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Traditional fences can be expensive, ugly, or restricted by your homeowner’s association (HOA). However, nobody wants to take their dog out on a leash when you have a yard. You also don’t want to risk your dog running away and potentially getting hit by a car.
That’s where an invisible dog fence comes in. Wireless fences, electric dog fences, underground fences, and other wireless pet containment systems are a great way to restrict where your dog can roam without a visible fence.
An invisible dog fence is an affordable way to let your dog run around your yard without running away. However, you may have a lot of questions about electric dog fences if you’re new to the idea of them.
How do they work? Do they hurt your dog? Are there different types of electric fences? How hard are they to install? Is it tough to train your dog to get used to one?
Here’s everything you should know about using a wireless or in-ground fence and our recommendations for the best invisible dog fences.
Why Should I Use an Electric Dog Fence?
The main reason people like to use an invisible dog fence is to let their dog run around the yard safely. An electric pet fence is a cost-effective way to contain your dog and minimize the chance of them running away. They’re a great option if you can’t put up a regular fence or if your dog still manages to escape even with a fence.
Without an invisible fence for your dog, you must:
- Install a traditional fence
- Take your dog out on a leash, or
- Risk your dog running away
Benefits of Underground and Wireless Dog Fences
There are many benefits to installing an electric dog fence. These are some of the most common advantages of an invisible dog fence compared to no fence or a traditional fence.
1. Cheaper than a Traditional Fence
Installing a wood or chain link fence can cost thousands of dollars. On average, an electric dog fence costs $100 to $400. A wireless or underground fence is also usually easier to install than a traditional fence.
2. Makes Pets Happy and Keeps Them Safe
All dogs need exercise of some sort, and most dogs love to run. Without a fence, letting your dog run around the yard is a big risk. Even a well-trained dog can be distracted by a rabbit and decide to ignore you calling them back.
Around 1 million animals are killed by cars EVERY DAY in the United States. If even a fraction of those animals are dogs, we’re looking at tens or hundreds of thousands of dogs being killed by cars every year.
An invisible dog fence lets your dog run happily around the yard without being attached to a leash or chain. Meanwhile, you don’t need to worry about the risk of them escaping your yard and being hit by a car.
3. More Discreet
Let’s face it – fences can be ugly. Whether it’s a cheap chain link fence or a tall wooden privacy fence, it can lower your home’s curb appeal. An invisible fence for dogs can keep your pup contained without detracting from your house’s appearance.
Who Should Buy a Wireless or Electric Fence?
Anybody who wants to keep their dog safe in their yard should buy an invisible dog fence.
Even with a traditional fence, your dog might be able to jump over or dig underneath it to escape. Dogs can’t dig under or jump over an invisible dog fence, no matter how athletic they are.
Almost anybody with a dog and a yard would benefit from an invisible dog fence. The primary exception would be owners of small dogs or puppies. Most electric dog fences are only safe for dogs that weigh at least 10 or 15 pounds. Puppies aren’t old enough to understand or tolerate the shock until they’re around 8 months old.
The 11 Best Invisible Dog Fences
Most of the best-rated invisible dog fences are in-ground electric fences, so we’re starting with our top 8 picks for the best underground dog fence, then we’ll conclude with 3 highly-rated wireless dog fences.
#1 (Best Underground Dog Fence Pick) – Extreme Dog Fence – Second Generation -2019- Professional Grade Kit
The Extreme Dog Fence can be customized for up to 5 dogs and up to 2500’ of wire to cover as much as 10 acres. It comes with thick 14-gauge heavy-duty wire that is resistant to breakage. The collar has one audible tone plus 7 shock levels. You can also control how far away from the fence corrections begin.
- 1-year warranty can be extended to 10 years when you register the product online
- Super customizable – 1 audible tone plus 7 shock levels, each collar can have different correction levels, the kit includes up to 5 waterproof collars, and wire comes in lengths from 500’-2500’
- Includes 3 antennas, temperature check, wire check, and it checks the batteries every 2 hours
- The entire kit includes: 14-gauge heavy-duty boundary wire, 16-gauge twisted wire, digital transmitter, waterproof collar receiver(s) w/ battery, training flags, splice kits, and 10 staples
- Made in the USA
- Waterproof collar
- 7 correction levels contain most dogs
- Wire doesn’t need to be buried since it’s so thick
- Excellent customer service
- The collar is a little flimsy and is expensive to replace
- Not all dogs respond to the strongest correction level
- 10 staples aren’t enough unless you bury most of the wire
- Surge protector may need to be bought separately
The PetSafe Stubborn Dog In-Ground Fence is an affordable electric underground fence system that works well for most dogs. The kit only includes 1 collar and 500’ of wire, but you can buy additional collars and wire if necessary. This system keeps costs down by using cheap wire, so using better wire may increase the reliability of the system.
- Surge protector
- 500’ of wire included
- Includes 1 audible tone and 4 correction levels
- 1-year warranty
- 9-volt battery is easy to replace
- Surge protector included
- Most dogs respond to the strong corrections
- Relatively easy to set up and install
- Collars and wires may break in as little as a few months
- Transmitters can be unreliable
- Wire is cheap and breaks easily
The Free Spirit In-Ground Fence is affordable, although you may need extra purchases. It does not come with a surge protector, and the included wire is thin and cheap. Unlike some other collars, this one includes vibration in addition to the tone and correction levels. This is a good starter system to see if your dog will respond to correction before investing in a more permanent system.
- Collar fits necks 6”-26”
- Contains one dog on 1/3 acre but extra collars and wire can be purchased to expand up to 1 acre
- Tone, vibration, and 5 levels of correction
- Collar is waterproof and rechargeable
- You can also purchase a remote trainer that works with the collar
- Great value
- No surge protector included
- Included wire is thin and cheap
This in-ground invisible dog fence includes 1000’ of 14-gauge wire, so you shouldn’t need to buy additional wire unless you have a large property. The “built-in lightning protection” can still get fried, so buy a surge protector to use with this invisible dog fence.
- Includes 1000’ of wire and 100 flags
- Works for dogs 10 pounds and up
- Includes thick 14-gauge wire
- Easy to install
- Built-in lightning protection
- Doesn’t include a surge protector
- Some dogs ignore the corrections
#5 – Pet Control HQ Electric Dog Fence & Wireless Remote Dog Training Shock Collar, Waterproof & Rechargeable
This pet containment kit is perfect if you also want to use the collar for training purposes or to curb barking. The included remote has 10 levels of vibration and correction. With additional wire, this invisible dog fence can cover up to 100 acres.
- Collar fits dogs weighing 11-154 lbs
- The shock collar for dogs has 3 levels of automatic static correction, and the remote collar has 10 levels of vibration and correction
- Collar works with electric fence, training remote, and curbs barking
- Included collar also functions as a bark collar and training collar w/remote
- Covers up to 10 acres if you buy extra wire
- Waterproof collar down to 3.3 feet or a 30-minute bath
- Collars may not last long before they need to be replaced
- Sometimes shocks inconsistently
- Collar needs to be charged every 2-3 days
The PetSafe YardMax invisible dog fence is perfect for small yards. Most electric dog fences correct for a limited distance on both sides of the wire. This one starts correcting at the boundary and doesn’t stop until the dog turns around to come back home.
- 5 levels of adjustable correction plus sound-only training mode
- Corrects dog at and outside of boundary endlessly instead of a fixed distance on both sides of the wire
- Dog can cross back into the yard without a correction if they get out
- Fits pets as small as 5 pounds
- Includes 1-year warranty
- Includes surge protector
- Great customer service
- Fence usually works very well
- Collar may need frequent replacement
- Included wire is thin and frail
With some extra purchases, the SportDOG in-ground fence can be everything you want it to be. You can buy it with an optional remote for training. You can expand it to cover up to 100 acres. And you can have an unlimited number of dogs with additional collars.
- Includes tone, vibration, and shock
- Can be expanded with additional wire and flags to cover 100 acres
- Uses standard 9-volt battery
- Comes with a 2-year warranty
- Can contain an unlimited number of dogs on up to 100 acres (with additional collar and wire)
- Waterproof collar
- Boundaries can be inconsistent
- Collar may need frequent replacement
#8 – Sit Boo-Boo Electric Hidden Fence – All-Weather Pet Containment System – In-Ground & Above Ground Installation
- Built-in surge protection
- 7 different correction settings
- The collar carries a rechargeable lithium polymer battery which is more advanced than a typical lithium-ion battery
- Supports unlimited collars
- Training collar remote available to purchase separately
- Good customer service
- Not always consistent
Best Wireless Dog Fence
While underground invisible dog fences are often better-rated, wireless perimeter fences do have their benefits. Here are our picks for the best wireless dog fence.
#1 (Top Wireless Dog Fence Pick) – PetSafe Wireless Dog and Cat Containment System
This is the top-rated wireless perimeter fence we could find. It only works for flat yards, and the signal can be disrupted by wi-fi or even the location of a parked car. But when it works, it works well.
- Covers an adjustable circular area of up to 1/2 acre (180 ft diameter)
- 5 Adjustable levels of correction plus beep only mode
- You can add up to 3 base units to expand the covered area
- Since it’s portable, you can even bring it camping
- Easy to set up
- Hills and slopes can interfere with the signal that is sent from the base unit
- Shocks last as long as 30 seconds and may traumatize dogs
- Collars can be unreliable
- You can buy a system to cover up to 5 dogs or up to 3 stubborn or large dogs without needing to buy additional stuff
- Adjustable levels of correction
- For dogs 5 pounds and up
- Wireless coverage up to 105 feet (up to ¾ of an acre)
- Includes good instructions
- Easy to set up
- The perimeter may be inconsistent
- The transmitter may arrive nonfunctional or may die within a few months
The PetSafe Free to Roam wireless dog fence is safe enough to use on dogs as small as 5 pounds, which gives it an advantage over other systems. The downside to this is that the shock may not be strong enough for large or stubborn dogs.
- Covers up to ½ an acre
- Sound-only training mode plus 5 levels of static
- Can add an unlimited number of collars
- Adjustable range from 5 to 90 feet from the base (180’ diameter)
- Compatible with other PetSafe systems
- Dogs can come back into the boundary without being shocked
- Waterproof collar
- Relatively easy to set up
- Boundaries can be inconsistent
- Shock isn’t powerful enough for some dogs
Buying Guide – How Do Electric Dog Fences Work?
There are two main types of electric dog fences: wireless and underground (wired). Both types of invisible fence communicate with a collar on your dog. The collar will emit a sound, vibration, or static shock if the dog gets too close to the barrier.
Different Types of Dog Fences
If you’re looking at containing your dog, you should look at the pros and cons of every fence type. That includes traditional fences in addition to a wireless or wired in-ground dog fence.
Wireless Electric Dog Fence
A traditional wireless dog fence uses GPS or radio signals to create a circular perimeter around a transmitter.
- Easy to set up
- Adjustable perimeter size
- Easy to move
- You can’t change the shape of the perimeter
- The boundary could fluctuate
- Could be affected by weather, uneven yards, parked cars, metal roofs, or signal or radio reception
Wireless Wi-Fi Fence
A wireless wi-fi fence is similar to a wireless electric fence. It also creates a circular perimeter. However, the transmitter talks to the collar using wi-fi rather than radio or GPS signals.
- Easy to set up
- Covers an area up to 2.5 acres
- Easy to move
- Perimeter shape must be round
- Signal can be interrupted by your or your neighbors’ wi-fi
- Weather may impact its effectiveness
Wired Underground Fence
If you want to create a specific shape around your property, you will want to invest in a wired underground dog fence. Buried wires communicate with the dog collar to tell your dog where they can and can’t go.
- Can be adjusted to fit any size or shape of the perimeter
- Can be used to keep dogs out of an area as well as in an area
- May be less signal interference
- Installation is harder
- More expensive, especially if you need to buy additional wire for larger areas
- Wires can break, and digging up the wire to replace it is a hassle
Picket or Wood Fence
Many people envision a white picket fence as the best way to surround a yard. Picket fences aren’t very secure, though, so many people go with wood privacy fences instead.
- Traditional look
- Adds privacy to your yard and home
- Can be buried deep to prevent dogs from digging underneath
- Expensive and time-consuming to install
- Dogs may dig underneath or jump over them to escape
- May be ugly
Chain Link Fence
Chain link fence is cheaper to install than wood fences and allows your dog to see out of your yard.
- Cheaper than a wood fence
- Allows your dog to see out and people to see in
- Easier to install than a wood fence
- Generally considered ugly
- Easy for dogs to dig under or jump over
- May detract from home’s curb appeal
Wireless Dog Fence vs Underground Dog Fence
There are pros and cons to both wireless dog fences and in-ground dog fences. Neither type is necessarily better than the other. It just matters what you’re looking for in an invisible fence.
Wireless dog fence systems are cheaper and easier to install than underground fences. However, they only create a circular perimeter. They also tend to have more problems with signal interruptions and work best on flat land.
Underground dog fences are more expensive and harder to install, but you can create a very specific or large perimeter. They are more customizable in this way.
How Do You Pick the Best Type of Electric Dog Fence?
Are you okay with giving your dog a round area to stay in and don’t have places you need to keep them out of? A wireless fence should work great for you.
Do you have a garden you want to keep your dog out of? Do you want to allow them to access more of your yard than just a circular area? You may prefer to go for an underground dog fence with buried wires.
Important Features to Consider for the Best Invisible Dog Fence
There are tons of invisible fences to choose from, and it can be hard to figure out which one is best. We want to help you decide what will best meet your needs. So, here are some important features to consider for the best invisible dog fence.
A wireless dog fence doesn’t require burying any wires. However, you’re limited to a defined area to confine your dog in.
To create a custom yard solution, you will probably want to choose an underground electric fence. That means you will have to tack or bury a wire around the perimeter of your yard. Always check the instructions, but typically you will need to bury the wire 1”-3” deep.
Burying hundreds or thousands of feet of wire can be tiring and time-consuming. However, one benefit of this type of invisible dog fence is that it isn’t affected by weather like wireless fences.
One thing to think about is the thickness of the wire. The lower the gauge of the wire, the thicker it is. Thicker wire is more expensive, but it’s also more durable.
1,000 feet of wire can enclose an area about the size of an acre. You’ll want to figure out how much wire you will need to enclose your yard. You can buy more later, but it’s easier to start a project with everything you need.
One helpful tip is to rent a trencher or cable-laying tool. These power tools will save you from endless amounts of digging to bury the wire.
Electric Fence Installation Process
How much time are you willing to spend on electric dog fence installation? A wireless dog fence can be installed in an hour or two. On the other hand, an underground fence may take a day or two to bury all the wire.
You need to measure your yard before you start the buying process. The size of your yard will determine how big of a perimeter you need.
Wireless invisible dog fences cover a circular area that surrounds a transmitter that you must keep inside your home. The fence will extend a certain radius around the transmitter, say 100 feet, in every direction. That’s the area covered by the system.
A wireless dog fence will have a limited area. You can only extend the perimeter so far, so it may not cover a large yard. However, you can buy additional perimeter invisible dog fences with overlapping areas to extend the covered area.
With a wired pet fence, you can have a perimeter that surrounds a very large area. You can add an almost infinite amount of wire to cover a large property. A wired underground fence also allows you to designate certain areas off-limits to your dog, like a garden.
Number and Size of Collars
If you only have one dog, then the number of included collars doesn’t matter – each pet containment system includes at least one. However, if you have multiple dogs, you need to find out how many collars the fence includes and how many you can add to it.
The size of the electric fence collar is important, too. Many invisible fences are designed for large dogs. The collar may be too big for a small dog. Make sure you know how adjustable the collar is before you buy it.
Length of Dog’s Neck Fur
How long are the prongs on the included collar? If you have a dog with long or thick hair, you need a collar with longer prongs. Alternatively, you can ask a groomer to shave a patch of fur on your dog’s throat. That allows the prongs to have contact with the skin.
Repelling or Containing
Do you simply want to keep your dog in your yard? A wireless dog fence may work great.
If you also want to keep your dog away from certain areas, like a garden, you’ll want a hybrid fence.
Replacing a collar for an electric dog fence can be expensive. You don’t want a collar that can’t take a beating or one that will die after a single rainstorm. Look for a durable system that will last for many years.
Most invisible dog fences include a 1-year warranty. Don’t overlook this important feature when you’re looking for an electric fence. Problems can always come up with wireless devices.
You can’t customize the area that a wireless fence system covers. If you want to customize the area your dog is allowed, you’ll want to go with an in-ground dog fence.
Are the batteries in the invisible fence collar and transmitter rechargeable, or do they need to be replaced? If they need to be replaced, do you have to get a manufacturer-specific battery? Some replacement batteries can be very expensive to replace when they die.
Most electric dog fence collars are water-resistant, which means they won’t die after a simple rainstorm. However, if you have a dog that swims, you need to look for a collar that’s waterproof, not water-resistant.
Containment and Training Combination
Some invisible dog fences come with a remote to allow you to train your dog with the collar. Many trainers discourage the use of negative reinforcement when working with a dog. However, a great use for an electric dog collar is teaching your dog to come with a beep or vibration.
Adjustable Level of Correction
You don’t want to shock your dog out of his socks every time he comes to the fence’s perimeter. Some dogs are more sensitive, while others are more stubborn.
Look for an electric fence that has adjustable correction levels. You want to give your dog the lightest correction that they will respond to.
Easy to Set Up, Use, and Maintain
Are you looking for the easiest type of electric pet containment system? You’ll want a wireless electric fence.
If you are looking at hybrid wired systems, read the instructions before buying so you can get a better idea of how hard it may be to set it up.
Failure Notification System
How do you know if your invisible dog fence stops working before your dog runs away? Some containment systems come with a failure notification system. This feature could save your dog’s life.
Is the cost of an electric dog fence an important factor for you? Wireless dog fences tend to be cheaper than the cost of an underground dog fence system.
Training Your Dog for an Invisible Dog Fence
You can’t just set up an electric dog fence and expect your dog to understand why they’re being shocked. You need to train your dog to respect the fence and show them the boundaries. Here are some tips for training your dog to use an invisible dog fence:
- Set up boundary flags every few feet around the perimeter.
- Start with the audible tone first (if the collar has that feature). Walk your dog on a leash around the new perimeter of the yard. Occasionally cross the perimeter, and when the collar beeps, back up inside the perimeter.
- Eventually, your dog should learn that the beeping sound means they need to back up.
- Once your dog understands that the beeping means “back up,” introduce them to the shock on the lowest setting. If your dog doesn’t react to the lowest shock, increase the intensity until they react.
- When your dog understands that crossing the perimeter means they get a shock, add distractions outside the perimeter. Try to recruit friends or family to walk, ride bikes, and toss balls outside the perimeter.
- After your dog stays inside the perimeter, even with distractions, you can let your dog roam. Still, you will want to watch them for a few more weeks.
- After about a month, you should be able to trust your dog in the yard alone.
- Don’t take the electric collar off when you think the dog understands the boundaries. You never know when the right distraction might cause them to test the boundaries.
Frequently Asked Questions
We know this article is long, so here are quick answers to frequently asked questions about electric fences for dogs.
What Is an Invisible Dog Fence and How Does it Work?
An invisible dog fence uses a transmitter to communicate with a dog collar. When the included collar reaches the boundary, it will beep, vibrate, or create a static shock to keep your dog away. Eventually, your dog learns where they can and can’t safely go with the invisible fence collar on.
Are Electric Dog Fences Effective?
Yes, electric dog fences are generally effective. However, you must take the time to train your dog to understand what you want from them. Also, even the strongest shock might not work on stubborn dogs or those with a thick coat.
Does the Shock Hurt My Dog?
We’ve all experienced static shock before. It’s an unpleasant experience, but it doesn’t hurt. This is the same type of “shock” the electric dog fence collar produces. So no, the shock won’t hurt your dog (unless they’re too small to be using the collar).
How Do I Fix a Broken Invisible Dog Fence?
For a wireless electric fence, the problem must be with either the transmitter or the collar. That makes it relatively easy to troubleshoot and fix.
For wired underground dog fences, the wire could break or degrade anywhere along the line. You may need to dig up and inspect every inch of the wire to find the problem.
Can Lightning or Other Bad Weather Affect an Electric Dog Fence?
Wireless electric fences can be affected by bad weather, lightning, or even a car parked in the wrong place. Underground invisible dog fences are somewhat more reliable, but a lightning strike could still kill it.
What’s the Difference Between a Wireless Dog Fence and an In-ground Dog Fence?
A wireless dog fence uses a single transmitter to create a circular perimeter around the transmitter. You may be able to adjust the size of the perimeter, but you can’t change the shape.
An in-ground wired dog fence uses an underground wire to create a perimeter around your yard. This allows you to customize the perimeter.
Are Invisible Dog Fences Safe?
Generally speaking, invisible dog fences are safe. However, they do have limitations. For example, an invisible fence won’t keep other animals off your property. An aggressive dog or another predator could attack your dog.
Also, dogs can still escape. Either the system may fail, or something may entice your dog outside the boundary despite the shock. Getting out of your yard can be dangerous for your dog.
Hopefully, this guide helped you pick the best invisible dog fence for your home. The process of buying and installing an electric dog fence can be stressful. Then you have to train your dog.
Still, in the end, we love invisible fences for dogs, and we hope you’ll love yours, too!