Sunday, April 7, 2013

Choosing the best dog fence: traditional or invisible

By Kristen W. Perko, guest blogger

Editor's note: Spring is upon us and many of our dogs' fancies are turning to running in the great outdoors--and running and running and running. It can be challenging to keep them safely at home while allowing them some outdoor freedom. CDOG member Kristen did some research on two popular ways to contain our pooches--traditional and invisible fencing--to give us some food for thought as we consider the choices. 

For dog owners, keeping our furry friends safe and happy is a priority. There are many ways to prevent dogs from getting into dangerous situations, but one of the top solutions is a fence. Dog fences come in many styles and colors and they can be constructed from a wide range of materials. Two of the most popular types of dog fence are traditional above-ground fences and invisible underground fences. To determine which type is best for your home and family, consider the pros and cons!

Traditional Dog Fence

  • A traditional dog fence prevents other neighborhood pets and wild animals from entering your yard. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that they are constantly protected, especially if you can’t constantly keep an eye on them.
  • Traditional fences can complement your home with many different types of materials, from wood to ornamental iron, so they add beauty and value in addition to pet protection. Most fences can also be built in different heights, to secure any dog from Pomeranian to Great Dane.
  • Traditional fence types offer additional features that invisible fences don’t. If you want more privacy from nosy neighbors or protection for your children, a traditional fence is the ultimate multi-tasker.
  • Large dogs may require very high above-ground fences, which can block neighborhood views. Some neighborhood codes* may not allow high fences, so you may need to use alternate solutions. 
  • Dogs can try to dig under traditional fences. While quality fences are usually buried deep enough to prevent them from escaping, this can cause unsightly holes in your yard.
  • If your yard is particularly steep or hilly, a stepped installation might be required. However, dogs can more easily get their paws trapped under stepped fences, and smaller dogs may even be able to escape.  
  • Wooden dog fences need to be maintained regularly and may not be the best option for dogs who like to chew. Heavily-treated wood is not the best choice, as it can contain materials that are dangerous for pets to ingest.

Invisible Dog Fence

  • An invisible fence does not change the look of your yard or landscape, making it a great choice for homeowners who want an open view of their neighborhood or surrounding property. If you live in a heavily zoned neighborhood or have very large dogs, you may not be able to build a fence that is high enough to meet your needs. 
  • An invisible fence can often be cheaper and easier to install on your own, especially if you have a small yard. It can also be installed very close to the home, whereas most people do not want a traditional fence only a few feet from their front door. 
  • With proper dog training, invisible fences can offer a level of containment that is equal to a traditional fence. Eventually, trained dogs will learn the boundaries of your yard, and will be able to play freely within the spaces you designate. 
  • Without proper training, dogs will not respond well to an invisible fence. You will need to devote time and patience, or they may become afraid or skittish when they go near the invisible fence borders. 
  • Invisible fences should not be used with small puppies, sick, very elderly, or pregnant dogs. You may find that your fence needs change over the years.
  • Most invisible fences require a nearby power source to work. The dog collars that are worn with an invisible fence can malfunction, so you’ll need to recharge or make sure batteries are replaced frequently. This can make it difficult to let your dogs play outside for extended periods of time, especially during the long days of summer!
  • Invisible fences don’t provide protection from other animals (pets or wild). They also do not protect children from danger, gardens from being damaged by deer or rabbits, or pools from unwelcome visitors. 

For more helpful information on choosing your ideal fence, please consider visiting the sources below!

Traditional Dog Fences:
Invisible Dog Fences:

* Columbia residents: Be sure to check with your village office early on in your planning and get a copy of your village's Architectural Guidelines. Each village has its own home owner's rules and regulations and you will need to learn about the kinds of property changes that are allowed and not allowed, and the process for getting approvals.

Columbia Dogs on the Go


  1. Invisible fences can also be unreliable, in that if your dog likes to chase critters and spots a critter outside the yard, the "fence" may not be enough to stop your dog when in chase mode. This means there is the real danger that your dog could get out of the yard and get hurt--less likely with an above ground fence. And once outside the yard, the dog may not be able to get back IN because of the invisible fence boundary.
    Also, invisible dog fence collars can "malfunction" and BURN your dog. Do your research very carefully on these products.

  2. Thanks for commenting on this. I don't have any experience with fences myself--invisible or otherwise--so I was curious to hear everyone's input. I suspected there would be such flaws with the invisible. My friend's dog was actually a victim of the chase scenario that you mentioned. Her husband forgot to put the collar on and the dog ran after a fox and got hit by a car. I personally don't feel I could trust something I can't see. The malfunction part is very scary too.


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