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Invisible Pet Fence 101: Everything You Need To Know

Murray and Munson in the backyard, protected from running away by an invisible fence.

My husband and I were considering installing an invisible dog fence at our new home, so I researched the many options available when it comes to choosing invisible pet fences.

We have two dogs: Murray is a 5-year-old Goldendoodle with all the energy of a puppy and then some, and Munson is a 3-year-old Mini-Schnauzer who likes chasing squirrels and birds. We’ve previously used a 6-foot privacy fence with very good success. However, we recently moved to the mountains and don’t want to obstruct any views so an invisible fence seemed like the way to go.

My daughter’s and son’s families are both currently using an invisible fence system, so I’ve seen how the fence works with their dogs. Specifically a Border Collie, a Shepherd mix, a Redbone Coonhound, and an English Bulldog.

 

When deciding which fence was right for Murray and Munson, I learned a lot about invisible fences in general.

My dogs Munson and Murray
My dogs, Munson and Murray

Pros of Invisible Fences

  • Invisible fences can be used with puppies 8 weeks of age and older who can perform basic training commands such as sit, stay and come before introducing him to any invisible fence training.
  • The lightweight one-ounce collar should be manageable for wear by even the smallest breeds.
  • Invisible fence systems have worked in many sized yards, from teeny-tiny to more than 25 acres.
  • An invisible fence can be placed practically anywhere: wooded areas, hilly, steep, or rocky terrain, and even underwater.
  • The surrounding landscape and views from your yard will not be obstructed.
  • Upkeep is easy. There is virtually no additional yard maintenance like edge trimming or fence repairing and painting like what would be required with non-hidden fences.
  • Most invisible fence systems are guaranteed to work with your dog. Even if you believe you have a strong-willed dog who cannot be contained with an invisible fence system, it may be worth trying so long as the company guarantees it.

How Invisible Fences Work

Dogs are typically trained to stay about 4 feet from the boundary wire. When they start to get closer to the boundary without any correction occurring, you’ll know it’s time to change the battery in the dog’s collar.

The strength of the electrical signal emitted by the wire can be adjusted by the installer. The stronger the signal, the farther away the dog must stay from the wire in order to avoid being corrected.

Underground fencing is not a buried hot wire that shocks your dog for getting too close to the boundary. Instead, a transmitter sends a radio signal along the wire which is picked up by your pet’s collar. If your pet gets close to the boundary, a warning beeping sound is emitted, and with proper training, the pet backs away.

During the training process, the professional trainer will introduce the customized static correction which reinforces the boundaries and tells your pet clearly where they can and cannot go.

Installing The Fence

Underground lines and pipes must be located and marked by your utility companies. Based on how quickly the local utility company can come out and mark your property, you may have to temporarily delay the installation of your invisible fence.

The computerized controller unit for the invisible fence is typically installed in the garage or basement near an existing outlet. Ours was installed on a covered deck since that’s all we had.

The unit takes up a fair amount of wall space but most computerized units such as this are very reliable and prevent interference from stray electrical fields.

An “indoor” model of the invisible fence can be used inside your home to initiate training and to keep pets out of certain rooms or off a particular piece of furniture. Typically the unit costs $120 – $150 if purchased alone, or you can purchase other less expensive models as well, like this one.

An invisible fence can be used to block a dog’s access to places within your yard, like around a swimming pool, garden, play area, or tree.

Training Your Dog

Most invisible fence companies will help you train your dog. Over the course of a few weeks, one of the trainers will periodically visit your home and work with you and your dog. Between sessions, you will be training your dog alone, all while offering plenty of praise and affection any time your dog respects his new boundaries.

You can still walk your dog outside the boundaries of your yard so long as he does not have the invisible fence collar on at the time. The collar should be removed every time you leave your yard to walk your dog or go for a ride in the car.

There is a recommended procedure you go through each time to train your dog when it’s okay to leave the yard and when it isn’t.

Wearing the Collar

It is recommended that you remove the collar every night during the first month and at least once a week from then on. This prevents rashes and irritation from prolonged use.

If you have more than one dog, you can get more than one collar for use with the same invisible fence. However, the correction levels can be set to individual intensities based on your dog’s temperament and personality.

Murray and Munson’s collars are set to the same frequency as that at my daughter’s home. When we visit, the collars work there just as they work at home.

Portability of System

You can usually take your invisible fence system with you if you move to a new location.

If the previous owners of your new home left an invisible fence behind, a company rep can come out to check its effectiveness. In many cases, you’ll be able to use the existing invisible fencing as is. You’ll just need to purchase a collar and have your dog trained to the new boundary.

Some indoor hidden fence systems are portable, allowing you to take them with you when traveling, possibly reducing the need to crate your dog in hotel rooms.

Cons of Invisible Fences

  • Under the right conditions, a dog could run through the boundary, and then be hesitant to return since he will receive correction when coming back into your yard.
  • Your home will have small flags placed in the ground around the entire perimeter that stay until your dog is fully trained.
  • You must remember to remove the collar when walking your dog or taking him across the boundary in the car.
  • An invisible fence may keep your dog in the yard, but it doesn’t keep other dogs or animals out. If another animal enters your yard, there’s a chance your dog could be attacked or get in a fight.

Our Installation Experience

Invisible Pet Fences: Everything You Need To Know Travels with Bibi

We decided that the Invisible Fence brand fence system was the right product for Murray and Munson. We opted for a full install due to the challenging terrain of our yard, although doing it ourselves would have been cheaper. Invisible Fence’s parent company also owns PetSafe, who makes this highly rated wireless pet fence system.

I thought our steeply sloped and rocky yard would present many obstacles, but the installers that arrived on the scheduled day were professional and thorough.

Invisible Pet Fences: Everything You Need To Know Travels with Bibi

The front driveway area was the first to be trenched. The machine the installers used not only dug the trench, even through roots and rocks, but it also laid the wire.

Invisible Pet Fences: Everything You Need To Know Travels with Bibi

After laying wire for 50 feet or so, it was time to pin it down in the trench and cover it up with the surrounding soil.

Invisible Pet Fences: Everything You Need To Know Travels with Bibi

I’m not kidding when I say my yard is steeply sloped and full of roots and rocks. No matter, the trencher could handle any terrain thrown at it.

Invisible Pet Fences: Everything You Need To Know Travels with Bibi

While the installers were outside laying the wire, I was inside working with Murray and Munson and the indoor transmitter. It was set up to keep them out of a spare bedroom and was immediately effective in keeping them away from the door.

Invisible Pet Fences: Everything You Need To Know Travels with Bibi

After everything was installed and ready to go, it was time to take Murray and Munson outside for their first outdoor training session.

Invisible Pet Fences: Everything You Need To Know Travels with Bibi

Murray. as I expected, learned very quickly what the boundary flags and beeping of his collar were all about. Munson on the other hand, well, he’s needing additional one-on-one training.

Invisible Pet Fences: Everything You Need To Know Travels with Bibi

The installers stayed about an hour after installation to work with both dogs. Murray learned what was expected right away. Munson needs additional training sessions and is still not quite trained enough to let him out in the yard unattended.

So far, Invisible Fence has come out two additional times to train Munson and a third session is scheduled for this week. Munson’s collar has been adjusted each visit so I feel like the trainers have a good feel for what’s best for him so that he can be successfully trained.

How much does an Invisible Fence cost?

To give you an idea of pricing, it would cost us approximately $4,000 to have a 6-foot privacy fence professionally installed around our 1/4-acre backyard. It would cost about $1800 to have an underground invisible fence professionally installed around the entire perimeter, or about $400 – $500 to install a similar system by ourselves.

In addition to the invisible fence cost, the batteries need to be replaced in the dog collar every three to four months, depending on outdoor temperatures, the number of times a pet challenges the system, and the fit of the collar on the pet’s neck. It’s important to include the cost of replacement batteries when budgeting for your invisible fence system. Expect to pay about $60 a year for batteries per collar.

You might be able to save on replacement batteries on Amazon.

If you’d like to go the DIY route, which is more labor-intensive to install yourself but much cheaper, I recommend PetSafe systems, who are made by the parent company of Invisible Fence. A full system is around $300, and you can purchase cheaper options for under $100 as well.

If you have any experience with invisible fence systems, I would love to hear about it in a comment below.

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6 Comments

  1. If used properly I think this can be a good tool for yards with no fences and dogs that are, how can I put this, smart but defiant. However some of my near by neighbors use these along with their chain link fence and I have seen dogs get zapped because there’s no warning sign for others and they call the dog to the fence not knowing the dog has a collar on, so please let your neighbors know if you have this device so they don’t inadvertently hurt your dog.

    1. Thanks Miranda! I live on a private road and all my neighbors know about the fence. Right now, my entire perimeter is lined with white flags with the Invisible Fence logo so it’s quite clear what they are. I also have a yard sign so I believe everything is covered.

  2. First of all, your home is beautiful. Those are some lucky dogs! This sounds like a wonderful idea. I’m going to share it with my parents who have a little doggie who is always escaping.

    1. Thank you! I thought the invisible fence topic deserved more than just a product review. Now, pet owners can have an easier time whe deciding if this type of fencing is right for them.

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