What To Know About Invisible Fencing for Dogs

Updated: Apr. 26, 2023

For pet control, an invisible fence is an easy-to-install and convenient alternative to a real fence. But your dog might not like it.

Squid is a pint-size terrier who frequently visits our neighborhood. He lives quite a distance away but shows up so frequently that everyone on the lane knows his name— and who to call to make sure he gets home safely. This network of concerned neighbors is probably the best fence any dog owner could hope for

People living in more densely populated areas, however, can’t take such a carefree approach. Confining your dog to your property is a key tenet of responsible pet ownership.

A physical fence can do that, of course, and that’s the best option for many people. But for others, it isn’t feasible or desirable. The property may be too big or the terrain too irregular for a fence, or perhaps a fence would disrupt a spectacular view. In such cases, an invisible fence can be a great alternative.

But buyer beware. Dog trainer Ali Smith, CEO and founder of Rebarkable, says “in most instances, a real fence is better.” Despite her misgivings, invisible fences are becoming more popular. Before the pandemic, only 6% of dog owners purchased one. Post-pandemic, that number is projected to rise to 10%.

How Does an Invisible Fence Work?

In its original form, the invisible fence consisted of a buried boundary wire that transmitted a radio signal to the dog’s collar. If the dog approached the wire, the collar emitted a sound, then gave a mild shock. With training, the dog learned to associate the audio signal with discomfort and avoided going any further.

The development of WiFi technology made invisible fences wireless, simplifying installation. Now you just program the fence boundaries into an app on your mobile device.

“Connected devices are becoming a new norm for many pet parents, who are using wearables to keep their animals safe and happy,” says Terry Anderton, founder and CEO of Wagz. “[They are] extremely cost-efficient when compared to in-ground fence installations which can run upwards of $1,000 and take a few days to install.”

Sung Vivathana, co-founder and vice president of engineering at SpotOn Fence, says, “It’s zero maintenance, so you never need to worry about replacing buried wire fences again.”

Most geofences, like Wagz, SpotOn, Halo and others, don’t deliver actual shocks. The Halo deterrent system beeps as the dog approaches the boundary, followed by vibrations and finally a static pulse that feels to the dog like tapping.

Pros and Cons of Invisible Fencing

There’s no doubt that installing invisible fencing is easier than erecting a physical fence, even if you have to bury wire. Here are more perks invisible fencing offers:


  • No sight line obstruction: Invisible fencing is … invisible. It won’t spoil the view.
  • Adjustable boundaries: Set these burying wire in any configuration your choose. You can even set boundaries within boundaries to protect, say, a flower garden. Some wireless fences use fixed transmitters that only set circular boundaries, but many app-based geofences let you program rectangular and irregular shapes. With SpotOn, “you can create and save up to 20 fences of any shape and size nearly anywhere in the world using just your smartphone,” Vivathana says.
  • Adaptable: Invisible fencing works just as well on sloped or irregular terrain as flat ground.
  • No permit required: Because you aren’t setting up a physical barrier, you don’t need to contact the building department or negotiate with neighbors.
  • Reliable containment: Pets can’t jump over an invisible fence or burrow underneath it.
  • Inexpensive: No matter which type you choose, it will cost less than a physical fence.

As a dog trainer, Smith dislikes geofencing. He believes it raises complex issues in the pet/pet owner relationship. The collar frustrates the animal, he says. And when it pings, he says dogs “may actually redirect their frustration or surprise on a human.”

There are a number of other problems, too:


  • One-way protection: Your dog may be confined to the yard, but neighboring dogs, strays and other animals can get in. If your dog chases one of them, “high prey drive,” as Smith calls it, may prompt your dog to ignore the signal and muscle through the vibrations. “It’s good to note that your fence will not discriminate against coming in versus going out, so your dog won’t be able to come back in without getting shocked by the fence,” she says.
  • Training required: Training your dog to respond to the signal delivered by the collar is part of the process. This can be “pretty rough on the dog, as it works by aversion training,” says Smith.
  • Electricity-dependent: If the power goes out or the battery in the collar dies, the fence won’t work.
  • Not suitable for all dogs: Some dogs are too young to train. Others may have medical conditions that prevent them from tolerating the collar.

Invisible Fence Installation

If you purchase an app-based geofence, installation involves programming the fence on your smartphone, putting the collar on your dog and training it to respond to the signals.

A wired system requires burying the wire a few inches into the ground, then connecting it to a transmitter in the garage, basement or shed. If digging isn’t your thing, it costs, on average, $2.50 per linear foot to hire someone to do it.

How Much Does an Invisible Fence Cost?

This varies by type. Fences with in-ground wires tend to be the cheapest, costing around $200, possibly more if you need additional wire than provided in the kit. Fences controlled by a wireless transmitter are only slightly more expensive, ranging from $250 to $350.

App-based geofences are considerably more expensive, costing from $650 to $1,300. Most also include a monthly subscription fee for the app.

Some manufacturers offer free training videos on their websites.