Do Electric Dog Fences Actually Work?

Yes they do, but only the right type of electronic fence with the right features can guarantee that it will work for you and your dog.

Dale Huskey

Content dog with electronic fence collar on

Do electric dog fences work? It’s a question that has dog owners pondering the best way to keep their animals safe and secure. Imagine a world where your canine companion can roam freely without the confines of traditional fencing or being kept on a chain.

But do these modern electronic fence solutions live up to the promise of providing a reliable containment system?

In short, yes, electric dog fences can be highly effective in keeping your dog within boundaries. These innovative systems utilize a combination of signals and gentle corrections to train your four-legged friend, ensuring they learn the limits of their designated space, allowing them freedom within the property, and keeping your mind at peace knowing your dog is safe.

But there is some information dog owners need to know in order to make the right choice when it comes to hidden dog fences and the important factors needed to make sure they work for them.

As we delve deeper into the article, we’ll explore the mechanics behind invisible fences, the options you have when it comes to invisible fences, discuss why there are still beliefs that these systems don’t work, bust some myths about their effectiveness, and address any concerns you might have about their safety.

Why Listen To Me When It Comes To Electric Pet Fences?

I’m Dale, the owner and operator of Colorado Pet Fence, an electric dog fencing installation company I started 15 years ago.

Dale Huskey, owner of Colorado Pet Fence, kneeling next to golden retriever.

I’ve worked on thousands of successful electric pet fences installs for pet owners in the Colorado area and trained a crew to do the same. We actually offer a 100% guarantee of containment on our system installations because they are that effective.

You can even see our reviews as proof that people are happy with these installs.

But why do some people believe they don’t work? To understand that, you’ll need to learn about the different types of hidden dog fences.

Types of Electronic Fences

There are three types of electric dog fence systems: GPS, wireless, and wired.

Each option has its own pros and cons, but we only work with wired because they are the only ones that are accurate enough to make them reliable and safe — which is of the utmost importance with a system that is supposed to protect your pet. But let’s get into the details of each type of fence and their pros and cons.

GPS Electric Pet Fences

These fences are powered by satellites and work off a GPS signal. These systems are the ones that the companies Halo or SpotOn use.

Here are a number of pros that they claim to have for dog owners:

  • that they’re easy to set up and “hassle-free”

  • you don’t have to install any wires underground

  • it’s cheaper than a professional install

  • you can create a virtual fence for an area of any size or shape – even multiple fences

  • you can create those fences anywhere; it’s portable to any site

  • if your animal escapes, you can receive a notification via an app and the dog won’t be corrected if it tries to return to your property

But there are a few issues with each of these “pros”.

That last one should make you think twice — it’s flawed thinking to see that as a pro. Your dog should not be able to escape the area in the first place.

The point of an invisible fence is to contain your pet and ensure their safety. Them leaving shouldn’t even be a fear of yours.

Which leads me to the #1 con of using a GPS invisible fence: they are extremely inaccurate.

There is drift (sometimes up to 10–20 feet!) when it comes to these systems because there is no physical boundary wire around the area of your yard.

There are reports of these companies’ electric dog fences not working as advertised — instances of people’s dogs getting corrected inside the virtual boundary, even inside the home, while the dog is at their feet when watching T.V. or the GPS doesn’t even sense the dog has left the yard.

Not only is this worrisome because you don’t know if your dog will be kept on your property by the system, but it’s also cruel for the dog and can effect their behavior.

This stresses dogs out because it has no clear indication of which areas they are allowed to be in or not.

These fences shouldn’t be (and don’t if you install the right fence correctly) correcting your dog randomly. They should only get a correction when absolutely necessary (aka when trying to leave the yard).

Also, the battery life on these GPS collars will not even get your dog through a full day of use. How safe is that for your dog?

Reports of 10 hours battery life are common.

What happens when you are out for a long part of the day and the GPS collar goes dead? Your dog is now free to leave the property.

Wireless Pet Fences

A wireless pet fence has similar features to the GPS systems and the benefits of being cheaper than a professional install, and you don’t have to install a wire in the ground, but also shares the same cons as the GPS systems.

The difference with these systems is they do not rely on satellites, but a wireless unit that you place in your home somewhere, and it emits a circle radius around the base unit.

This, of course, doesn’t allow for flexibility in aligning the boundary to the shape of your property. 

You won’t be able to specify exact measurements for the areas of your yard, like “20 feet in the back, 10 feet in the front”.

You’ll be limited to setting it to extend out only as far as the closest boundary of your property, which is likely to get confusing for your dog when it gets corrected in other parts of your yard that are further out or risk an escape to the neighbor’s yard if you extend it to the furthest parts of your property.

Wired Underground Dog Fences

These types of hidden pet fences work differently from the other wireless systems in that they have a physical boundary wire that is placed underground around the perimeter of the property. 

The wire is hooked up to a small control panel the size of a sprinkler control box, typically in the garage, that emits a frequency through the wire.

The dog collar that comes with the pet containment system then picks up on that frequency as the dog approaches the wire and gives them a warning beep. If the dog continues to advance towards the boundary line, then they get a small static shock (like the static you get from a doorknob).

These corrections can be set from very, very mild for small dogs to a strong correction for big dogs or a particularly stubborn dog. Each collar should be able to be programmed individually for each dog you have on the containment system.

Again, like I mentioned above, the pros of wired fences, what makes them the best choice, and why they are the only invisible fences we install is because they are the safest and most reliable — it’s really the only option in our eyes if you want to guarantee safety for your dog.

There isn’t a virtual “barrier” that can change or drift based on location or materials on the house or property affecting signals. There is a physical wire set in place around your yard that sends a signal to warn and correct the dog if necessary.

Because the point of a hidden dog fence is to keep the dog safe within your property, we wouldn’t recommend getting any other type of electric pet fence than a wired one.

If you care about your pup, the choice is pretty obvious.

Although you may save some money with a wireless or GPS system, it won’t guarantee the safety of your pet, and I’m sure you can agree it’s not worth saving a few extra dollars if something bad were to happen to your dog if it escaped.

Underground Dog Fences vs. Traditional Fencing

If you’re considering an underground dog fence, you might also be considering another option: building a traditional fence.

The main issue here is cost. Sure, you don’t want to go too cheap with an ineffective system, but a traditional fence may not be in the cards because it is so expensive.

Traditional fencing can be 10x the cost of one of our systems. That’s why many of our customers choose to go for one of our electric dog fences.

Another thing to consider is if it will actually be effective at keeping your dog inside.

About 50% of the hidden fences that we install are for people that have a dog that likes to dig their way out of the property or can manage to jump over the fence they already have.

If you have a stubborn dog, then you might not be able to contain them with traditional fencing.

The last main con of a traditional fence versus an electric pet fence is that you might not be able to build a fence that is high enough because of HOA standards.

You’ll definitely want to check what those standards are for your neighborhood because if you want to build a fence mainly to keep your animal within your yard, but you can’t build high enough to keep it in, then traditional fencing might be a waste of money.

When you make the choice to go with an invisible fence, you don’t have to worry about your HOA standards.

Other Factors That Determine If Your Invisible Fence Will Work

The Right, Quality Pet Fence Components & Features

Having the proper components that are of quality is important to making sure your hidden pet fence works in every scenario, so you never have to worry about your pet escaping.

Not all companies provide the right components or features to guarantee your fence works.

Parts that ensure containment of your dog, ones that come with all our systems and should come with yours, are:

 

  • Lightning protector, so if you get a lightning strike, it will not take out your transmitter and computer controller, but instead compromise your lightning protector, which is an inexpensive component to replace.

 

  • Battery backup on site, so that if you ever lose power to your home, garage, barn, outbuilding — wherever the transmitter is located, it automatically kicks over to the battery backup to keep the system working.

 

  • High-grade, heavy-duty wire, so you don’t risk it breaking easily with shifts of the earth or anything penetrating the ground. Some Do-It-Yourself (DIY) kits have wires that you could floss your teeth with. Don’t get systems that have wires like that!

 

  • Built-in alarm so that if the wire is ever compromised, you know right away, and not when your dog has already left the property.

 

  • Multiple settings for the warning beeps and correction strength so that you can set them to the right level for your particular dog.

 

  • A Long-Lasting, Rechargeable Collar With Charge Status Indicators — a rechargeable receiver collar ensures you can always have your system working.

Most companies have replaceable batteries that you have to buy every quarter or more frequently.

If your battery dies, then you won’t be able to just go grab a battery at the store. You’ll have to wait for them to deliver it to you.

What happens when it dies over the weekend? Now your system doesn’t work, and it could take several days before you can get it back online. 

 

With a rechargeable battery you can plug it in for 15 mins and you’ll be able to get through the day (ours last 30-45 days on a full charge).

It’s much safer for your pet (and saves you $1k over the life of the product by not having to continuously buy batteries).

You should also easily be able to tell the charge of a receiver collar (ours has green for charged, orange for low, blinking red for very low, and no light for dead).

We’ve seen some collars that don’t make it clear if they are charged or dead, putting your dog at risk.

Proper Installation Of The Containment System

A proper installation is going to ensure there are no failures to the system and your dog staying within the boundary.

There is a lot to consider when it comes to an installation, like how far down to put the wire? How do you deal with garden areas or driveways? How are you going to protect the wire from damage?

This is where the help of a professional really comes in handy. You don’t know what you don’t know.

When you hire a professional dog fence installer company, you get the experience of someone who does this day-in, day-out. They’ve likely seen every scenario and know what needs to be considered for each install to avoid any problems.

And any installer worth their salt should offer a guarantee (we offer 100% containment guarantee or your money back).

Training For The Dog

The training is imperative to having an electric pet fence system work for you.

Without properly training the dog, it will not understand its boundaries, could affect the dog negatively, and cause a failure of the system. 

Again, you can try to train your dog on your own, but it’ll take more time if you don’t know the correct methods and you risk possible failure of the system working for you.

This is one of the reasons why you might hear people say that electric dog fences don’t work – because it takes training and people can rarely train them properly on their own (or have the time to figure it out).

But with a professional installer, dog owners can get help with training their pet and adjust everything to the correct settings for their dog (at least they should offer training services along with their system).

That way, they can work with the dog owner to teach the dog its boundaries with flags and to respond correctly to warning beeps, minimizing any corrections the dog gets, using their experience to speed up the process, and giving the owner the confidence that the system will work and their dog will be kept safe.

Electric Dog Fences Do Work, But You Need The Right Knowledge and Equipment

The notion that electric dog fences don’t work is a myth, but many people might still believe they don’t work because they don’t understand all the factors that go into making an invisible fence work.

As you can see from the points laid out on this page, there’s a lot more involved than just purchasing the system (especially a cheap one). 

I have had thousands of happy customers, including veterinarian dog owners, that I’ve installed fences for and those fences have worked for years because we install them correctly with the right components, provide the right training, and continue to offer a service that even takes care of any issues after the installation.

You can read their reviews here and see for yourself how well they work when set up properly.

Review of Colorado Pet Fence installation: "Our perimeter fence has been for several years and it is the perfect solution for our property and dogs. The product provided by Colorado Pet Fence is excellent - and the customer service is even better!"

If you go with technology that is faulty and inaccurate or with a service that doesn’t help you train your pet and guarantee containment, then it’s possible that the fence will not work for you.

So do your homework on the products or services from the companies you are considering to make sure the elements I listed above are a part of the features!

If you are in Colorado, we can install and service an electric pet fence for you. You’ll get all the components and service offerings we mentioned on this page and you can be certain your dog is in good hands.

You can call us at 303-725-4800 or contact us through the form on our website. Feel free to reach out to get more information, ask us any questions you have about electric dog fences, or get a free quote from us for an installation on your property today.

Colorado Pet Fence van with Colorado nature in background.