How Electric Fences Work

We had a training recently on how to set up and troubleshoot an electric fence. Do you know the easiest animal to contain with an electric fence? An elephant. The hardest animal to contain is a goat. These facts are based on the hair amount and structure as well as the athleticism and size of the animal. Now you know.

The Basic Theory

Electric fences rely on electricity passing from the fence to the ground, through the animal when the fence is touched.  Electricity runs from the charger through the fence and loops back to the charger until the fence is touched.  When the fence is touched, the animal acts as a switch and electricity passes through the animal and into the ground, going back to the charger via grounding rods driven into the earth.

Choosing a Charger

Each charger is rated for the amount of electricity it can push through the fence.  Smaller chargers won’t push electricity as far so longer fences required larger chargers.  Fence distance is the most important factor when selecting a charger. Often, people think that if their fence isn’t working, they need a larger charger. Rarely is this the case.

When it Doesn’t Work

Most electric fence systems fail due to lack of or shallow grounding rods or vegetation touching the fence.  If the ground rods are insufficient, not as much electricity gets back to the charger and the animal won’t receive as strong of a shock.  When in doubt, add more grounding rods. As for vegetation, there’s a lawn mower for that.


When setting up an electric fence, choose the correct charger and put in adequate grounding rods.  Keep vegetation away from the fence and select materials that will last. If you follow this basic principle, you will build a long lasting and very effective fence.

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