Invisible Fence Review: The Pros & Cons Of Invisible Dog Fences

Jim and I are considering installing an invisible dog fence at our new home (location yet to be determined), so I’ve been researching the many options when it comes to invisible fences.

I’ve always wondered exactly how (and how well!) invisible fences work at keeping dogs safe within your yard.

For the record, we have two Black Lab-mixes (ages 3 and 1) and we’ve used a 6-foot privacy fence up to now. I love it because it allows us let the dogs to play in the backyard, unattended. However, we are likely going to move to a place on the lake, so wouldn’t want to obstruct any views (ours, or our neighbors’). For that reason, an invisible fence seems like the way to go.

We’ve heard great things from dog owners who are currently using an invisible fence system, specifically, the owner of a Chocolate Lab, the owner of a Jack Russell Terrier, and the owner of a Great Dane.

Here are some things I’ve learned about invisible fences, in general (NOT specific to the “Invisible Fence” company itself)…


How Much Invisible Fences Cost

Invisible fences require less upkeep & maintenance than traditional fencing. They are quicker and easier to install, as well.

To give you an idea of pricing, it cost us approximately $1,700 to have a 6-foot privacy fence professionally installed around our 1/4-acre backyard (with 2 wide fence gates). It would cost about $800-$900 to have a hidden fence professionally installed in the same area, or about $200-$300 to do it yourself.

An electronic fence for a 1/4-acre lot, or approximately 600 linear feet of wire, with a second electronic boundary within the yard say, near a garden bed, costs about $905. You can buy a kit for about $300 and save 67% by installing it yourself. Source

You have to replace the battery in the dog collar every 3-4 months, depending on how often your dog “tests” the hidden fence. Otherwise, your dog could freely escape the boundaries. It is said that dogs can tell when the battery is getting low — at which point they may try to take advantage of the situation. Thus, it’s important to include the cost of replacement batteries (anywhere from $60-$90 a year) when budgeting for your invisible fence system.

Here are some money-saving tips for replacing fence collar batteries.


Why Hidden Fences Are Good

Invisible fences can be used with puppies 8 weeks of age and older — so long as they know basic commands (sit, stay, come). Toy breed dogs must weigh at least 2-1/2 pounds in order to manage the weight of the correction collar.

 Typically, invisible fence systems will work in any size yard from 1/4 of an acre to more than 25 acres.

An invisible fence can be placed practically anywhere… through hilly or rocky terrain, into wooded areas, and even underwater.

 Unlike traditional fences, invisible fences won’t prevent you and your neighbors from enjoying the surrounding landscape or water views.

 Hidden fences require much less upkeep. (Speaking from experience, I’m so tired of having to use the weed-wacker on both sides of our privacy fence each time we mow. And it’s a royal pain to have to keep re-painting it every year or two to keep it looking nice, too.)

The “original” Invisible Fence brand itself is endorsed by the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), the OSPCA (Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), and numerous veterinarians.

The invisible fence system has been awarded by the Humane Society for its compassionate program because it first gives the dog an auditory warning, then there is a hesitation, and then the correction. The correction setting is very mild to start.  Source

Most invisible fence systems are guaranteed to work with your dog. Therefore, even if you think you have a head-strong dog who cannot be contained within an invisible fence system, it may be worth trying, so long as they guarantee it.

QUESTION: I have a very bright dog, will he be able to outsmart the system?
ANSWER: No, he will probably be trained much faster than other dogs.


How An Invisible Fence Works

Dogs are typically trained to stay about 8 feet from the boundary wire. When they start to get closer to the boundary, you’ll know it’s time to change the battery in the fence collar.

The strength of the electrical signal emitted by the wire can be adjusted (underground) by the invisible fence company. The stronger the signal, the farther away the dog must stay from the wire in order to avoid being corrected.

Underground fence is not a buried hot wire that zaps a dog for getting close to the boundary. It is a radio antenna that sends out a signal that activates a battery in the dog’s collar. The battery causes a shock similar to static electricity, and the dog backs off. The field of radio waves can be adjusted so that the dog does not get too close to the edge of the property before hearing the warning tone. Source



Installation A Hidden Dog Fence

Before the invisible fence can be placed underground in your yard, power lines and underground pipes must be located and marked. As a result, you may have to postpone the installation of your invisible fence, based on how quickly the local utility company can come out and mark your property.

The computerized controller unit for the invisible fence is typically installed in the garage or basement near an existing outlet. It takes up more wall space that I imagined, but most computerized units like this are highly reliable and prevent interference (and random shocks) from stray electrical fields.

An “indoor” model of the invisible fence can be used inside your home (in lieu of baby gates) to keep pets out of certain rooms or off certain furniture. Typically it costs $120-$150 for the indoor unit. (Here’s how the hidden fencing works indoors.)

If you live near water, invisible fence systems can be placed such that yo
ur dog will be completely blocked from entering the water OR the company can lay wire in the water to allow your dog some room to swim. However, if you live in an area where there are tides, access to the water will probably need to be blocked altogether.

You can use invisible fencing to block a dog’s access to places within your yard as well, like around a swimming pool, a garden or a tree.

Some people use an invisible fence around the perimeter of a “traditional” privacy fence in order to keep dogs that like to dig or are habitual escape artists from getting out of the yard.



If You Move Or Travel With Your Dog…

You can usually take your invisible fence system with you if you move to a new location.

If the previous owners of your new home left an invisible fence behind, you can have a company rep come out an check its effectiveness. Most likely, you’ll be able to use the existing invisible fencing as is — you’ll just need to purchase a collar for your dog.

Some indoor hidden fence systems are portable, allowing you to take it with you when you travel.


Training Your Dog To Respect Hidden Fence Boundaries

Most invisible fence companies will help you train your dog to get used to the boundaries. Over the course of about 2 weeks, one of their trainers will periodically visit your home and work with you and your dog. Of course, you will also be training your dog alone at times, all the while offering loads of praise any time your dog respects his new boundaries.

You can still walk your dog outside the boundaries of your yard, so long as he does not have the invisible fence collar on at the time. (The collar should be removed every time you leave your yard to walk your dog or go for a ride in the car.)

There is a recommended procedure you go through each time to train your dog when it’s okay to leave the yard and when it’s not.



The Invisible Fence Dog Collar

After months (or years) of using the invisible fence, some people take the collar off their dog permanently, though it’s not recommended. In reality, it depends on the personality and behavior of your dog.

It is recommended that you remove the collar every night during the first month and at least once a week from then on. This prevents rashes and irritation from prolonged use.

Some dogs with very thick coats need to have a small patch of fur around their necks trimmed on a regular basis in order for the collar correction to work.

If you have more than one dog, you can get more than one collar for use with the same invisible fence. However, the dogs may feel the correction at different intensities — especially if one is large dog and the other small, or one has long hair and the other short.


Downsides To Invisible Fences

If there is a power failure, your invisible fence becomes useless during that time. Therefore, if you live in an area that experiences frequent storms & power outages, you may want to reconsider installing an invisible fence.

Under the right conditions, a panicked dog could run through the boundary, then be hesitant to come back through the barrier.

An invisible fence may keep your dog IN the yard, but it doesn’t keep other dogs or wild animals OUT. So, there’s always a chance that your dog could be attacked or get in a fight with another dog or animal inside the boundaries of your invisible fence. (Such is why your dog should always be supervised even in a yard protected by an invisible fence.)

Some dogs have a high pain threshold and will go through the barrier if the distraction is strong enough. Once they go through, they receive the correction when trying to re-enter the yard and may be reluctant to return when the chase is done. Source



More About Dog Invisible Fences

Lynnette Walczak

Lynnette Walczak

I like to help people find unique ways to do things in order to save time & money -- so I frequently write about "outside the box" ideas that most wouldn't think of. As a lifelong dog owner, I often share my best tips for living with and training dogs. I worked in Higher Ed several years until switching gears to pursue things I was more passionate about. I've worked at a vet, in a photo lab, and at a zoo -- to name a few. I enjoy the outdoors via bicycle, motorcycle, Jeep, or RV. You can always find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun websites).

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Fun From Around the Web

  • DAK

    My wife and I have an Invisible Fence brand system at our house. We have two Labs right now, but have trained a total of three Labs on the system since we had it. I just can’t say enough about the Invisible Fence system! The peace of mind it brings knowing that my dogs will be there when I go to bring them in, the convenience of opening the door and letting them out without supervision is just awesome! The dogs get to play outside much more often than before the fence. I love it and they definitely love it!

  • Carrie Boyko

    Hello from All Things Dog Blog: I am the owner of a pack of wonderful, spirited dogs. We have had an underground fence for 13 years, with only one break-out–an aggressive dog barking and walking by during the training phase with one of my dogs.

    Other than this one episode, my experience with this solution has been exceptional. Each collar and the equipment have individual adjustments for the intensity of the signal. I personally felt the vibration on my own arm, before buying. It is startling, but not severely painful. Merely uncomfortable enough to be a good reminder. It should be noted that several feet before a dog approaches the line, a high-pitched tone sounds that signals the dog to turn back toward the house. I have witnessed this behavior in action multiple times over the years.

    My 13 1/2 year old Retriever still knows that signal, when she accidentally wanders too close (her eyesight is going, but the signal still warns her). She turns a heads back toward the door, knowing almost instinctually what the signal means.

    Our fence allows my dogs to play in the front and back yards, and was installed to keep them off of the sidewalk, where passersby walk. This keeps most walkers off the dogs’ area, yet they are able to approach and greet. It was a perfect solution for 3 happy, friendly dogs who love the outdoors. I would not change a thing.

  • Simpleman1776

    don’t waste your money, pet safe wont answer any emails or complaint.

    it’s worthless. the wire is made in china and has pin holes in it, in the morning dew or even a sprinkle let alone showers it shorts out. my dogs know every time its out and take off, it was a waste of 600 dollars to do my 3 acres.

  • Fmleiferman

    Has anyone had any trouble with the invisible fences shocking their dog in the house? It has happened 3 times in our home. They said we were the only case they have ever had.

    • Rob

      invisible fence is the biggest rip off i have one and anytime anything goes wrong they want 100.00 to fix it. also my hasn’t worked for a few years now and they want to much to fix it. a lot of humane societies will not allow you to adopt a dog if you have an invisible fence. i am very disatisfied with their products and customer support.

    • Bunnyshugs

      We have also had the same trouble. Our Pug went to the vet today with open wounds on her neck. We were not sure what caused this,we called Pet Stop and a technician came. We were told  that the injury was from the prolonged use of the collars, yet we were never told to take them off daily. In checking the brochure we found no mention of this either. I told them that one day my dog was fetching a ball and acted like she got shocked in the house. They took her collar to each room and discovered she was being shocked by the cable wire and also by our direct T.V. wire. Aparently this is a problem they said they could remedy with a diffuser. I am really angry because pretty much everybody has cable these days. If I had it to do over again  i would just have erected a regular fence. My poor dogs!

      • disqus_KfWwGWM3T5

        My Poor dogs! ???? really, you don’t bother to take the collar off for weeks on end, never get close enough to the dogs neck to see the collar is causing an open wound and then you whine and blame someone else for the problem. It is fairly evident that you really don’t care all that much about your dogs.

  • gilby

    was this the actual “invisible fence” company or another like it?

    • Ckassim

      The Invisible Fence system has a battery backup, not sure if I paid extra or if it was part of the package. I have 3 dogs ( 2 min pins and 1 pitt mix) they have had the fence for 4 years. Cost $1,904.60 plus batteries @ $20 every 3 to 4 months, the only thing I do not like is that my lifetime warranty still cost to replace a collar that just died, $95.

      • Heather

        Check Amazon for batteries. DogWatch wanted $20 per battery too, but I found the identical battery on Amazon for $4.

  • Kelly

    I had this system installed by invisible fence 5 months ago. I have a big yard so it was pretty expensive. Now its not working & they want me to pay more money for them to fix it.

  • Hlpratt

    After trying to install an electric fence myself and it not working shortly after installing it, I purchased an invisible fence. We’ve had it for 11 years now. It has required some maintaince over the years. It really is a training device and you have to be on board with the dog training but mostly the dogs will respect it and they learn quickly. You have to pay attention to the batteries and collars. It is nice to be able to get support and maintance when needed, but it can be expensive. It gives me peace of mind with my dogs.

  • Pascua1378

    I have had my invisible fence for almost 1 year.. I found it to be a huge wast of money. The dealer I went with in Lake Oswego, Oregon, doesnt know what they are doing.. I have had nothing but problems with it. from the colars going out, not just the battery, but the reciever itself. One of my colars isnt even on warrenty. They have lost one of my recievers, so I bought 3 and only have 2. Ofcourse they say they are not responsible for it. If anyone reads this thinking about getting on, DONT, its a waste. Dont believe their sales pitch, its all a lie. The lifetime warrenty is a joke, doesnt cover everything.

  • John

    Our Invisible Fence (brand) has been great. Our bigger dog use to jump the fence to get in trouble, and leave the smaller dog barking. Now both dogs seem much happier.

  • Dog Person

    I’ve personally been scared to death several times while out walking my own dog on a leash.  Out of nowhere, I’ve had dogs charging full speed at us, scaring me to death, thinking the dog was about to attack my dog.   They run right up to about 2 feet before the sidewalk.  Then, after they stop and I have a chance to calm down, I see the tiny sign saying Invisible Fence.  Well, I personally think this is very un-neighborly.  I’ve also seen a child coming home from school, also being charged by a dog with an IF.  The child screamed, then ran away from the dog, right into the street, where a car was approaching.  This child could have been very seriously hurt, because of someone’s IF.  Not cool.  Please consider an IF from ALL angles before installing one.  With a traditional fence, people can see that barrier, which puts their mind much more at ease.  With an IF, there is no physical barrier in sight, which can and has caused many scary moments for people.

    I’ve also heard of people getting bitten when wandering into the IF territory, and the dog protecting his territory.  Many, many more horror stories can be found on the internet.  Google it quite a bit before installing…that’s my advice!

  • Hunterchick1988

    If you are going to go with an “invisible fence” dont buy off the shelf it works like crap and wire is so small and crappy that it breaks all the time!  BUY FROM A DEALER! the wire used is sooo much better! that solves a huge problem.  second of all all of you people complaining about how you have to pay for service…dont you pay to have anything else in your house fixed?   Same goes with fencing… I love my invisible fence i have trained 2 dogs on it one large mastiff and my second was little yorkie and it works amazing for both! 

  • Nikki girimonti

    Had invisible fence “professionally installed” and the wire is above ground in most of the yard.  Unbelievable!  Thgere is no way this system will work above ground, as the cable has already broken due to it being above ground.  It is under extreme tension is some areas and has loops of slack in others.  They want we to pay $300 dollars for a warrantee.  Apparently the unconditional warantee does not apply to the actual fence.  This fence is far from invisible and it did not even last 2 days.  We have yet to have the dogs trained and I purchased this over a month ago.  The Invisible Fence employees should have been honest with me and informed me that this cable would not be buried underground.  I am trying to get a refund, but they do not seem to think this will be a problem.  You will literally trip over this cable if you walk in the yard.  (there is also some strange cluster of wires attached to something that looks imporatnt in the mud in the middle of my backyard).

  • Guest

    Yes, Invisible Fence is a money hungry company. I worked there for two years and never once heard my indoor shields were not covered under the lifetime warranty. I will never give this company another dime. Also, they train and force their techs to upsell the customers at install. Buyer beware.

    • Sam

      I agree…I recommend buying the equipment and installing yourself. IF offers a lifetime warranty but overcharges for batteries and charges an $80 visit fee to have a tech come out. Buyer beware.

  • Red Headed Rob

    Thank you for taking the time to write such a helpful article.

  • Daniel Chiang

    Ever since we installed the invisible fence, the nightmare begins. Each and every time they send a technician to diagnose and fix the problem, you will be charged a $100 just for technician leaving their building and then $25 for every 15 minutes. When the “same problem” occurred again(which they did not fix it at the first time) in just 2 weeks, they wanna to charge the same amount and the same way again without any warranty. I might end up spending a thousand dollars and the same problem is still there. I could not agreed more that invisible fence is a money hungry company and I am going to warm all my neighbors in Naperville.

  • Cynthia Mattera

    My concern is my dog will no longer be protected by a fence with a locked gate. What is to stop another dog or person from harming my dog, or stealing her??? Not sure about a fenceless fence???

  • Angela Wadley

    If you are going to use this product do not purchase it from invisible fence. Use a private company. Invisible fence screwed up and didn’t send me batteries and our cat was gone for 2 days. When they finally sent us batteries it did not work anymore. Our cat just runs through it and doesn’t care. The company totally dropped the ball. Terrible customer service.