Adapted from a Blog Post by Emily West, DogWatch of Columbus (Columbus, OH)

We hear often that the underground fence is “one of the best investments” our customers have ever made. (Don’t believe us? Check out our testimonials page.) But now the tricky part begins:  how to choose what type of system and who to install it for you? Obviously we hope you choose DogWatch®, but we recognize there are other options out there. Here’s a list of questions you should definitely ask of any company that comes out for an estimate or when comparing store-bought brands.

What is the warranty policy on the equipment?

Your best (and, in our mind, only) answer to this question is a lifetime warranty that absolutely must include dog chews. The collar that your dog wears will take a beating every day. It will be exposed to all elements, lots of dirt and everyday use. Over time, it is possible that something will happen to the collar, so make sure it is easy to replace if you need to.  That’s the second part of this answer – make sure warranty returns are easy and painless to accomplish.

Another question regarding the warranty. Is it a national warranty program or will the warranties be voided when you move?

Battery Questions are Threefold.

First question: What is the expected battery life?
The longer the battery life, the better for your dog’s safety, for your convenience, and for substantial cost savings. DogWatch batteries last about 2 years, by the way.  Other brands usually need to be replaced several times a year.

Second question: Are your batteries rechargeable?
While at first this may seem like a good option, keep in mind that while the battery is charging, the collar is not on the dog. Also, it is best to charge rechargeable batteries when they are completely dead. Needless to say, having your dog run free on an extremely low (or dead) battery is a risky proposition.  In addition, even rechargeable batteries need to be replaced, sometimes as often as every two years; and they are usually a lot more expensive than standard batteries.

Third question: Are your batteries proprietary?
If you can only purchase batteries through one source (such as the company that sold you the fence), you may want to rethink that decision. Remember, competition keeps companies honest.

Safety Features (beware of smoke and mirrors)

There are some features of a fence that are important and others that just try to look important but really don’t matter. In our opinion, here are the questions to ask that are truly relevant to your purchase.

Does your system run on a time delay, is it distance-based, or does it give an immediate shock plus hang on time?

  • A time delay means that after the audible warning, a certain amount of time will pass and then the dog receives a correction if he has not retreated from the correction zone. This approach does not work well if the dog does not completely retreat (even if he stops) or if the dog is running fast at the wire (he’ll end up going over it before he gets the correction).
  • Distanced-based means that there is an audible warning and the correction only occurs if the dog continues further into the correction zone. This prevents the dog from receiving a correction if he stops; however, if the dog is going fast at the wire, the correction will begin immediately, giving them a chance to u-turn back into the yard. This is the how the DogWatch system works.
  • Immediate shock plus hang on time basically means the dog has no warning before they get a shock and may continue to receive a correction even if they head back into the yard (which could cause confusion over “safe” areas).

What kind of Surge Protection does your system offer?
This question is important because you are going to have a copper wire buried around the perimeter of your house, attached to your garage, basement or sun room. If lightning were to strike your yard, it COULD follow the wire into your house. Surge protection helps to keep it outside of your house. Obviously, having both internal and external surge and lightning protection provides the best protection available.

Do your collars have a battery indicator light?
This simple little light just lets you know if the battery in the collar is okay or if it needs to be replaced. This is a small addition to the equipment that provides big-time peace of mind.

Is your equipment customer-adjustable?

You are looking for a “yes” answer on this one. Occasionally the system may need a bit of tweaking, and paying for a service call ($80 – $125) to have someone come out and be there for a total of two minutes can get old (and expensive) very quickly.  Make sure you can adjust your own equipment and see what support is offered for over-the-phone or internet assistance. If the Dealer installed product you are considering is promoted as one that you can adjust yourself, ask for a demo right there at the estimate. The salesperson should bring all the equipment with him to the estimate so you know what you’re buying. Ask if you can do the adjustment yourself to see if you’re comfortable with the procedure.

Are you a ‘local company’ or a ‘corporate company’?

This answer is basically your preference. Some people prefer big business and other people prefer supporting local. Regardless, you want to ask:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • What brand of equipment do you install?
  • Affiliations that ensure they do quality work (BBB, Angie’s List, local Chamber, etc)
  • If you move, can you take the equipment with you and will the warranties follow you where you go?

Other questions to ask:

  • What does your equipment look like? Hopefully they’ve brought it to your estimate appointment for you to see and hold.  You may prefer the look of some equipment more than others.
  • What is your service protocol? How much is a service call? Why would I need a service call? How long does it typically take for your to respond to my service request? Stay away from the additionally-charged service plan you may be offered up front (or at least read the small print). It is unlikely you’re going to have a problem with the fence in the first year and if you do, be sure the type of problems you may have (digging in a garden or edging) are covered under that plan.
  • What is your company’s training protocol?  Make sure you’re comfortable with what the company offers.
  • Is there a performance guarantee?  If not, there should be.

Bottom Line

Do your research and follow your gut. You are going to have this equipment for a long time and it’s going to be used to keep your four-legged family member safe.

If you have any questions or would like to set up an in-yard estimate, click here to find your local dealer, or call Customer Service at 800-793-3436.