Five reasons to avoid invisible fencing

Invisible fencing may seem like a good idea on the outset, but I believe the risks outweigh the benefits. Below are five reasons I think these fences aren’t the best option for containing your dog.

  1. You still have to train the dog. Many people assume an invisible or underground fence is “plug ‘n’ play” — that is, you simply install it, plop the collar on your dog, and let him play to his heart’s content. This is not the case (as the reputable underground fence dealers will tell you). The dog still must be trained to accept the fence’s boundaries. But the assumption that it is an “easy” way to contain a dog makes me question whether the potential owner is really willing to put effort into the dog’s care and training (i.e., regular walks, obedience), as well as make sacrifices (e.g., increased cost and imperfect landscaping) to accommodate the dog.
  2. Electric shock. As far as I know, all varieties of invisible fencing operate on the premise that the dog wears a collar which produces electric shock when the boundary line is approached. Some dogs are so determined to make it through the fence that the shock level must be turned up unusually high. I have seen instances in which a dog wearing a fence collar was inadvertently shocked by the owner’s television, computer or vacuum. (Think of how healthy this is for the poor dog’s mental state!) I have also heard horror stories and seen pictures of third-degree burns caused by fence collars that have malfunctioned. Beware of the underground fencing dealer who tells you this can’t/won’t happen — after all, he’s there to sell you something, not to look out for your dog’s well-being. That’s your job.
  3. Dogs can — and will — go through an invisible fence. And once they do, guess what? They won’t come back into the yard for fear of getting shocked; they aren’t stupid. They’re simply willing to take the shock the first time through to get whatever they’re after. And once they’re through, they’re free to chase other animals, get into fights, get hit by cars, be shot at, picked up by animal control, etc.
  4. Underground fencing does not keep anyone from entering your property. Therefore, children, cats, other dogs, wild animals and the like are free to come onto your property and tease or terrorize your dog. And dog thieves find underground fencing absolutely delightful — all they have to do is take the collar off the dog and go!
  5. This study linking use of or malfunctioning of underground fencing to serious biting incidents. Do we really need to make dog owners more subject to lawsuits and breed-specific legislation? Further reading: “Train With Your Brain” — Green Acres Kennel

Keep in mind this is my reasoning, and there are plenty of responsible trainers, rescuers and breeders who will place dogs in homes with invisible fencing. Also understand that a “real” fence can be a hallmark of lazy or irresponsible dog ownership and is certainly not a cure-all. But given the fact that regular exercise and training can eliminate the need for a fenced yard (a luxury) and given the variety of fencing options available, I’m inclined to discourage clients from using invisible fencing, for the reasons listed above.


  1. This is totally ridiculuous. Invisible Fencing is SAFE and effective. Pressure necrosis can accour if an owner fails to remoave the collar, NOT 3rd degree burns- this is a HUGE misconception. It is a static correction, electricity does NOTrun through the dog. PLEASE educateyourself a little before making these accusations! IF trained properly the dog will NEVER go through! A reputable company will offer a money back containment guarantee!

  2. @Sam: Thanks for your comment. This post reflects my experiences with invisible fencing. See this Whole Dog Journal article for an example of a dog burned by such a collar. (I am referring to malfunctioning equipment, of course — I would hope these devices are not designed to burn dogs when working properly!) However, many models deliver much more than a “static correction.”

    I understand that some folks are quite happy with invisible fences. I would never put my dog on one and I never recommend them to clients. I have worked with several clients who insist on or who have already added invisible fencing before I came along. I’ve noticed these dogs have an assortment of anxiety, aggression and hyperactivity issues that I don’t see in dogs not trained with electric shock. That’s great that there are companies that offer a money-back guarantee, though.

    As for a dog not being capable of crossing an invisible fence once “trained,” that seems unlikely. Animals are always capable of choosing behavior. A dog with a mild temperament might well choose to avoid the shock, while one more cavalier about physical pain will hop right on over to get the “better” rabbit!