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Invisible Dog Fence 101: From In-Ground to Wireless

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Dog Training By Meg Marrs 28 min read June 28, 2021 9 Comments

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Best Static Shock Dog Fences: Quick Picks

  • PetSafe Wireless Fence. [Best Wireless Unit] An affordable wireless fence that emits a radio signal boundary to cover a circular range of up to 1/2 acre. Five levels of correction, including a sound-only mode. Portable and very easy to set up.
  • SpotOn Virtual Fence [Most Accurate & Most Humane] This cutting-edge, tech-packed containment system uses no radio signal or wires, instead relying on GPS networks for the best reliable accuracy. Customize your boundary completely for up to 1,000 acres. Also offers a shock-free mode for those uncomfortable with issuing shocks.
  • YardMax Rechargeable Unit [Best In-Ground] This completely customizable in-ground fence allows you to cover a 1/2 acre of containment with the wire included, or buy additional wire to cover an area as large as 10 acres. Several correction levels are offered, as well as the option for additional collars for multiple pets. Collars are also rechargeable to save on batteries!

Update

K9 of Mine has changed our positioning on using aversive tools like shock collars. We suggest all owners opt for physical barriers whenever possible – jump down to our section on “Are Electric Fences Cruel?” for more info.

What is an Electric Dog Fence?

An electric dog fence is a dog containment system that prevents your dog from leaving the pre-determined perimeter of your yard.

Many owners prefer wireless or in-ground dog fences over standard physical fences for several reasons:

  • Easier Maintenance. Electric dog fences are much easier to maintain than physical, above ground fences.
  • Safer Alternative. Dogs cannot dig under or tear through wireless or under-ground fences, as they can with traditional physical fences or outdoor dog kennels.
  • Maintain Outdoor View. Implementing an electric dog fence allows owners to maintain their picturesque scenery, without having their view blocked by a physical fence or outdoor dog kennel.
  • Less Expensive Than Physical Fencing. Installing a physical yard fence can easily cost thousands of dollars, while wireless or in-ground dog fences cost a fraction of that amount.

How Do Electric Dog Fences Work?

With all electric dog fence units, your dog will wear a special collar that communicates with your property’s boundary perimeters (which are set according to an in-ground wire or a wireless signal).

When your dog first begins to approach the boundary line, the collar will emit a warning sound.

If your dog continues to approach the boundary and does not turn back within several seconds, the collar emits a static shock correction.

electric collar

Types of Electric Dog Fence: Wireless vs In-Ground

There are two types of electric dog fences: wireless and underground.

Wireless Electric Dog Fence

Wireless dog fences use computer GPS or radio signals to determine yard perimeter and to communicate with corresponding dog collars and ensure the dog is not traveling outside of the pre-determined boundaries.

PROS:

  • No wires, no digging, no complicated installation
  • Units are often portable
  • The boundary lines can be adjusted according to your needs and aren’t permanent
  • Can be setup within 1-2 hours

CONS:

  • In some cases, boundaries may fluctuate to a small degree
  • Some units are affected by signals/radio reception

Wired Underground Dog Fence

With wired invisible dog fences, a string of wire is dug into the perimeter of your yard. The main transmitter unit connects with the physical wire perimeter, which then communicates boundary information with the dog’s collar.

PROS:

  • Perimeter can be completely customized for your yard
  • Underground perimeters won’t fluctuate

CONS:

  • Complex installation that potentially requires a professional
  • A path must be dug around your yard
  • The unit is not portable
  • Wire breaks can be frustrating to repair

Best Invisible Dog Fence: Static Shock Units

We will be detailing several different product options from both PetSafe and Invisible Fence, the two biggest brand names in electric dog fences.

1. PetSafe Wireless System

Overview: The PetSafe Wireless Dog Fence System consists of a main transmitter unit that communicates with the corresponding dog collar.

The transmitter emits a 17.5 kHz radio signal in a circular perimeter around your home. When your dog (wearing the receiver collar unit) nears the perimeter, they will hear an audio warning, followed by a static correction.

Most Reliable Wireless Fence

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PetSafe Wireless Fence Pet Containment System, Covers up to 1/2 Acre, for Dogs over 8 lb, Waterproof Receiver with Tone / Static Correction - From The Parent Company of INVISIBLE FENCE Brand

PetSafe Wireless System

Classic wireless, above ground fence

Wireless radio unit that covers up to 1/2 acre with adjustable circular perimeter.

Key Features:

  • Fully Adjustable Circular Perimeter. The 17.5 radio signal emits a circular perimeter that is completely adjustable. It can emit a perimeter as far as 90ft in all directions (resulting in a total possible diameter of 180ft, or ½ acre). You can position the transmitter to give your dog run of the front and back yard, or just one area.
invisible dog fence
  • Easy to Install. Just turn on the main transmitter unit, adjust your circular diameter range, and you’re set. No wires, no digging, no fuss.
  • Adjustable Correction Options. Choose from five different correction levels (bigger dogs may need stronger static corrections). You can even do a sound only correction if you choose.
  • Waterproof. The receiver collar is waterproof, so no need to keep your dog inside when it’s raining.
  • Automatic Shut-Off. If your dog does end up leaving the boundary zone, the static correction will shut off after 30 seconds. It won’t activate again for another 5 minutes.
  • Connect Multiple Yards. With multiple transmitters, you can actually connect several yards together, allowing dog neighbors to join together for even more safe play space for their pets! The two circle boundaries will overlap where they connect, joining the two areas together.
  • Portable System. If you end up moving, you can easily take the PetSafe wireless dog fence system with you. Just unplug the central unit, grab the receiver collars, and your off (although you’ll have to re-train your dog to help them understand new boundaries).
  • Multiple Dogs. Use this wireless pet containment system with multiple dogs – simply buy multiple collars.
  • 8 lbs + Up. This unit is best for pets that weight 8lbs or more.

PROS

No digging or wires required – you can have your wireless fence up and running right away. The unit is portable, allowing it to be moved to other yards and locations. Another major benefit is the ability to adjust the diameter range, fine-tuning the perimeter to the perfect circular size for your yard. You’ll get training materials when you order your PetSafe unit, plus you can watch PetSafe YouTube training videos to get your dog properly adjusted to the new invisible fence.

CONS

The PetSafe wireless dog fence only transmits boundaries in a circular area – you cannot do a rectangular or square shape. For those with large yards, this isn’t a huge issue. However, if you have a small or oddly shaped yard, being forced to stick with a circular shape may significantly cut down the amount of yard space your dog can access. Some buyers have found the boundary lines to be inconsistent, which is not surprising considering the unit functions with a radio signal.

My Experience: My experience with this unit was largely positive, as I used the system with my own dog. My one recommendation is to take off the collar once your dog enters the house. I found that some electronic devices in my home would set off the collar if my dog got too close to them, so I definitely recommend getting into the habit of removing the collar when your dog is in the home.

2. The SpotOn Virtual Smart Fence

Overview: The SpotOn Smart Fence is a virtual barrier that utilizes GPS technology rather than buried wires and transmitters to keep your doggo safe and secure.

Setting up this smart fence couldn’t be any easier – just hold the collar and walk around the perimeter of your yard. This stress-free installation makes SpotOn our winner when it comes to convenience.

The waterproof collar holds a charge for up to 36 hours of containment or 8 hours of tracking and works on medium to large-sized dogs.

Easiest Invisible Fence to Install

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SpotOn GPS Collar

SpotOn Virtual Smart Fence

This invisible fence relies on GPS technology rather than buried wires to keep your dog safe and inside your yard, for up to 1,000 acres.

  • Customizable and portable. Custom map your desired containment area’s shape and size, whether you’re at home or on the go.
  • Large range. Select a space from a half-acre to up to 1,000 acres.
  • Reliable accuracy. The SpotOn system uses three GPS networks for impeccable accuracy and consistency.
  • Stay informed. Receive notification alerts if your Houdini breaks the containment barrier and track him from your phone.
  • Free connectivity at the outset. Receive 60 days of free cellular service, then $6.95 monthly (if you choose tracking/connectivity).
  • Two sets of auditory tones. SpotOn is unique in that it uses two sets of tones before issuing an optional static correction.
  • Non-Aversive Option. Offers the ability to completely turn off the static shock and just use tone warnings. SpotOn also provides a great non-aversive training plan for those who want to stick to positive reinforcement training.
  • Made in the USA. SpotOn is designed and engineered in New Hampshire and assembled in the USA with domestic and foreign parts.

PROS

The ease of installation and portability are the major perks of this system. Not having to dig or deal with professional installation services saves time and money, and the system’s app has a nice tracking and monitoring interface. The ability to switch to audible-only is ideal for positive reinforcement training.

CONS

There’s just no getting around it: This system is expensive. It works best for larger areas as well, as spaces less than a half acre can result in your dog hearing warning tones that can impact training. While there is a small-dog variety in the works, this system is currently only suitable for medium to large doggos.

3. PetSafe Stay + Play Wireless Fence

Overview: The Stay + Play Wireless Fence from PetSafe is a model very similar to the unit mentioned above.

The major differences being that this unit has rechargeable collar units (rather than relying on batteries) and can emit a larger diameter.

Best rechargeable collar

This is a sponsored placement, in which an advertiser pays a fee to be featured in this article. Learn more

PetSafe Stay & Play Compact Wireless Fence – No Wire to Bury – Our Smallest Transmitter – Covers 3/4-Acre – For Dogs 5 lbs & Up – Rechargeable Collar – From the Parent Company of INVISIBLE FENCE Brand

PetSafe Stay + Play

Compact wireless radio fence

Compact wireless radio unit that covers up to 3/4 acre. Includes a rechargeable collar.

Key Features:

  • Wireless & Easy. Turn on the transmitter unit, set your circular diameter range, and you’re done.
  • More Space to Play. The Stay + Play unit can cover a circular area of ¾ acre (210 ft in diameter).
  • Adjustable Correction Options. Choose from five different static correction levels or a sound only correction.
  • Waterproof. The collar unit is waterproof, so no need to fear the rain.
  • Automatic Shut-Off. If your dog breaks through the boundary zone, the static correction will shut off after 15 seconds.
  • Connect Multiple Yards. With multiple transmitters, you can connect several yards (or several other large areas) together.
  • Portable System. Like the other system, this unit is also portable.
  • Suitable for Smaller Dogs. Can be used with dogs 5 lbs and up.

PROS

Is compatible with original unit, so if you decide to buy the Stay + Play unit, in addition to the original, both will work with one another.

CONS

Some have found this unit to be less stable than the original PetSafe wireless unit (detailed above) when dealing with sloped yards. Some report that the Stay + Play has more difficulty with uneven terrains than the original PetSafe wireless fence unit.

My Experience: When trying out the Stay + Play, I did indeed find that this unit seemed less stable than the original. When testing the boundary, the boundary line seemed to change minute to minute, moving in and out as much as three feet, rarely beeping at the same point upon multiple tests.

4. PetSafe Basic In-Ground System

Overview: PetSafe also offers a physical in-ground wired system that you can install manually.

Best Budget Pick

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PetSafe Basic In-Ground Dog and Cat Fence, from the Parent Company of Invisible Fence Brand, Underground Electric Pet Fence

PetSafe In-Ground Electric Fence

Affordable in-ground static shock fence

Wired, underground fence with customizable perimeter featuring 500 ft of wire.

Key Features:

  • Customize to Fit Your Yard. Underground wire means you can customize your boundaries for your property.
  • 500 ft Of Wire. This invisible dog fence unit comes with 500 feet of wire, and is capable of being extended to cover up to 5 acres of land (with the purchase of additional wire).
  • Adjustable Correction Options. Choose from several levels of correction, plus option for sound only correction.
  • Waterproof. The collar unit is waterproof, so no need to keep your dog inside when it’s raining.
  • Automatic Shut-Off. If your dog does end up leaving the boundary zone, the static correction will shut off after 30 seconds. It won’t activate again for another 5 minutes.
  • 8 Pounds + Up. This unit is suitable for dogs weighing 8 lbs and over, and fits necks that are 6-28 inches.

PROS

Wired fences can be customized for your yard in a square, rectangular, or other shape. Wired systems also tend to be more stable, with more consistent boundary lines (since you’re dealing with a physical wire rather than a radio signal).

CONS

Digging and installing underground wired units will always be a hassle. You may want to consider renting a fence trencher from a hardware store to make installing the underground fence easier.

Note: PetSafe offers a different version of this in-ground kit for “stubborn” dogs over 30lbs. They also offer an in-ground fence designed for small dogs (5lbs and up) and cats.

5. PetSafe YardMax Rechargeable System

Overview: The PetSafe YardMax Rechargeable in-ground invisible dog fence is very similar to the PetSafe Basic In-Ground fence listed above.

Best for extra yard space

This is a sponsored placement, in which an advertiser pays a fee to be featured in this article. Learn more

PetSafe YardMax Rechargeable In-Ground Fence for Dogs and Cats – from the Parent Company of INVISIBLE FENCE Brand – Underground Pet Barrier - Multiple Wire Gauge and Indoor or Outdoor Barrier Options

PetSafe YardMax Fence

In-ground wired unit with more yard space

This wired underground fence offers additional yard space by adjusting the “warning zone” to outside of your set boundary line.

The Major Differences: More usable yard space (30% more) by moving the “warning zone” to outside your boundary line.

Also features wireless collars and unique no-go zones for indoor and outdoor objects you want to keep your pet away from.

Key Features:

  • Use Wire to Customize Your Yard Shape. While underground wire can be a hassle, they also allow you to create a perimeter customized to your yard size. This unit comes with enough wire to cover a ½ acre, but can be expanded to cover sizes as large as 10 acres (with additional wire).
  • Warning Zone is Outside the Boundary Line. Since the warning zone lies past the boundary zone, rather than before it, your dog has more room to enjoy your yard. With other units, your dog can potentially break through the boundary zone (most likely due to the shock correction being too low, or simply due to stubborn dogs). With this style unit, your dog cannot break through the boundary and instead will continue to be corrected until he returns to the yard, or until after 15 seconds.
petsafe yard max
  • Option to Create Extra Wireless Boundaries. With the YardMax unit, you have the option to create smaller wireless boundaries (referred to as Pawz Away barriers) around objects you don’t want your dog getting into (like wells, trash cans, or sheds).
  • Adjustable Correction Options. Choose from several levels of static correction or a sound only correction.
  • Rechargeable Collars. Collars units are rechargeable and waterproof.
  • 5 Pounds + Up. This unit is suitable for dogs weighing 5 lbs and over, and fits necks that are 6-28 inches.
  • More Pets, the Merrier. You can add as many collars as you want – all can be compatible with this unit. A full-pet household can all enjoy it.

PROS

More space for your dog to play, rechargeable collars, and the ability to create additional safety no-go zones for dogs.

CONS

Again, digging wires can be a pain. We recommend renting a fence trencher to make installation easier. The YardMax system is also priced higher than the classic in-ground system and the wireless system.

Want a PetSafe underground wired dog fence but don’t want to install it yourself? You may want to check out PetSafe’s Pro Install option. Professionals will come install the unit and will train your dog, doing all the work for you.

6. Invisible Fence: Traditional Containment

invisible dog fence reviews

Overview: With the Invisible Fence Pet Containment System, a physical wire is installed (by a professional) around the boundaries of your property, establishing your dog’s perimeter.

A transmitter unit (usually places in a garage or basement) will send a radio signal along the underground wire. The radio signal is then picked up by the corresponding computer collar unit.

The collar unit delivers a warning sound when your dog approaches the boundary. If the dog continues to approach the boundary after the warning, a static correction is issued.

Where to Buy: Can only be purchased directly from Invisible Fence.

Key Features:

  • Underground Wire. A physical wire is installed underground surrounding your property perimeter.
  • Professional Installation. Invisible Fence professionals will come and install the wire and setup your unit.
  • Pet Training Assistance. Invisible Fence pet trainers will come and work with your pet to help them understand where they can and cannot go.
  • Trusted Reputation. The Invisible Fence brand is a trusted and well-established invisible dog fence company with 40 years experience.
  • Endorsed by the ASPCA and Veterinarians. The official Invisible Fence brand is endorsed by the ASPCA and many veterinarians.
  • Available from Invisible Fence website

PROS

This Invisible Fence Traditional Containment option is this brand’s most affordable option. The Invisible Fence brand comes with professional installation, as well as professional pet training assistance to ensure that your pet is trained properly with the invisible dog fence unit. The official Invisible Fence brand is also endorsed by the ASPCA.

CONS

Priced higher than other units.

7. Invisible Fence GPS 2.0 Wireless Dog Fence

best invisible dog fence

Overview: The Invisible Fence GPS 2.0 system is the most advanced of all pet containment systems.

You set up your yard boundaries via GPS satellite, and your dog wears a special GPS computer collar to keep him out of the boundary area.

Where to Buy: Can only be purchased directly from Invisible Fence.

Key Features:

  • No Wires Are Involved. Instead of a physical underground wire, an Invisible Fence technician will come to your home and install the invisible dog fence GPS boundaries on your computer. Your pet wears a special GPS collar, which communicates with the main base computer.
  • Warning Sound + Correction. As with the other system, if your dog approaches a boundary, he will first receive a warning sound, then a static shock.
  • Complete Customization, Without Limits. With the GPS 2.0 unit, you can completely customize your yard boundaries, without the hassle of wire. There is no maximum size limit, giving you total control of boundaries.
  • Works With All Terrains. While some other invisible fencing units cannot handle varied terrain or sloping yard, the GPS 2.0 fence works with all kinds of landscapes.
  • Create Smaller No-Go Zones. This unit allows you to customize no-go zones (like pools, sheds, and swamps) without add-ons or physical devices. It can all be done through GPS.

PROS

One cool advantage of going with Invisible Fence’s GPS system is that the GPS computer collar can also be used to set up avoidance areas in your home. If you want your dog to stay away from trashcans, pools, or certain areas, you can program those areas as avoidance zones. Your dog will then get warning sounds and static corrections as they would with perimeter boundaries. This can be helpful if you have a dog who likes to get into the trash or to prevent potential pool disasters. You can also work with Invisible Fence to install collar-activated doggie doors, which is another cool bonus feature.

CONS

Again, this unit can get quite pricey, although it has plenty of features to earn its price tag. The GPS 2.0 unit is also not available in all areas.

How to Train Your Dog With An Electric Pet Fence

When using an electric fence, it’s absolutely essential that you train your dog and teach them how the fence works.

Nearly all horror stories owners have with invisible fencing come as a result of not properly teaching their dog how the invisible fence works.

dog in backyard

Setting up your electric dog fence and tossing your dog outside, hoping that they’ll figure it out how it all works, is a 100% guaranteed recipe for disaster.

Without training, dogs can’t understand why they are being shocked. In some cases, dogs become terrified to go outside or sit immobilized in their yard, too frightened to move.

Obviously this isn’t what any owner wants for their pet – the whole point of investing in an electric dog fence is to enable your dog to roam and frolic about the yard in safety, not terrify them to the point of paralyzation.

You’ll receive a collection of training information when you order your electric dog fence, but here’s a basic rundown of how it works.

  1. Set Up System + Flags. After installing the dog fence system, you’ll set up flags around the perimeter of your boundary area 10 ft apart (you may need to buy extra flags for larger yards).
  2. Show Dog Boundaries with Tone Only. Switch the collar to a tone-only setting and hold it in your hand. With your leashed dog, approach the flagged boundary line. When the collar emits the warning sound, bring your dog several paces back towards the safety area. Reward with praise and treats!
  3. Repeat With Several Flags. Repeat this process with a few flags on the first training day until your dog resists approach the flag.
  4. Add Static Correction. In following days, switch to the static shock correction (start with a low setting and adjust if necessary if your dog ignores it). Continue approaching the flags (and retreating after the correction) until your dog resists approach the boundary flags.
  5. Test Your Dog For Distractions. After several days of training, test your dog’s resolve by throwing a ball or toy outside of the boundary line. If he doesn’t go after the toy and stops at the boundary line, reinforce him with praise.
  6. Go Off Leash. After a week of solid training, let your dog off leash in the yard. Don’t move to this step until your dog has completed the previous steps.
  7. Begin to Remove Flags. After two weeks, begin to remove boundary flags. Start by removing every other flag, and then eventually you can remove them all.

Extra Training Notes:

  • Keep Training Sessions Short. Training sessions should last between 10 – 15 minutes. You don’t want to exhaust and frustrate your dog. Shorter, more frequent training sessions are the most effective.
  • Plenty of Play. Be sure to start and end every training session with plenty of fun play time. Take frequent play breaks if your dog seems stressed. Patience is key!
  • Leaving the Area. When going on outside walks, always remove the invisible dog fence collar and replace it with a walking collar + leash. When leaving the property, always leave by the same route so as to not confused your dog.

For more in-depth training help, YouTube has tons of helpful videos, such as this invisible fence training video from PetSafe.

Can I Install an Electric Dog Fence Myself?

The DIY route can be a hassle, but plenty of owners have installed in-ground wired systems themselves. If you feel confident, go for it.

Just read instructions carefully and make sure you have a map of your property. You don’t want to go digging around your yard and accidentally hit a water line or anything else potentially disastrous.

Setting up a wireless boundary on your own is a breeze – it’s just a matter of plugging in the unit, placing the boundary flags in the appropriate areas, and training your dog.

Other Things To Keep in Mind With Electric Fences

Replacement Collars. If your original collar breaks, you’ll need to buy a new one. Replacement collars can be quite expensive, ranging anywhere from $50 to $200.

Multiple Pets. Many units allow you to use your in-ground or wireless dog fence with multiple pets – you’ll just need to buy more collars.

Batteries. Batteries for collar units usually need to be replaced every 3-4 months. Some replacement batteries are quite cheap – many units use simple watch batteries. However, over a year that could end up costing you anywhere from $60-$90/year, so it’s certainly something to consider when budgeting.

Wiring. If you decide to go with an in-ground wired dog fence, you’ll want to pay particular attention to the gauge of wire you’ll be installing.

When it comes to wiring, the lower the gauge, the tougher the wire. For this reason, we tend to recommend not using 20 gauge wire (which is often what comes with the lower-priced units). Instead, you are better off using 14 or 16 gauge wire. This boundary wire will hold up for longer. Weaker 20 gauge wire will break more frequently, requiring you to dig up the wire and patch it. You can imagine what a headache that would be.

Power Failures. Since invisible dog fences are powered by the electric transmitter unit, power failures will shut down your wireless fence. If you live in an area that frequently deals with power outages, a physical fence may be a better choice.

We also recommend grabbing a surge protector to ensure that your transmitter unit doesn’t get destroyed in case of a power outage.

Other Animals Can Still Get In. An in-ground or wireless dog fence will keep your dog out, but won’t stop other dogs or animals from coming into the area. This means that there is the possibility of your dog being attacked and being unable to escape the boundaries of your yard. For this reason, you should always supervise your dog when outside, even with the invisible dog fence installed.

Variety of Animals. While these fences are mostly designed with dogs in mind, many units can work with cats as well. Some people even use them with goats!

Camping and Vacations. If you travel a lot or often go on camping vacations, you may be better off with the wireless units. The wireless units make it easy to transport and use your system in other areas. Just remember, you’ll need to re-train your dog and teach them where the new boundaries are.

portable wireless dog fence

Age. Most experts recommend not using an invisible dog fence until your dog is at least 6 months old. You want to wait until your dog is mature enough to be trained and can understand how to navigate the electric fence.

Here’s an illustration we created showing the differences between wireless, in-ground, and physical dog fences:

invisible dog fences guide

Are Electric Dog Fences Cruel? A Complicated Question

This is a tough question to answer, and my thoughts on this issue have changed a lot over the years.

Initially, I would have told you that the small static shock correction issued by an electric fence is minimal and is similar to what you might experience if you rubbed your socks on a rug and touched a metal handle.

Used responsibly, most dogs will not be seriously traumatized by an invisible fence unit, with the static shock sensation being more ‘surprising’ than physically painful.

However, as I have learned more about dog cognition and science-backed training, my position has become less sure.

In truth, any tool that uses pain to control an animal (even what we might consider minimal pain) is not ideal. Aversive tools like shock collars use pain to control a dog’s behavior, which research has shown can increase stress levels, cause a dog to shut down, and potentially even result in increased aggression.

On the other hand, being able to let your dog roam in your yard can have a huge effect on your dog’s quality of life. And sometimes, an electric fence will be one of the only options for owners who are not allowed to put up a physical fence due to HOA groups or can’t afford one.

dog running in yard

My family used an electric fence for my childhood dog Benzy, and it allowed him full access to our huge front and back yard.

I know having access to this outdoor space brought him great joy – I used to love watching him relax in the grass or sniff the air in delight, capturing some olfactory sensation I would never experience!

However, I also know Benzy was an anxious dog. He had separation anxiety early on when we got him (he had been with two previous families before us). He also displayed behaviors that I now recognize as indicative of great stress, such as excessive licking.

It breaks my heart to think I ever did anything that may have increased the stress and anxiety of my dear friend. I can’t help but wonder if it was the best choice, and in fact, I chose not to use an electric fence with my 2nd dog.

Benzy learned his boundaries and rarely tested them after a month. In fact, after a few months we didn’t even bother putting the collar on him most times, as I felt comfortable that he understood where his yard boundaries were and wouldn’t cross them.

My second dog Remy was a rescue pittie mix. He was a confident cookie with plenty of “gameness”.

I ended up going with a physical barrier fence with Remy due to a few reasons.

  • High Prey Drive. Witnessing Remy’s high prey drive, I suspected he would be very likely to break out of the boundary to chase another animal.
  • Neighborhood Cats. I have neighbors with outdoor cats, and knew there would be a high likelihood of Remy trying to chase down and potentially hurt a neighbor’s cat if he escaped.
  • Pitbull Breed. It’s a sad fact that many individuals have preconceived notions about pit mixes. If Remy got out and approached someone, they would be much more likely to be frightened and angry with me as opposed to a Golden escaping an electric fence.
  • Unfamiliar Dog. When I first adopted Remy, I knew I needed a containment system ASAP. However, he was still a new dog with behavior issues I did not fully understand. Putting him in a situation where he could potentially escape and interact with other dogs and humans was high risk.
  • Coyotes. Our house faces back to a large wooded area where we’ve spotted coyotes. One downside to electric fences is that they don’t keep out other animals. Of course I needed to avoid any situation where Remy could potentially interact with coyotes.

I also chose to go with a physical containment method because I began to question the ethics of electric shock fences. I no longer feel confident that they are the best option.

4 Electric Fence Alternatives: Other Options

Shock fences aren’t your only option for containing your canine! Some alternatives include:

1. Boundary Training

Boundary training involves teaching your dog to stay within a set boundary with positive reinforcement.

  1. You’ll start out similar to how you would train a dog on an electric fence, setting up flags around your boundary.
  2. With your dog on leash, walk with your dog all around the inside of the boundary zone, clicking and treating all the while.
  3. Begin walking on the other side of the boundary while clicking and throwing treats to your dog as long as he stays inside of the boundary.
  4. Add difficulty by walking further outside of the bondary line, continuing to reinforce your dog for staying inside the boundary. Use a long line to keep your dog safe while allowing you to get more distance.
  5. If your dog breaks out of the boundary, run with him back into the boundary area and reward him for returning with you.

Kikopup offers a great instructional video on how to work on boundary training with your dog below:

Boundary training is fantastic because it teaches your dog to stay inside the boundary without using pain or fear. However, it requires a ton of practice and proofing with a variety of situations.

Still, if you want fence-free freedom that doesn’t use force, this is your best option.

2. Tie Outs or Trolleys

Trolleys and tie outs (aka yard stakes) are other options for canine containment. Tie outs function by embedding a stake into the ground and connecting a line from your dog’s collar or harness to the stake.

This allows your dog to move freely within a set radius as far as the lead line allows.

However, tie-outs can tangle up with your dog easily, and your dog can seriously injure his throat pulling on the line. Even with a tie out stake, you’ll want to do some training to teach your dog not to pull on the stake and to stay in his perimeter.

Trolleys operate in a similar manner, but instead of a stationary stake, your dog’s line is attached to a trolley system that operates like a zip line, allowing your dog more freedom of movement and access to more space.

The video shows a quick and easy setup for a trolley system:

You should never leave your dog unattended outside with any of the methods described, but this is doubly true for tie-outs and trolleys due to their potential for choking.

3. Invisible Fence With Sound-Only Mode

Another option for owners who aren’t comfortable with shocking their dogs is using the sound-only mode with an invisible fence unit.

This is a safer, more humane approach to boundary training that still takes advantage of some great electric training tools.

The SpotOn is especially great for this since it has an easy option to turn off the static shock and also offers two sets of different auditory warnings with an alert tone and a warning tone as your dog nears the boundary area.

SpotOn even offers a great non-aversive training plan you can use that relies on positive reinforcement boundary training.

4. Cheap DIY Fence

If you can’t afford a traditional fence, you may be able to put together a budget-friendly DIY dog fence for under a few hundred dollars.

This is ultimately what we ended up doing for my 2nd dog Remy. Using cheap welded wire fencing and t-posts, I was able to make a suitable containment fence for Remy with a couple days of work for less than $200.

Do you have experience with using under ground or wireless dog fences? Share your experience in the comments!

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Meg Marrs

Meg Marrs is the Founder and Director of Marketing at K9 of Mine. She is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! She loves iced coffee, hammocks, and puppy-cuddling!

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Steven Zelman

I have had the Invisible Fence GPS 3.0 – their latest model – and have been disappointed in the system. What I like most about the collars are that they have an indicator light that flashes to tell me if the battery is good and the GPS signal is being received. I spent $4000 for this system for 2 dogs. I can accept that the rechargeable batteries only last a day. But every time I change the batteries, it takes about 20 minutes for the collars to recognize the GPS signal. Thus the two dogs are unprotected for at least 20 minutes a day. And if I take the dogs inside, it never recognizes the signal. In fact, if the dogs are in overnight, even with fresh batteries, it takes 20 minutes in the morning outside for the collar to start protecting the dogs.Their chain link pen with a chain link top also blocks the signal. Even standing over the dogs can reduce the strength of the signal. Leaving the collars out overnight also does not help, as they apparently need to be moving to obtain and maintain the coordinates. Invisible Fence includes an additional component that is supposed to assist the collars with finding the GPS signal, but it is designed for inside use and doesn’t work unless it is outside. So one needs to put it in a plastic waterproof box outside. But while the lights on this accessory now show it is receiving the signal, the dollars function the same. Furthermore one cannot reach Invisible Fence, only the local representative. What a mess. I used a wired Invisible Fence for many years and was extremely happy with their product. However their GPS 3.0 system is not ready for consumer use.

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Cat

Good comparison of different fence types. Not putting the collar on your dog is BAD advice. It only takes one trip through the fence to get hit by a car.

Disappointed you did not mention other companies like Pet Stop and Dog Guard. They do quality professional installations for less than Invisible Fence. PetSafe owns invisible fence so your article is basically an ad for Petsafe. Buyer be aware.

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Meg Marrs

Thanks Cat – will look into the companies you mentioned. I focused on PetSafe since those are units I’ve personally used in the past and have had good success with.

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Derek Mcdoogle

In your article, you stated that wireless dog fences use computer GPS or radio signals to determine yard perimeter and to communicate with corresponding dog collars and ensure the dog is not traveling outside of the pre-determined boundaries. My wife brought home a new puppy last night for our children to play with. I wonder if an electric fence is needed if you already have a regular fence.

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Meg Marrs

Hi Derek – I wouldn’t worry about getting an electric fence if you already have a physical fence. Unless your dog is an escape artist that is!

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Meg Marrs

If you already have a physical fence, there’s really no reason to get an electric / underground fence. They are primarily used instead of physical fences.

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Gregory Willard

We have been thinking about getting a fence for our dog for a while now, and I recently heard about the invisible dog fence. I really like that it works for multiple dogs. Since we love dogs, we were thinking of getting another, and it would be nice to keep them both in our yard.

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Beverly Downey

Thanks for the long, informative article, I’ll definitely come back later to read back on the electric dog fence. Again, thanks for the article, keep up the awesome blog!

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Meghan

Thank you so much Beverly! My goal was definitely to give as much info as possible, so I’m glad you found it useful 🙂

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