How Does an Invisible Dog Fence Work?

Nick P. Cellucci
Written by Nick P. Cellucci
Updated March 15, 2023
A dog in a backyard with an electric collar
Photo: Ayehab / Adobe Stock


  • Invisible dog fences require a boundary, collar, and training.

  • Choose from a buried wire fence or a wireless fence boundary.

  • When your dog approaches the fence, they will receive a shock.

  • A professionally-installed invisible dog fence costs $1,100–$2,500.

  • Talk to your dog’s veterinarian before deciding on a dog fence.

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Dogs need space to run and play for their health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, some dogs may be inclined to roam and chase interesting sights. This can be a nuisance for neighbors, a liability for you, and unsafe for your pets. If you’re deciding how to keep your dog in your yard, invisible electric fencing is one option. Let’s explore how invisible fences work, how much they cost, and the pros and cons of installing one.

Understanding the Basics of Invisible Dog Fences 

A closeup of a dog with electric collar
Photo: Petra Richli / Adobe Stock

Most invisible fence systems include three main components: An invisible perimeter boundary, a receiver collar worn by your dog, and proper training to help the dog adjust safely to the system.

Invisible Fence Perimeter

There are two primary boundary types available for invisible fences:

  • Wired fence: A boundary wire is buried just below the ground in a set or custom shape. A central transmitter device delivers a frequency to the wire to establish boundary lines.

  • Wireless fence: A central transmitter device in your house or garage creates a wireless circular boundary zone in a certain diameter around itself.

With some wired systems, you can not only create custom shapes but also shapes within shapes. For example, you could lay a large perimeter around your entire property, as well as a smaller perimeter around your garden to keep your dog from digging up your favorite flower patch while roaming freely in your yard.

Wireless dog fence systems are limited to a single circular shape, but offer the advantage of being easily transported. This option can work for renters who aren’t able to bury a wire in their yard, as well as RV owners who are always on the move.

Receiver Collar

A dog interacts with an invisible fence via a rechargeable, battery-powered receiver collar worn around the neck. The collar is calibrated to deliver a warning beep when the dog reaches a certain distance from the barrier, then a mild static shock, or correction, if they get too close.

The shock is intended to startle and irritate a dog rather than cause pain. However, every dog will react uniquely depending on breed and individual temperament. Correction levels can typically be customized to cater to the size and stubbornness of a specific dog.

Proper Pet Training

Training is key to safely introducing a dog to the location of an invisible boundary and getting them familiar with where they are allowed to go. Some professionally-installed invisible fence packages include at least one training session.

Before you hire a local dog fence installer to set up an invisible fence, ask them detailed questions about the training that comes with it. If you are planning to install an electric dog fence yourself, be prepared to do that training yourself or to hire a reputable trainer to help you.

How to Decide if You Should Install Invisible Fencing

Again, any decision regarding your pet’s safety and wellbeing should be one you consider carefully. Do thorough research and read reviews about the products and companies you’re considering.

Whether an invisible fence is the best option for you and your dog will, in part, come down to personal preference. However, you should always consult your dog’s veterinarian before adding an electric fence to discuss the effects it may have on your pet. When choosing the best fence for your yard, consider electric fence cost, pros, and cons.

The Cost of Invisible Fencing Compared to More Traditional Options

The cost to have an invisible dog fence installed professionally by invisible fence installers near you is typically between $1,100 and $2,500. This is lower than the average cost of a dog fence made from traditional materials, which ranges anywhere from $1,500 to $8,000.

Type of Dog FenceAverage Cost
Invisible dog fence$1,100 – $2,500
Wood dog fence$1,000 – $4,500
Vinyl or composite dog fence$3,000 – $6,000
Aluminum dog fence$4,500 – $6,000

Pros of Invisible Fencing 

There are several reasons you might want to consider having your dog wear an invisible fence collar instead of putting up a traditional fence.

  • Open view: Invisible fences won’t obstruct your view like traditional fences.

  • Adjustable: Wireless fences can be easily moved and adjusted based on your needs.

  • Adaptable: An invisible fence can be installed on any slope or type of terrain.

  • No permit required: Building a traditional fence on your property may require a permit or may be prohibited by your local municipality or homeowner’s association.

  • More reliable: Dogs can’t escape invisible fences by digging under, jumping over, or chewing through.

  • Affordable: Invisible dog fences tend to be less expensive than traditional fences.

Cons of Invisible Fencing 

Despite the potential advantages, having your dog wear an invisible fence collar can also come with some major drawbacks.

  • One-way protection: An invisible fence may keep your dog in, but it won’t keep other animals or people out.

  • Training required: You will need to take the time to train your dog properly for the fence to work correctly, and results are not guaranteed.

  • Discomfort: While the shock from an invisible fence collar is not meant to be painful, it needs to be irritating and strong enough to deter the dog from crossing the boundary.

  • Not suitable for all dogs: Some dogs may be too young to safely wear an invisible fence color, and dogs with certain medical conditions may not be able to tolerate it at all.

  • No physical barrier: If a dog is determined enough, it may endure the shock long enough to cross the barrier and may not want to risk a shock to get back in.

  • Failure: Electrical outages or depleted batteries can cause your invisible fence to fail.

  • Difficult to repair: Digging up a wired fence to find a broken section takes a lot of time.

  • Barrier frustration: Some dogs may come to associate shocks or warning beeps with animals or people on the other side of the boundary, leading to anxiety or aggression.

Editor’s Note About Invisible Electric Fencing

While some owners think electric fences are a good option, others say their dogs have ignored the shock. Some people also have strong feelings against using invisible fences and do not feel they are safe for dogs. 

Amelia Weiber, PDT-KA, CCBC, fear-free certified, who runs Caring Behavior Animal Behavior Consulting and sits on the advisory board for Daily Paws, noted that “electric fences can result in behavioral side effects and may not be able to keep a dog safely in the yard so they should be avoided as a containment option.”

If you still want to consider an invisible fence, you should talk to your veterinarian about your specific pup. Additionally, some states and counties may not allow this type of fencing to be installed, so always check local ordinances.

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