Are Invisible Fences Safe for Pets?

HomeAre Invisible Fences Safe for Pets?

By

Savanna Bradford

Jan 28, 2024

4 min read

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Image: Tungalag Balzhirova

Invisible fences have become a popular, budget-friendly choice for giving your pet some off-leash freedom in your yard, but how safe are they? We researched the facts, so you don’t have to. Use this information to determine whether you want to use an invisible fence to contain your furry friends.

Different types of invisible fences

What are invisible fences?
Invisible fences, using a warning sound or light shock, keep your pet in the yard without a visible boundary. Pet owners use them because they are cheaper and easier to install than traditional fences. People also like them because they are more aesthetically pleasing and cut out the view of a bulky fence.

What are underground invisible fences?
Some invisible fences have underground wires that respond to a radio wave transmitter. A receiver worn on the collar detects the radio wave if the pet is too close to the boundary. First, it will give a warning sound that only the pet can hear, and if the pet continues nearing the boundary, it will send a static correction. This technique trains your pet to stay in your yard to avoid discomfort.

What are GEO invisible fences?
Some newer options for invisible fences don’t use an underground wire. Instead, a transmitter sends a radio signal in all directions to create a circular “safe zone.”

Benefits of invisible fences
These fences are more cost-effective and can be thousands of dollars cheaper than a traditional fence. The National Center for Families Learning’s website states that they have more adaptability and can be placed on almost any terrain, even water, so they are great for larger areas.
Invisible fences also leave less room for human error. In larger families with more foot traffic, it can be hard to make sure the front door or gate is always closed, so they reduce the chance of your pet escaping.

Are invisible fences humane?
Invisible fences use static correction or a light shock that can be turned up and down by a remote device controlled by the owner. Lindsey Wolko, founder of the Center for Pet Safety, said, “Those shocks need to be strong enough to put the dog on notice, but in doing so, the repeated shocking can inflict pain and lead to behavioral issues.”
Shocking can be dangerous because it’s difficult to determine the shock intensity needed for your dog. But depending on your pet’s stubbornness, the shock may not deter them from escaping the boundary, causing a long series of electrical shocks until they decide to return. Depending on how long the shock lasts, this can sometimes cause burns or injury.

Are invisible fences safe?
While these fences provide a cheaper option to give your furry friend more off-leash freedom, they are not a physical barrier. This means that other animals and people can enter your yard at will. According to the Humane Society of Pulaski County, in rural areas where coyotes and other wildlife are present, your dog is more vulnerable and could be injured or even killed in its own yard.

Are invisible fences foolproof?
Veterinarian Ivana Crnec, DVM with Veterinarians.org, said, “Statistics suggest that invisible fences for pets work in around 70% of the cases.” Although these invisible fences can work for small or low-energy dogs, they are not exactly foolproof for high-energy, prey-driven dogs. Your pet could cross the barrier for several reasons, such as people, prey or even other dogs.
“Certain dogs, such as complete males, might break training if exposed to strong biological stimuli such as a female in heat,” according to Dr. Paola Cuevas, a veterinary consultant at Petkeen. Some dogs even learn to stand in the warning area and deplete the battery on the receiver. Doing this can let them escape shock-free. It is also not always easy to determine if the battery on the collar is charged, and a dead battery can result in an easy escape for your furry friend.

Do invisible fences make dogs aggressive?
The purpose of an invisible fence is for the dog to associate the static correction with the set boundary of your yard. However, not all dogs can make this connection and associate the shock with events around them, such as a person walking by, causing them to become afraid or aggressive when there is a passerby.
If the dog does make the wrong connection, this can lead to anxiety for your pet in social settings. Additionally, Dr. Karyn Kanaowski, veterinary consultant at Catster.com, says, “It uses punishment to train your pet, teaching them to fear the boundary. This is likely to lead to stress, anxiety, even aggression as they associate a negative stimulus with the edge of their range and the little flags that dictate it.”

Alternatives to an invisible fence
While these electric fences may be somewhat effective in keeping your pets in your yard, here are some alternatives so you can decide how you want to contain your furry friend.

Outdoor playpens: Outdoor playpens allow your pet to play and explore while safely confined. They can be anchored and come in varying shapes and sizes. Outdoor playpens are typically made from galvanized wire mesh but come in various materials like canvas and nylon. They are also portable and easy to fold up when not in use.
Customizable mesh fences: Mesh fences are made out of tough polypropylene or vinyl and can fit almost any terrain. Mesh fences can be used along the bottom of a pre-existing fence to fill in gaps so your furry friend doesn’t escape or with posts to create a new fence. They range from three to eight feet high but can be stacked to create a taller fence if your pup likes to jump.
A barrier-style fence: Barrier-style fences are durable and made of wire mesh or stainless steel. You can use barrier-style fences around your whole yard like a regular fence. They are usually used for smaller dogs because they typically have shorter panels, but they do come in many shapes and sizes for any sized dog.
Dog trolley tie-out systems: Trolley tie-out systems consist of a trolley connected to your dog’s lead and a coated cable that can reach anywhere from 20 to 100 feet. There is usually a corkscrew or bolt on each side that you can hook to a tree or post to secure your dog. These systems allow your furry friend to run in a straight line from one side of your yard to the other.

FAQ

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What are the negatives of an invisible fence?

They provide a lack of protection for your pets because while they do prevent your dog from leaving your yard (sometimes), the invisible fence does not prevent hazards from coming in.

Do invisible fences cause anxiety in dogs?

If your pet doesn’t understand that the yard’s boundary causes the shock, it could associate the slight pain with other reasons—like a person walking by—and your pet could become anxious in social settings. Your dog might even see it as a random shock that isn’t connected to anything, causing random waves of anxiety.

What is the best age to train a dog with invisible fences?

You should start training your dog with the invisible fence at the age of eight to twelve weeks. Some receivers have an option to train your puppy using the warning sound only instead of the corrective shock.

How deep is an invisible fence buried?

The fence wire is placed one to three inches underground. It doesn’t have to be buried to work, but burying is recommended to avoid damage and to keep it out of the way.

How much does an invisible fence cost?

A wired invisible fence can cost anywhere from around $500 to $2,800 to install and is $2 to $7 a foot, while a wireless fence can cost $100 to $400 with at-home installation. Depending on building materials, one hundred linear feet of traditional fence costs $600 to $1200, and installation is about $1,500- $3500.

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Written by

Savanna Bradford

Savanna Bradford is a writer trained in animal care and husbandry. Her writing specializes in science, animals and tech.

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