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GPS Dog Collar VS Invisible Fence (Which One Is For You?)

Key Takeaways

  • GPS dog collars are rapidly gaining popularity, but the invisible fence still has a lot of merit to it that are worth considering.
  • GPS dog fence systems are better at portability, simplicity, and extra features.
  • Meanwhile, invisible fences are better at long-term cost-effectiveness, longevity, shape flexibility, and reliability.

GPS dog fences and invisible fences are two of the most popular types of electronic fencing systems out on the market today. But they have a few things that set them apart and in my opinion make them better than the other for different types of situations. The key difference being, GPS dog collars have certain special features that even the best invisible dog fences simply do not ship with. One major feature is guiding dogs away from the fence boundary with sophisticated warning systems. This to me is a great advantage over the way an invisible fence does it, which is by shocking dogs only after they pass through it and then shocking them again when they retreat back into the boundary. But invisible dog fences have their own edge over GPS fences. Let’s explore the things that make both wired and GPS dog fences good, and the areas they tend to lack in.

How an Invisible fence works

Electric dog fences have a buried wire two to six inches underground. A wire is linked to a transmitter mounted in the house that sends a radio signal through the wire. The dog wears a collar that is made to detect the radio signal.

If your dog gets too close to the underground wire, the signal leads to a beeping noise from the collar, telling it to turn from the underground dog fence. It is called an invisible fence because neither you nor the dog sees the buried wire corresponding to the transmitter.

You do need to go through a training process with the dog to alert the dog where it is safe to play and where an alert would be triggered. If your animals get too close to the electric dog fences, the shock collar gives a brief shock, and they stay away from the wire to remain within its designated area.

It is very important as dogs cannot understand why they are experiencing the shock without the training phase. In these cases, the dog may be too fearful of going outside because it has not learned why it is experiencing the electrical shock. Conversely, it can develop an aggressive response to you or others because of the discomfort, which is something no one wants.

How a GPS dog fence works

GPS Dog Collar VS Invisible Fence

Today’s best GPS dog fences do away with the buried wires, relying on satellite technology to put a boundary for the pet. It then computes utilizing the current position software and sends an alert to the receiver collar when the dog nears the boundary.

In the same way as the invisible fence, there is a beeping alert as the dog gets close to the boundary. A mild shock is administered should the animal cross the boundary. If the collar cannot position itself because there are no GPS signals, like for indoor areas, the collar will not give any correction. It is also safe for the dog to wear in places with no signals. The location tracking feature is probably the number one reason why your dog should have a GPS collar. Today’s leading GPS dog fences are Halo and SpotOn.

Invisible fence pros

Invisible fencing is more stable

Invisible fencing may seem restrictive at first, especially if you’re more familiar with wireless electric dog fences. But it does have some very attractive benefits.

For one thing, you virtually have no interference to deal with, unlike with GPS signals. Unless you have a very strong source of electromagnetic interference nearby, such as a faulty street lamp, you would not have to worry about the fence signal weakening. So long as the main device is kept safe and powered, the signal maintains the same strength and frequency, preventing the dog from running off regardless of external conditions. Its stability also makes it a great option for people that plan to stay in the same home for a lengthy period.

Wired pet fences are more power-efficient

The amount of power needed to keep the transmitter mounted at the end of an invisible fence circuit is remarkably low. The most advertised rate is $10 per year, and based on my own experience and the testimonies of friends I know who have tried it, this estimate is not far off. You will also need to spend some money to replace the batteries on the receiver collar that your pet wears, but you don’t have to do so too often as they’re also quite power-efficient.

Black dog being held.

It allows for specific shapes

Generally, a GPS wireless dog fence can only project its boundaries in the form of a circle. Invisible fences, on the other hand, rely on boundary wire that is manually laid under the turf, so you can make it in any shape as needed. It is good for small homes and ones with specific yard shapes. If your yard has an irregular shape, you can easily wrap the wire around all of its tight corners and uneven edges.

Invisible fence cons

You’ll have to train your dog to get used to them

The more complex the shape of your boundary wire, the more you’ll have to train your dog to familiarize himself with it. It’s simple enough if your underground dog fence surrounds an even rectangle — your dog will simply get used to staying within a certain distance of the house. But if the shape is complicated, a dog won’t be able to easily remember where it’s closer to the house and where it’s farther. This is why most invisible electric dog fence packages come with training flags.

High upfront cost

Since invisible fence installation involves a lot of land upheaval and other hefty tasks, the upfront cost frequently breaks $1,000.

GPS dog fence pros

GPS dog collars have features that help training

Training stubborn dogs can be a daunting task. Fortunately, GPS dog fence collars are often designed with dog training in mind. Such models come with a slew of features that make training your dog that much easier, from activity monitors to active training aids enabled through a companion app.

A GPS fence system also usually comes with different correction measures, though, if you are not comfortable with using static. Some collars produce noises like clicking, clapping, or a whistle. Others vibrate or spray citronella on your dog (my personal favorite). Wired invisible dog fence systems also have models that offer alternative correction measures as well, but they’re not as common and do not have as many options as GPS systems.

Simplicity and Portability

With all of their underground wire, in ground dog fences aren’t exactly mobile, much like a physical fence. But GPS pet fences are, thanks to their compact, self-contained design. All of the functionality is handled by the GPS collar that your dog wears, letting you create circular boundary fences wherever you go. This makes setup a breeze, and makes these systems perfect for camping vacations[1] or even for taking your dog to hotels and other such places.

GPS Fence cons

Prone to interference

GPS systems are perhaps the least prone to interference of all wireless pet fences, because GPS systems work by the dog’s collar receiving and processing a radio signal from the nearest four satellites. This is more efficient than transceiving with a receiver collar and a transmitter box.

But that doesn’t mean that GPS systems are completely immune to interference. The presence of nearby tall buildings, harsh weather conditions, and other external factors can cause all sorts of problems with their pet containment performance. If you tell me to judge how wireless GPS systems compare to an electronic dog fence that uses buried boundary wire based on that, I’d say that a wired dog fence beats a GPS dog fence every time.

Fixed shape

To reduce errors, even the best GPS dog fences project a circular fence boundary. This can be unideal if the area you’re trying to restrict your dog to is of an irregular shape, such as an apartment.

Less cost-effective

Under ideal conditions, an invisible fence would cost about $10 per year to keep running. Contrast that with wireless fences, which need to be charged or have their batteries replaced often. Wired fence collars do need to have their batteries replaced as well, but battery life is much longer thanks to the fact that they’re much lighter on features. Speaking of features, all of those nifty services that wireless collars offer can cost pet owners upwards of $10 per month.

A wireless dog fence can also be much shorter-lived than a buried wire fence. Most people I know who have used older models said that they had to replace theirs within the first 10 years of use. Meanwhile, invisible fence systems frequently reach up to 30 years of service.


Are GPS wireless dog fences effective?

GPS dog fences are very effective as they do not come with wiring systems. They can also be used in different terrains. These are great as they are portable and easy to install as well.

Do invisible fence collars have trackers?

GPS dog fences can work as trackers considering the collars show the position of the dog at any time. That is the case even when the dog goes past the boundaries. Wireless boundary collars use standard GPS signals to locate dog locations on their own. Some systems can support upwards of 20 multiple collars.

Are GPS Dog Fences good?

A wireless dog fence has a margin of 30 feet before the signal is activated so there may be a discrepancy with the boundaries. Dog fences such as Petsafe YardMax are accurate in providing alerts with minimal errors.

Do you need WiFi for Invisible dog fence?

An electric dog fence utilizes digital radio frequencies for the system. It would be likened to tuning into a satellite radio system so wi-fi is not needed. The GPS fence is also a self-contained system that does not require external internet services.

How far will a GPS dog fence work?

The minimum range for a GPS fence system is 0.69 acres, but it can reach a maximum range of more than 700 acres

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2 thoughts on “GPS Dog Collar VS Invisible Fence (Which One Is For You?)”

  1. Interested in gps containment system BUT will it work in Australia (something to do with 2g?).
    I read that these systems won’t work in Oz since no 2g from 2018.

    Sorry if I sound loopy I’m researching to buy!

    • Hi Garry,

      Most of the popular systems (SpotOn, Halo, for example), do indeed require 3g. There may be others out there that will work on 2g. I’m not sure if they would work without 2g if you do have 3g, if that’s what you’re asking. It might best to contact the manufacturer directly.


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