What Does a Power Failure Mean for My Electric Dog Fence?

There’s plenty of things to dread during a power failure, but you may not give a thought about your electric dog fence working. Most dog fences only alert you (beep) when there is a break in the boundary wire, but, like most electronics, no beeps when the power goes out. During our last outage, I learned our dog was playing down the street because our dog fence stopped working. She’s a smart dog and knows when the fence isn’t working and takes every opportunity to see her buds down the street. She had a blast, by the way.

So, what does a power failure mean for your electric dog fence? During a power failure, your electric dog fence will stop working unless your system is equipped with battery backup. You do have alternatives though.

This article will cover what fences come equipped with battery protection and what you can do for fences that do not. Outage Hack inside! We also cover the hidden dangers you need to know when using an electric dog fence.

Which Electric Dog Fences Have Battery Backup?

Simply put, a battery backup is a way to keep your fence operational during a power outage. When an outage occurs these systems switch from the AC power provided by your home to the batteries inside the control unit. You’ll just need to keep an eye on the batteries if you intend to keep the system operating all the time. If your dog doesn’t need to be outside you can remove the batteries (provided you have easy access) to preserve battery life. You never know how long an outage will be so battery management is important.

The table below shows a list of some electric dog fence companies that ‘do’ or ‘do not’ have battery backup. The systems are categorized as either an in-ground system or a wireless system. A ‘no’ means the system does not have a battery backup.

AngelaKerry Wireless Dog Fence System with GPSno
Depps Wireless Dog Containment Systemno
DogTek EF-4000no
High Tech Pet Humane Contain X-10 yes
Innotek Rechargeable In-ground Pet Fencingyes
Perimeter Comfort Contact Fencingyes
PetSafe Basicno
PetSafe Stay & Play Wireless Fenceno
PetSafe Stubborn Dogno
PetSafe Wireless Fence (PIF-300)no
PetSafe YardMax Rechargeable In-ground Fenceno
Sportdog Contain & Trainno

While this isn’t an all-inclusive list of electric dog fence companies, you can see many don’t have a battery backup, but read on, I’ll show you how to make your own.

One Danger You’re Likely Not Thinking Of

Both in-ground and wireless electric dog fences rely on AC power to make the system work. When you have a power outage you run the risk of a power surge that can damage your controller. Consider unplugging the fence during storms when your dog is likely to be inside. That surge can be damaging to the controller, which is the most expensive part of the entire system. Unfortunately, there is still a hidden danger for a system with boundary wires.

Beyond a surge, the most dangerous is a lightning strike. Many homeowners have found their controller fried or on fire as a result of lightning traveling through the ground and finding the boundary wire. You remember how lightning works, right? The scary part is some controllers are scattered in garages, closets, and basements. Now, that dangerous surge has made its way inside your home.

There can never be a guarantee with lightning, but here are some options to minimize damage to your electric dog fence:

  • Unplug the system and wires.  You can unplug the power to the controller as well as the boundary wires. This can minimize damage, but not practical every time a storm comes your way. It’s still an option.
  • Install a ground wire. Look at your owners manual and see if there is a section outlining a ground wire. A ground wire will aid in protecting your equipment from a sudden surge and should be fairly straightforward to install.
  • Install a fuse. While you’re browsing the manual for the ground wire see if your system has a fuse, which is likely behind a small panel on the back of your controller. It too can be a good protection from a power surge.
  • Install an electric dog fence surge protector. This device works just like it sounds. It’s made for electric dog fences and is relatively inexpensive considering a damaged controller could set you back a couple hundred dollars.
  • Install a grounding system. You’ll need some help here but talk to an electrician about installing a grounding system outside your home to redirect surges.

Would a Power Outage Cause an Accidental Trigger?

Electric dog fences should only trigger (or deliver a correction) when the criteria of leaving the prescribed zone has been met. Meaning, it only works when the dog tries to leave the zone. That said — I have read one report of a wireless PetSafe system delivering a correction to the dog during an outage. I actually own this same system and became concerned. I reached out the manufacturer to see what they had to say.

“It is important to note that wireless receiver collars are designed to activate specifically when they lose the signal from the transmitter. Power loss for the transmitter creates an abrupt reduction of the signal field. Since the collar is unaware that the transmitter has lost power, it will then begin to activate because it thinks it is outside of the boundary zone. Although our systems are built in with an automatic detection feature that is designed to recognize power outages and should shut down without activating the receiver, power outages seem to affect them in varying ways so regrettably this feature does not always kick in.”

PetSafe Customer Service

Good to know! So, for those wireless electric dog fence owners — you may want to take the dog collar off when the dog is inside the house.

Ok, let’s get to it.

Recommendations / Ideas:

So, if you’re a lucky winner of an electric dog fence without a battery backup and the power goes you can set up your own. You’ll need two pieces of equipment:

  • A portable car charging battery. I’ve had one of thee for years and it’s replaced the need for jumper cables. It’s been a huge help during outages as well.
  • A power inverter. Yes, I did have one of these lying around from an older minivan that didn’t have an AC outlet. So, the inverter provided an outlet for long road trips. Most newer cars today have built in AC outlets.

NOTE: a power inverted simply takes the DC power coming out of your car battery and converts it into AC power, which is what we use in our homes.

I’ll also add that this hack is not useful during short outages. You may have picked up on that already. Depending what you’ve learned about your outage and the estimated time to have your power restored — see if it makes sense to implement this solution. My dog has slept through most short outages and would never worry about going outside — especially if it was pouring. For extended outages, and when the pup needs time outside — absolutely, this could provide a great alternative to keeping everyone happy.

How Long Would a Battery Backup for My Dog Fence Last?

Good question and hard to answer. The fence itself draws a small amount of power, which is the good news. The difficult piece is the status of your battery. Battery life, operating temperature, length of use, how many devices connected will all play into the duration you can expect. For my hack – those portable car chargers have quite a bit of power and I’d say you could easily stretch the battery life with good battery management. Personally, during a power outage, I’d only hook up the fence for the time my dog needed to be outside. After bringing her back in I would disconnect the battery. But, let’s take a look at some numbers anyway.

In the same e-mail from PetSafe they did provide some data for a Universal Power Supply or UPS. This type of system would potentially be dedicated to the dog fence, so the running time is likely considering nothing else is drawing from the UPS and the fence remains on.

“While results will vary depending on the UPS manufacturer’s specifications; the following are typical examples to guide your choice of a UPS:

– Using a 400 VA UPS, you should expect at least 1 hour of backup time.
– Using a 900 VA UPS, you should expect at least 4 hours of backup time.”

PetSafe Customer Service


Ultimately, a power outage can present some challenges on keeping your electric dog fence running and your pet contained. The most important is the safety of your dog and your home. So, if the outage is related to a lightning storm consider surge protectors designed to handle such an event. Also, dig into the owners manual and learn about grounding and fuses. Whether you use our hack, a UPS, or surge protectors you’re really talking about a small investment that can provide big returns; especially if you don’t have a generator. More on that later.

Preparation is always key, so think about what can be done now instead of waiting until the outage happens. If the battery and inverter soltuion isn’t a fit for your dog fence — hopefully we’ve opened your eyes to the possibility of alternate power sources as this hack is repeatable with small electronics around the house.

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