If you've ever found yourself driving around your neighborhood, calling out the window for the family dog, you've probably thought about pet containment systems! There are many reasons for using pet containment systems, including health and reproductive issues, leash laws, housing covenants, and good old neighborly courtesy. While there are many conventional options such as wooden, rail, or chain link fences, one of the newer and increasingly popular alternatives is an underground or wireless pet fence.

The underground or wireless pet fence is a combination of training, technology, and electronics. In this edition of How Stuff Works, we will learn about the history, components, comparative cost, benefits and cautions of underground pet fences so that you and your family will be informed consumers when looking at these systems!

The History of Underground or Wireless Pet Fences
While the exact date of its origin is unclear, the underground or wireless pet fence industry started to gain momentum in the early 1970s. Each brand of underground or wireless pet fences has its own history and interesting story. The industry originally began as a way of both protecting pets and making image-concerned owners happy and has become a wildly popular in recent years. Today's larger, underground or wireless pet fence companies have grown through professional resellers and distributors located across the country. A search in your local Yellow Pages will probably lead you to a reseller or distributor just around the corner.

Underground or wireless pet fences are intended to be a correction deterrent to your pet, not a punishment. Many of the more popular systems are endorsed by national humane societies and animal organizations such as the Humane Society of the US, the ASPCA, vets, vet publications, animal behaviorists, and major university veterinary schools.

Why the Increased Popularity?
As suburbs continue to pop up around cities and as more neighborhoods and subdivisions are formed, so too are restrictions. Many homeowners associations have policies that restrict the type, size, and existence of any fence system. At the same time these associations also restrict the freedom of pets. Underground or wireless pet fences make the association and the homeowner happy. The homeowner is able to contain the family pet and the association is happy because there isn't the visual clutter of conventional fences. Even without restrictive covenants, you may still choose underground or wireless pet fences because of aesthetic appeal.

In addition to covenants and aesthetic appeal, underground or wireless pet fences are growing in popularity because of the comparative cost. Consider the following estimates* based on a self-installed, 1/2 acre (500 foot), perimeter enclosure for two pets (for simpler calculations, no pools or gardens are included):

Wooden Privacy Fence
Chain Link Fence
Basic Underground Pet Fence
63 Treated 6'x8' sections ($25): $1575
63 8' long 4x8s ($7): $441
10 6'x50' rolls ($60): $600
50 10' top rails ($6): $300
50 6' posts (6): $300
**Pre-packaged Basic Kit: $159
Corner posts, 4' walk gate and hardware: $150
Section connectors, corner poles, 4' walk gate and hardware: $200
Additional Receiver Collar: $60
64+ hours (8 hr./day for 4 Saturdays & Sundays)
64+ hours (8 hr./day for 4 Saturdays & Sundays)
2-3 hours/500' of fence
1 Year Maintenance
Replace rotted or damaged sections occasionally
Patch tears in the fence
8 6V batteries ($6): $48
Replace every 3 months
Total Cost
$2166 + Your Time
$1400 + Your Time
$267 + Your Time
*Prices from a home-improvement warehouse
**Basic Kit includes 500' of wire and accessories, 1 collar, and 1 installation and training video