Do Invisible Fences Work for Dogs?
by Kyle Larson
We recently moved to our first home and were excited to fence in the backyard so we could play with our dog Toby off-leash and let him out without following behind. Initially we looked at some permanent fencing options, but ended up having an Invisible Fence installed and it has worked great! Toby learned the boundaries of his yard quickly and it has made our lives much easier.
Do invisible fences work? Well, the key to any fence working well is taking time for training. Even a walled fence won’t contain some dogs if they want to escape. Think of the fence as a tool to help in training your dog not to leave the yard. If you put in the time (or have someone else do the training) just about any dog can be taught to use an invisible fence.
How Much Does Invisible Fence Cost?
If you’re interested in a fencing option first lets see how much to budget. These costs will vary quite a bit based on the size of the yard and features being added, so we’ll just use some estimates and averages for comparison.
Install Yourself Electric Fence: $250 – $500
Professionally Installed Invisible Fence: $1,500
Chain Link Fence: $1,200 – $2,600
Invisible Fence /w Training: $2,000
Wood Fence: $1,500 – $3500
Vinyl Fence: $2,000 – $5000
Now, keep in mind that with a traditional fence you’ll also need to maintain the fence, which could include a costly repair down the road or just some time spent cleaning, treating, or painting. If you’re installing the fence yourself you’ll probably need to rent some tools and spend a good amount of time doing the install and training.
Types of Invisible Fences
There are a number of different companies that offer ‘electronic fences’, the primary being the Invisible Fence brand. This is the top class in quality and service where you’ll get all the options you need and everything setup for you. They will guarantee that the fence will work for your dog, provide a trainer, a battery replacement program, and fix the fence if there are any issues. There are other smaller vendors that offer a similar service to Invisible Fence, but quality may vary.
If you want to save money (but spend your time) you can purchase a similar system, install the fence yourself and train your dog for around $250. For example check out this SportDog system from Amazon.
Another type of system you can get just sends out a circular signal to create a fence boundary. This keeps you from having to dig in the wire (especially if you’re unable to dig into your yard). The downside here is you won’t be able to match it up so your dog can use the full (rectangular) backyard. This also makes it harder for you to remember what the boundaries of your fence are without the flags. Here is a wireless containment system from PetSafe.
Invisible Fence Training
Training is critical if you want to have an invisible fence. Otherwise these fences are cruel to your dog because they will not understand why they are being shocked and will potentially be shocked for re-entering your property. This could lead to a number of other issues.
Proper training is done slowly over time and helps the dog understand its new boundaries without being frightening. You should never let the dog break the rules (leaving the containment area, even on a leash, during training). Always watch your dog and be nearby while he’s still training. You want to be there the first time he chases a small animal off the property to make sure he stays of the property. If he leaves you’ll want to make sure he doesn’t get corrected for returning to the property.
We had training included as part of our package from Invisible Fence. They had a trainer who they worked with come over for a number of sessions and work with our dog. We participated in a few of those sessions and then did some work with him on our own so he knew that the boundaries applied even without the trainer there. This was a very easy process and Toby learned very quickly. While they do this training they have the collar on a lower setting so it doesn’t hurt the dog.
If you purchase a fence and install it yourself, it should come with training materials. For you and your dog’s sake watch those materials and spend the time to make sure they understand how it works. It’ll mean a lifetime of benefits of proper training and ease of mind. Depending on how trainable your dog is, it shouldn’t be too difficult to do on your own if you’re dedicated to it. You’ll probably need to stick with the training for at least a few weeks until you can be 100% confident that your dog can go out on their own.
Does an Invisible Fence Hurt the Dog?
Ideally whenever training a dog (or anyone or thing) your want to be using positive re-enforcement.These systems all have a beep that warns the dog before it gets a shock, they shouldn’t be getting shocked much at all to know that the beep means turn around. There are too many potential issues that come with negative re-enforcement, unless there is no alternative. That is why the collar is set to a lower level shock during training. That way you can give a negative re-enforcement, if needed, but not hurt your dog. The goal is to just be annoying to the dog, so they don’t like crossing the property line.
Once they understand the concept, training is more about the positive re-enforcement of approaching the flags (and getting treats!) but not crossing them. You only turn the collar up to a higher level once you’re sure the dog knows their boundaries.
Invisible Fence Batteries
To keep your Invisible Fence Collar working properly you’ll need to make sure to change the batteries regularly. Most collars have the ability to check the battery level so you’ll know when to replace them. The Invisible Fence Brand offers a battery subscription where they’ll send you a new battery when it’s about time to change it out. Other fences may use a standard 9-volt battery or their own battery that you’ll need to purchase (and keep extras on hand).
Invisible Fence Comparison
|Max Size||Unlimited||100 Acres||1/2 Acre|
|Price||$1000 – $2250||$260||$260|