12 June 2007

Invisible fencing for the frugal pet owner

In October, my girlfriend and I got our first puppy. We went down to a local animal shelter, where we were lucky enough to find an adorable little beagle/rat terrier mix, just 6 weeks old and less than 4 lbs. Three days later we took him home, and we've been so thrilled to have done it. He's about 8 months old now and is leveling off at around 23 lbs.

For most of his life, he's had a small area outside, essentially made with heavy chicken wire, where he could be let outside to do his business and play. The area was about 120 sq ft of patio and maybe 40 sq ft of grass . . . not nearly enough for a now full-grown pup! We would take him to the dog park and to play with his pals at their houses, but for the most part he just didn't have enough space.

After weeks of discussing and arguing about the cost (that was my angle) / benefit (that was her angle) of a new fence, we got an estimate for a wood fence-- about $4000. Neither of us was going to be happy spending $4k, especially in a house that we're in for the relatively short term.

In the end, we made the decision to go invisible-- specifically, we picked this kit up at Home Depot for $140. Four days and about 10 hours of burying the wire later, we had a functioning invisible fence, and we started training Bruno on it right away.

It's amazing! It is truly is remarkable how quickly he has learned his boundaries. He has gotten zapped 4-5 times, but now he's very careful around the boundary and listens for the beep-- and when he hears it, he immediately backs off. We've let him know that inside the boundary is a safe zone by playing with him consistently after he tests a boundary, and it seems to have paid off. He immediately turns and comes back, never giving a thought to continuing through the wire.

The cost difference is tremendous, and there are some additional benefits to invisible fencing as well. For one, we could snake the wire around a flowerbed in the back to make it off-limits, and it would have made no sense to do that with a real fence. Also, the back yard still has a very open feel, which we would have lost with a wood fence. When we eventually move, we can take the base and collar of the system with us, and we'd simply need to buy new wire ($30/500 ft) to install it at a new location.

So there you go. $140 vs. $4000, and we can take most of it with us. In the end, we are both happy, and Bruno is completely thrilled with his newfound freedom. Sometimes the best decisions are also the most cost efficient.

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