The Pros and the Cons of an Invisible Fence Collar

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Black Lab in a Yard

An invisible dog fence, also called an electric fence, is a wired fence placed underground. This creates an electrically charged boundary that keeps your pet within the confines of your yard without a physical fence. It is connected digitally to an invisible fence collar that the dog wears around its neck. So how exactly does an invisible fence work and what are its pros and cons?

How Does an Invisible Fence Work?

Invisible fences operate on a system that transmits energy between the boundary line you establish, a home base monitoring/transmitter device, and the receiver that is attached to your dog’s collar. The actual fence is a set of electrically charged wires that are placed about 3-4 inches underground around the outer edges of your property. A transmitter is set up in your garage or on a wall in a room in your home. As your dog approaches the boundary line, the tone or vibration will deter her much the same way that an ultrasonic bark collar will deter the dog from barking.

More About the Electric Charge

The electric charge is similar to a quick splash of water on the face – just enough to surprise your pet and stop his movement, but not enough to hurt or cause any sort of damage. The amount of electric force that the receiver (collar) takes in and gives to your dog can vary depending on how you set the system up. The equipment will come with instructions on how much force is recommended for dogs at various weights. You can also experiment with the settings to find out exactly how much is required to keep your dog happy and confident while still maintaining safe boundaries within your set limits.

Many dog lovers worry that the electric shock is painful or emotionally devastating to a dog. However, if you hold the receiver (collar) in your hand and hold it over the boundary line you will find that it is neither painful nor shocking, but merely irritating. In other words, it is an effective and safe deterrent.

Features

Let’s look at the wired dog fence options currently available on the market. Just as there are many different kinds of traditional physical fences, there are also different types of wired dog fences. While the basic concept is the same, the qualities and features are not. Not all fences come equipped with these features.

Amount of Shock

You should consider how many levels of correction the product offers. This feature refers to the amount of energy in the deterrent “shock” that was mentioned earlier. If you have a stubborn, strong-willed, or physically strong dog, or if you have multiple dogs of varying sizes, you will want to have more correction levels available in order to custom-design the corrections for your dog.

Battery-Backup Function

Some wired dog fences have a battery-backup function, but this is not standard with all systems. A battery-backup capability is a very good safety feature, covering the possibility that you forget to check the battery, or are late in changing it. It simply is not worth the risk to opt out of this feature.

Amount of Interference

Another factor to consider is the amount of interference that could impact the deterrent to your pet. Some wired dog fences have low interference while others can be comparatively high. With all the potential interferences available in our environment these days, it is very important to find out what the capacity is for any wired dog fence you are seriously considering purchasing.

Creativity in Shaping Boundaries

Finally, you want to make sure you choose a wired dog fence that allows you to shape your boundaries any way you need to in order to maintain the integrity of your landscaping while still providing both safety and freedom for your dog. In other words, be aware that some wired dog fences have to be laid in a fairly square, round, or oval shape, while others can block off garden areas within the primary boundaries.

Pros

  • No physical fence upkeep
  • Doesn’t change your landscaping
  • Provides safety for your dog while also giving them freedom
  • Some neighborhoods and cities have fencing laws or even prohibit fences altogether so this can be done in exchange
  • Protects your dog from traffic, strangers, and any other dangers outside the boundary
  • You don’t need to be an electrician to install it
  • Cheaper than other a regular fence
  • Helps train your dog

Cons

  • Must check batteries regularly
  • Installation may take some time
  • No protection from other animals getting inside the boundary

Price Compared to Other Fences

Read our Wireless Dog Fence Reviews

It is difficult to compare costs in an information article like this because each person and each property is unique, so prices vary depending on the many variables involved. Therefore, for the sake of basic comparison, let’s just look at a 1/4 to 1/2 acre lot.

Chain Link Fence – A chain link fence that stands 4 feet high will run between $1,500 and $3,000 to install yourself; to do it professionally, it will cost between $4,000 and $7,500.

Invisible Fence – PetSafe Wireless Pet Containment System (View on Amazon) – A wireless invisible fence that covers an area up to 1/2 acre for $219.99.

Wooden Fence – A ranch style wood fence is between $1,500 and $4,500 as a do it yourself project compared with $5,000 and $15,000 for professional installation.

Wired Dog Fence – Do it yourself options will start around $100 and take around 15 hours of your time vs. nearly $790 for a professionally installed wired fence.

Wired Dog Fence – Elite Little Dog In-Ground Fence (View on Amazon) – A wired invisible fence option for smaller dogs. This covers an area of around 1/3 of an acre.

Wired Dog Fence – SportDOG 100-Acre In-Ground Pet Fence System (View on Amazon) – A wired invisible fence option that covers an area up to 100 acres.

What’s Best for You and Your Dog?

Wired dog fences are convenient, attractive, safe, and affordable. Still, you will have to decide what is best for your personal lifestyle and the particular characteristics of your yard and your dog. The biggest decision will be whether you want to try and install it yourself or hire a professional. If you think you want to tackle this project yourself, find confidence in the fact that most companies that sell DIY wired dog fences also provide support and thorough instructions. Whatever you decide, look to the end product and imagine you are happily enjoying quality outdoor time with your best friend.

Overall the invisible fence collar is a safe way to train your dog as to his boundaries on your property; however, it is not recommended that a dog should be left outside without supervision, as the invisible fence does not keep other animals out of your property. Keep in mind, it is recommended that you consult your vet prior to implementing the fence and using the ultrasonic invisible fence collar.

Has your invisible dog fence worked well in your yard? Share your stories.

The information contained in this article and website is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional safety advice; it is provided for educational purposes only.

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Growing up, Kimberly used to get the sniffles when she was around dogs. Thankfully, she grew out of her allergy and is now able to play and snuggle with dogs as much as she wants! She adopted Sally, a four-year-old hound mix, in early 2017, and at the end of 2017 she adopted Kopa, a one-year-old treeing walker coonhound. She and her husband are loving life as pet parents.

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16 Comments on "The Pros and the Cons of an Invisible Fence Collar"

avatar
Electric Shocks = Abuse
Electric Shocks = Abuse
Cons:
It’s animal abuse.
Aggie
Aggie
I have an 11 month old coton. On 3 dsys of installed invisible fence. She will not do business outside. Had started doing in house. Will not ask to go out. Helps
Electric Shocks = Abuse
Electric Shocks = Abuse
That’s what happens when you use abuse to attempt to train or discipline an animal.

This is a known outcome of using electric shock as training/discipline with dogs. It causes anxiety and other behavioural issues.
Stop abusing your pet, and the problem can be resolved.

Donald Thoms
Donald Thoms
Hate to break it to you but its called poor training by the company. 1st the dog should not have been wearing the collar during the “first three days, much less with the correction turned on. Positive reinforcement is not always the answer. Its not abuse, its poor training practices. Oh by the way this OPINION comes from 30 years of dog training.
Max Dog
Max Dog
If its like a splash of water on the face then would you put it on your child so they could also roam free? ….That’s what I thought. The fact is most people are OK with causing pain on animals because they can’t express their opinion, because they are animals…and animals don’t talk. They just make noises. Let’s just be clear its a shock collar.
Big dogg
Big dogg
Go prech somewhere else you peta lover
Adam
Adam
Why don’t you burn some books and beat the shit out of some defenseless person/animal so you can prove to the world that your “Bigg Dogg” is 3 inches long. and couldn’t please a house cat.
Trent
Trent
Dead dog hit by car vs. Dog irritated by small electric shock….
….I guess the third alternative would be crating the poor beast its whole life.

You are right. Dogs don’t talk. Hence, you can’t reason with them why it’s not good for them to be on the road.

Perhaps we should not medicate our children because the needle hurts too much.

Your view is misguided, friend.

Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell
Its not for a child to roam free! Are you nuts! It’s to keep a beloved pet from scampering out the door when your next Amazon delivery arrives and your pup goes running towards the street as you lift your package inside the door. I suppose you wouldn’t spank your toddler from running out into the street during that 2 second look down at your phone. You’re quite blinded, my dear;, simply not good in politically correct company to raise your child, or pet, in a safe way! Enjoy the sympathies of others when your little ones are smacked in the face with reality!
kat
I was undecided about this, until our dog got out one day and immediately got hit by a car and died in my arms. I never want to loose another dog like that. Some shock collars come with a vibrate option. when set to vibrate they are quite annoying but not in the least painful.
Angeline
Angeline
I wish more people were aware that the wirless fences are not inhumane. The “shock” is like water in the face and people keep saying how cruel it is to use formy shih tzu. It keeps him safe and he is able to romp and play. We bought in 2014 and most of the info people bring up is from 2008 or before to site how cruel it is. They also say the nodes can cause electric burn which is incorrect those are like bed sores from a collar too tight and never taken off. The misinformation is so frustrating!!!
Adam
Adam
yea misinformation from a nutral ivision of the governmment that they got 10’s of thousands of people to harm there animals and coordinate the results so they’d be the same… sounds very reasonable and possible. Use your brains and try reading something.
Anonymous
Anonymous
I personally have never used invisible fencing or any kind of electrical training device with any of the dogs I have owned.  This is not because I feel there is anything wrong with them, but fortunately for me and my pets, none of my dogs have ever been prone to running away or acting out when given the opportunity. 
This is largely due to the intensive training that takes place within the first 18 months of puppyhood when the dog is first introduced to its new settings.  Dogs, much like people, are very impressionable early in their lives and you can lay down ground rules that will affect the animal the rest of their lives.  I find this to be preferable to other means and although it is far more work and time consuming, it allows for greater bonding with the dog and the opportunity to establish my dominance in the context of the “pack” mentality that dictates dogs’ behavior in every situation.
Contrary to popular belief, it is actually not very difficult to train a dog. This is even truer if they are a puppy. Actually, puppies are the best types of dogs to train. They are much more responsive to training. You just simply need to create your behavior goals and remain focused on them. This also means being very consistent in whatever actions you are taking. If you are doing potty training, make sure that you are taking the little one outside at the same times every day. Do this for just two or three weeks and your puppy will be potty trained. The same thing is true for any wanted or unwanted behavior, although some will happen either quicker or slower.
The wonderful thing about training dogs and what makes it so rewarding is that they are very predictable and respond well to repetition and consistency when it comes to progressing socially and behaviorally.  As long as you consistently respond to a specific behavior with a specific response, the dog will learn what illicit a positive or negative consequence and quickly learns to adjust their behavior accordingly.  Invisible fencing and shock collars in general are a derivative of this training concept and simply serve as an automated response mechanism to reinforce behavior.  It is clear that they can be effective, but they also rely heavily on the human element which there is no substitute for.
I think this human element is something which many people do not take seriously enough. It is always preferable if a dog can be trained to stay inside the yard naturally, rather than having to take extra methods. Personally, I think that using items like these, especially the shock collars may be a bit cruel. Then again, they are certainly very effective, for obvious reasons. Additionally, they work pretty quickly. If you were a dog, how many times do you think it would take getting shocked to figure out not to do that anymore?
Anonymous
Anonymous
The other variation of fencing systems that are most common in the open market operate under the same concept, but do so in a much different way.  As opposed to the presence of an electrical signal causing the collar to deliver a shock (when the animal comes within close proximity of the transmitting wire), the absence of a signal coming from a central source will cause the collar to release the electrical charge through the electrodes.

In this scenario, there is a centrally-located and stationary transmitter device that gives off a signal within a predetermined radius around the area.  Should the animal wearing the collar leave the designated space and therefore the transmitted signal, the collar will lose the signal and be triggered to deliver the negative reinforcement to the animal via electrical shock.  These systems are generally much less costly and easier to install than the hard-wired systems mentioned before, as those systems involve the connection and burying of wire.  This is an especially attractive option for the modern do-it-yourselfer and the budget conscious pet owner but it also does have its limitations. 
The major issue or limitation of the central transmitter invisible fencing system is that it cannot be customized to fit the entire area of a person’s property where they would like to confine their animal or animals.  Whereas most people have yards or spaces that are irregular in shape, the central transmitter version of the invisible fencing system only provides a circular radius that the animal can roam within.  This generally means that certain parts of the individual’s property will be cut off from the animal or the radius will potentially extend into areas where the animal is not wanted to venture.  This can be particularly troublesome in densely populated neighborhoods where the radius may extend into a neighbor’s yard or even more dangerously, into a busy street or thoroughfare.  Still, this system is gaining in popularity because it is fairly easy to install and implement, without having the need to bury wire or hard-wire it into any electrical system.  There are even versions of this product that are semi-portable, and can be taken from location to location, and still operate largely the same.
 
Some may question the ethics of using electric shock collars for the purpose of either training animals or using them for invisible fencing systems.  The reason for this being that it, of course, can hurt the animal and by some may be considered inhumane.  However, this method of animal control and training has literally been around now for decades and has been a consistently proven method for training and containing animals in a variety of settings.  If used properly, and the animal is sufficiently trained at the outset of using the system, then minimal pain need be inflicted on the family pet until it either learns the desired behavior or where the owner-defined boundaries are located.

Anonymous
Anonymous
I'm not sure if invisible fencing is necessary for all pet families.  The invisible fence collar and the whole subset of invisible fence technology has been around for quite some time now and remains one of the more intriguing and controversial pet-training systems to this day. There are a few variations now of how the invisible fence and the electric-shock collar can be installed and implemented, but the fact remains that there are few, if any, other mass-marketed systems that utilize modern technology like the invisible fencing system does.  In comparison to typical hard-barrier fences, leashes, or pens, it is a far more advanced concept regarding animal control and pet care, but it is not without its problems.
The first and most prevalent type of invisible fencing system actually involves the placement of wire around the desired pet-containment area.  This wire is usually buried and then marked with flags or pins to indicate where the area and its boundaries are located.  This wire is then attached to an electrical transmitter that sends a signal to an electrified collar which is placed on the animal. The collar itself picks up the signal from the wire buried underground and if the animal comes too near the wired boundary area, the collar will receive a signal indicating it to release a charge via electrodes to the cat or dog.  This provides the animal with a negative reinforcement message that tells them that they have come too close to the boundary area and should retreat back into the safe area.  Eventually, the goal is for the animal to automatically know where it is allowed to roam and where it is not.  It will no longer try to press in to the area where it is not allowed and will no longer need the negative reinforcement of the electrical shock. 
The problem with this system is that installation can be very expensive, time consuming, and subject to outside environmental disturbances that can potentially affect the system and compromise its effectiveness.  Generally, most companies that sell invisible fencing will also install it for a fee and they will also provide maintenance or repair should it be necessary.  All of this costs money of course, and in addition to the equipment, the total bill for a traditional invisible fencing system can be quite large.  There is also the option to install it yourself, but the process of digging trenches to bury the wire and making sure that the circuit is continuously connected can be arduous and difficult.  The is obviously the benefit of saving cost on the install, but then should the equipment be under warranty; the warranty may not cover faulty installation and support for the system may be lacking.  Still, this can be cheaper than installing hard-barrier fencing and can provide aesthetic value as well.
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