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The Pros and Cons of Invisible Fences

Invisible fences have become increasingly popular in recent years as a way to give dogs some freedom while not straying out of their yard. If you live in an area where the HOA forbids physical fences, an invisible fence may be the only option for you and your dog.

However, I’ve found there may be more disadvantages than benefits when it comes to an underground fence.

For those who aren’t familiar, an underground fence is a wire that is run the length of the area where you want the dog to be contained. Then white flags are put on top the ground to show the humans and dog where the boundary is.

There are other types of electric containment devices, such as a central unit inside the home where you can determine how large of an area you want your dog to be free. That avoids digging a line in your yard to bury the wire. There’s also a company which produces an all-in-one collar that contains the central unit and you control it with an app on your phone.

Pros of Invisible Fences:

Dogs can have more freedom. They can walk or run around their yard at their own pace, free from a leash.

You can play fetch or sports without fear of the dog running off.

You can garden or just relax with friends while keeping your dog close.

Many of my clients use invisible fences with no problems.

Drawbacks of Invisible Fences:

Many dogs just want to be with their family and if they’re put outside alone, they may get bored and make up their own entertainment, including digging and barking at the neighbor’s dog or people walking by.

People walking their dog past the house of a dog with an underground fence may not know a containment device exists and it could be stressful for the dog that’s being walked and its owner, especially if one or both is fearful of the dog getting out of its yard and attacking them.

Dogs being contained in such a manner may become reactive or aggressive. They see someone walk past their house and they bark; then the person goes away. They get frustrated because they can’t reach the person without being shocked and may transfer that behavior to a person they see on a walk, for instance.

For instance, I have a dog training client who is afraid to walk her dog in her neighborhood because a dog has repeatedly broken the invisible fence and come at them barking aggressively.

If a bear comes into the yard, the dog may try to escape but be afraid of getting shocked if it gets too close to the line.

The “reward” on the other side of the invisible fence may be so great that the dog will accept the shock in order to get to whatever is on the other side. With some systems, unless they return within a specific amount of time-30 seconds, 2 minutes, etc.-they get another shock. So they’ll stay outside the containment area, afraid of being shocked when they return.

If someone wants to steal your dog, all they need to do is come in, take off the collar, and take the dog.

I had a client who told me the company she was using doesn’t train dogs to use underground fences until they’re 6 months old. However, her dog was 3 months and they already had 2 training sessions with representatives from the company.

The problem with starting dogs too young on this type of fence is that some dogs go through a fear period around 3 or 4 months of age. If they get a shock during that fear period, that memory will stick with them and could be difficult to overcome.

One client had company representatives come to her home to show her how to use the fence. She told me the man held a treat to entice her dog to cross the fence and get shocked. Again, this was just a puppy that was very eager to get the treat, only to get punished for it. The objective of having such a fence is to NOT have the dog get shocked.

Another dog training client removed their underground fence after their dog was playing and accidentally rolled through it, getting shocked. After that, he wouldn’t go into the yard to potty.

And another client installed an underground fence in addition to his physical fence. He thought the path of the underground fence mirrored the physical one. However, instead of extending into the corner, the underground fence rounded off the corner. The client didn’t realize this and was walking toward the corner with his dog when his dog got shocked.

Yet another client had problems with the all-in-one collar misfiring and shocking her dog when it was in the containment area.

Sometimes the batteries in the collar run out, allowing the dog to escape and wander the neighborhood-something that wouldn’t happen with a physical fence.

My former neighbors had an electric containment device with the main hub located inside the house. The batteries in the dogs’ collars were continually dying and the dogs would be running around the neighborhood. I put the dogs in my physical fence more than once until the owners came home.

As with all devices and technology, they can sometimes fail. When that happens, the dog could run off and become lost or be killed.

So do your research before deciding if an underground fence or some other type of electric containment device is right for you and your dog.

What has been your experience with invisible fences? Let us know in the comments.

***If you’re looking for alternatives to having your dog stay with you when you’re relaxing or working in your yard without using an invisible fence, check out our website and contact us for a free consultation. You can also call (540) 353-285 or email


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