Ideally, we’d all like to have acres and acres of land for our dogs to roam and play in without fear of them wandering off and getting lost, hit by a car or stolen. Unfortunately for most of us, it rarely works out that way, and owning a dog generally means conforming to the often inconvenient or difficult realities of our lives.

Such is the case with me. Although I live on a couple acres in a semi-rural environment, I cannot, for aesthetic, topographical and financial reasons, build a fence around my entire property. It’s not a problem most of the time. The dogs are always with me when I’m outside. They know not to chase the neighborhood deer and they generally stick close to the house. But when I’m inside for any length of time, whichever dogs aren’t on house rotation must be kenneled. I know many people do it, but I’m just not comfortable letting my dogs roam free when I’m not out with them.

Still, I prefer to have my dogs in the yard as much as possible rather than being kenneled. I needed a way to keep them close to the house and from roaming while we were home. And I decided on an underground electric fence; in this case, SportDOG’s highly-rated and popular model.

The basic premise of an underground or invisible fence is simple: An buried electrified wire runs around the perimeter of wherever you want your dog(s) to stay, and when a collared dog gets too close to that perimeter, they receive a warning and then a correction if they continue. By training your dog to recognize those boundaries and to stay within them, you theoretically don’t have to worry as much about them wandering off and getting lost.

Of course, an underground fence is not a real fence, nor it it designed to replace one, if that’s what you truly need. Like virtually anything, an underground fence is not failsafe, and you obviously can’t keep other dogs, people and predators out. I also certainly wouldn’t go off and leave my dogs home alone outside the kennel. When I’m gone, the dogs are either with me or kenneled. Sill, for what I needed for my situation, the SportDOG in-ground fence seemed ideal. It’s capable of fencing up to 100 acres of ground, so it should have no trouble keeping the dogs within my tiny homestead. The unit comes with 1,000 feet of wire, 100 flags, one waterproof collar (but the unit is expandable to an unlimited number of dogs) and a really good set of instructions, which, if you know me, will be needed, often.

SportDOG’s in-ground fence retails for around $239.95 and the 1,000 feet of supplied wire will cover a little an area less than two acres. Over the next week or two I will be installing it and training the dogs, so expect a full review and chronicle of my experiences soon. In the meantime, does anyone else use an in-ground fence for their dogs? Any installation or training tips (or warnings) you’d like to pass along?