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How Invisible Dog Fences Work… Do they actually work?

Let’s do a deep dive into how invisible dog fences work.

If your yard doesn’t have a fence, then an invisible fence can be a great way for your dog to enjoy your property while keeping them safe.

Installing a fence can be expensive especially if you want it to look nice, and even more so if you have a large yard. Plus, some of us don’t want a fenced-in yard in the first place. They can mess with your home’s aesthetic, and even obstruct views.

So if you’re wondering how invisible dog fences work, you might be wondering if they even do work reliably—and there are definitely some that are better than others. You might also be wondering what you’re getting into. Will there be a lot of work involved?

I’ll answer all of that in this review. I’ve been working with invisible fences of all three types for over four years now, and starting this year I’ve gone so far as to wear the collars and evaluate the systems from a dog’s perspective.

So I’ll share what I’ve learned from my first-hand experiences in the trenches, but what I can say right off the bat is generally speaking, yes invisible fences do indeed work. You can be up and running with some of them in a matter of minutes.

Although, no matter which system you choose you’re going to have to complete boundary training with your dog, which usually takes about 2-4 weeks.

Now, most of these systems utilize some form of static correction as boundary feedback, or at least give you the option to. However, I just can’t advocate using that to train your dog.

Invisible dog fence collar reviewer Zach Lovatt wearing the Halo Collar during a field test.

I’ve tried quite a few of these collars on my neck, in some cases several times and it really, seriously hurts unless it’s at a pretty low intensity. However, many dog owners feel it’s a worthwhile tradeoff to keep their pets safe from bigger dangers, like a busy roads for example. I understand that! So you do you Boo, and I’ll stick to my job.

How Do Invisible Dog Fences Work?

The logic behind invisible dog fences is based on the concept of conditioned learning.

Now, there are three types of invisible dog fences, but how they all work in a nutshell is that your dog wears a collar that speaks with the boundaries you set via one mechanism or another.

When your pet receives a warning signal, such as a sound or vibration upon approaching the invisible boundary, they begin to associate that warning with the presence of the boundary.

Through consistent training and reinforcement, your pet learns to recognize and respect the invisible boundaries that you set. This conditioned learning trains your pet to stay within the designated safe area and avoid crossing the boundary.

It’s important to remember that invisible dog fences should never be used as a substitute for proper training and supervision. These fences are most effective when combined with positive reinforcement training methods.

Consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement are key factors in training your pet to understand and respect the invisible boundaries. 

You also need to supervise your pet regularly to ensure that the fence is functioning correctly and that your pet remains safe within the designated boundaries.

Types of invisible dog fences

Now, let’s move on to the three different types of invisible dog fences.

In-Ground Dog Fences

In-ground invisible dog fences, also often referred to as electric dog fences, are one of the most popular options available. These systems consist of three main components: a boundary wire, a transmitter, and a receiver collar.

eXtreme Dog Fence boundary wire, transmitter, and receiver collar.

A great example of in-ground dog fences would be the eXtreme Dog Fence. See my link below to the best deal I know for eXtreme Dog Fence.

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With in-ground fences, the boundary wire is installed underground. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for burying the wire at the recommended depth as too deep can cause signal interference.

Typically, the wire is buried a few inches deep, ensuring it remains protected and undisturbed. Once the boundary is set, the transmitter emits a radio signal through the wire, creating an electromagnetic field.

Your pet wears a receiver collar that detects this signal. When your pet approaches the boundary, the receiver collar ideally emits a warning sound or vibration. This acts as a deterrent, alerting your pet that they are getting too close to the boundary.

If your pet continues to move closer, static correction is delivered through the collar, deterring them from crossing the boundary.


Some of the upsides of in-ground invisible dog fences are that they offer a reliable and customizable solution. The boundaries can be easily adjusted to suit the size and shape of your yard.

With creative wiring you can even build in multiple zones, which can be useful for restricting access to certain areas like gardens or swimming pools.

They’re also fairly affordable if you install them yourself, and they are less prone to interference than wireless systems that don’t use GPS. Typically, you can use multiple collars if you have multiple dogs.


The downsides to in-ground systems are that they can be very time consuming to install, unless you have it professionally installed. Of course, that can get expensive quickly. You could, in theory choose not to bury the wire, but it will be unsightly and likely even a tripping hazard.

Next, if there are ever any faults in the boundary down the line, that likely means having to dig up the wire to find the break—or, again, hiring a professional to do this for you for a fee.

Lastly, the feedback zone doesn’t continue indefinitely past the boundary. Typically it’s only a certain range on either side of the wire.

Wireless Dog Fences

Next, let’s discuss wireless invisible dog fences. These systems offer a convenient alternative to in-ground fences, as they eliminate the need for burying a wire in the ground. Instead, they use a central transmitter that emits a circular signal, creating a wireless boundary for your pet.

The transmitter is typically placed in a central location within your home or yard. It’s important to consider the wireless fence’s coverage range to ensure it can effectively encompass the desired area. Most systems allow you to adjust the range to suit your yard’s size and shape.

PetSafe Wireless Pet Containment System transmitter, training flags, receiver collar, charger, and prongs.

A typical example of a wireless dog fence would be the PetSafe Wireless Pet Containment System. It’s a product that has been around for years and it’s reasonably reliable. I’ll leave a link below to some of the best deals I know for PetSafe.

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Some of the upsides of wireless dog fences are that they are super easy to install—you can be up and running with the PetSafe wireless in a short number of minutes.

It’s also incredibly easy to change the size of the fence whenever you’d like, which would be a nightmare with an in-ground system.

A lot of times they’re so easy to set up that they can be portable, so if you want to take them on a trip or to your family’s house or anything like that they’re a great option.

They’re also quite affordable and can usually support multiple collars if you have more than one dog.


There are definitely downsides to consider with wireless dog fences though—the most notable being that you are limited to a circular boundary centered on the transmitter. That can be inconvenient based on the shape of your yard, access to electrical outlets, you name it.

Wireless dog fences are also quite a bit more susceptible to interference than in-ground systems. Basically how it works is that the collar will issue correction if it loses signal from the transmitter, meaning your dog could get shocked in the safe zone if the signal gets blocked. Typically this would be caused by large metal objects like an appliance, a metal roof, or similar.

Additionally, if your neighbor has an in-ground dog fence that runs close to your wireless fence boundary, it may confuse the collar and allow your dog to pass through without any correction.

So there are definitely some tradeoffs for the convenience of non-GPS wireless dog fence system. But throw a GPS in the mix, and things get taken to a whole new level.

GPS Dog Fences

So let’s talk about my personal favorite solution—GPS invisible dog fences. These systems utilize Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to create a virtual boundary for your pet. 


GPS fences are typically contained within a collar that your dog wears, and it’s equipped with GPS tracking capabilities. You can make fences using a smartphone app, making it incredibly convenient and flexible.

You can easily adjust the boundaries or even create multiple fences wherever you go, so it’s an ideal solution from a portability standpoint.

SpotOn GPS dog fence collar, the mobile app, and a text saying, "The SpotOn can be set up in under two minutes.

GPS dog fences can be set up quickly and do not require any physical installation. My personal favorite, the SpotOn GPS dog fence, can be set up in under two minutes.

Interested to get some SpotOn GPS Dog Collar deals? Check out my link below:

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GPS fences often provide additional features such as real-time tracking, activity monitoring, and integration with pet health apps, allowing you to keep a close eye on your pet’s well-being.


First is that they’re expensive. A lot of them even require a cell subscription to use them, or at least to unlock the full range of features.

Next is that not all of them are quite as reliable as the more conventional systems. They get the job done, but even with the SpotOn GPS Fence, which is quite reliable, you do need to account for GPS drift over the course of the day as you set your boundaries. As such, GPS dog fences are really best suited for larger yards.

Then, the collars are also kind of on the bulky side, and because there’s so much demand on the collar trying to constantly pinpoint its location, the battery life tends to be more on the order of hours or days than weeks or months like you get with traditional systems.

However, at least the GPS dog fence collars are typically rechargeable. Many of the traditional in-ground and wireless systems use propriety single-use batteries which is not ideal.

So that’s the three different types of invisible dog fences and how they all work. I hope it helps you find the best fence for your pup. 

Until next time dog lovers, keep those tails waggin’!

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