage from electrical surges, such as from lightning storms. 

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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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