This is our journey testing the top wireless dog fences, electric dog fences, and GPS systems. We also detail what the differences are between the three.
As summer quickly approaches, our pets are just as excited to spend time outdoors as we are. For a dog, there’s nothing quite like the freedom of being able to run around outside off leash, and pet parents want this freedom for their dogs just as much. In fact, a recent survey revealed that more and more millenials are buying new homes (with bigger yards) for their dogs.
And I’m one of them.
I’m not afraid to admit I recently paid over $17,000 to have aluminum fencing installed for my dog Sasha. Sure, I could have went with a cheaper solution, such as chain link, but even that would have cost a significant penny for the amount of space. While the fence ended up working great and my dog got the freedom she deserves, I irrationally ignored any recommendations to look into invisible fences before pulling the trigger on standard fencing.
My thought process was this: invisible fences require a decent amount of work in digging the trenches to hide the wires; combine this work with the fear of whether or not the my dog would respond appropriately to the boundary alerts, I steered clear.
However, this was all before learning about wireless dog fences. Wireless fences do not require digging like invisible/electric fences do. We’ll talk more about each type further in this guide (we actually recommend both for different situations). After doing hands-on testing of these wireless dog fence solutions, and seeing that Sasha responds appropriately to the alerts, I can say I regret my $17,000 fence!
Guide: Buying a Wireless Dog Fence
Wireless and invisible fences offer pet parents everywhere the option of letting your dog run free and unsupervised in your yard without worry. This freedom often results in better mental and physical health since they can explore on their own or play a game of fetch.
Wireless fences are one of the newest technologies available to dog owners, providing a safe and cheap alternative to standard fencing solutions and the best part for many is that you can’t see them. Before you run out and buy your wireless fence from PetSmart or decide against it because of rumors, you should first consider each aspect of these new fences and what features to look for.
Since wireless fences for dogs have dramatically gained in popularity, there are a ton of different brands and products to pick from. It may be difficult for consumers to decide which fence they should choose. Top options will include waterproof fencing and collars which is important for ensuring that the fence is always working. When looking at which is best for you, it is important you take the amount of acreage that is covered into account. Some wireless fences offer only 10 acres of coverage and other provide up to 100 acres. Options like Sport Dog Invisible Fence are a great option of invisible fencing if you are looking for customizable options like shape of boundaries and amount of shock produced in the collar.
Wireless vs Electric vs Satellite
Earlier in this article we pointed out a couple of the differences between wireless and invisible dog fences, but we wanted to take a deeper dive into this because it is an important characteristic to understand before purchasing. Moreover, there is an even newer technology that utilizes sattelite/GPS to create a wireless boundary. Each one has pros and cons, so let’s take a look and see which best suits your dog.
Invisible (electric): These are often also called electric fences (not to be mistaken with a real electric fence, often used for cows). So invisible fence and electric fence are often used interchangeably, and offer the same features. This product works by digging and burying a cable around the perimeter of your yard and then using radio frequencies to operate the system. The benefits of this include a MUCH longer range. You can fence many acres with this type of product, so this is definitely the preferred type if you have a lot of space. The downside is simply the installation, which again, requires a lot of digging.
Wireless: Wireless fences are the newest type of fencing available and works by setting up a base station in your home. This base station emits a wide wireless signal in all directions (see photo below). The signal range varies based on make/model and types of interference in your house, but the great thing is some of them are compatible with expansions, allowing you to add multiple base stations to increase your range. The main benefits include ease of use, set up time, and cost. The downside is that it may not be beneficial for those who have a very large yard.
Satellite/GPS: This new revolutionary technology, owned by SpotOn Virtual Smart Fences, uses satellite technology to establish the boundary perimeter for your dog. There are no buried wires or base stations like all of the other products listed because all of the technology is located within the collar. The biggest benefits to this is the portability and range. The range is essentially limitless, and you can set up custom perimeters at multiple locations (for example, a standard map at your home and another one for the dog park).
How Wireless Dog Fences Work
One of the most common questions that are asked about an invisible fence is “how does it work?”. Invisible fences are not as difficult as they may seem. Although the concept of the product involves new and innovative technology, the structure of it is quite simple.
An invisible fence functions through the use of radio frequencies. It uses a strong signal to keep it running strong throughout your fence at all times. A control panel is installed somewhere on your house and is the heart of the system as it transmits the signals to the rest of the “fencing”. The fence portion itself is a cable that is buried around your property. These cables receive the signals from the radio frequencies coming to the control panel making a signal field which is created on each side of the cable and makes the boundary as a physical fence would.
The component that makes this system a fence to your dog only is the collar that your dog will wear. Your dog’s collar that is received when the invisible fence is purchased functions as a receiver. This receiver collar picks up the radio frequencies that are sent throughout the system. When your dog crosses the boundaries created by the signal field created by the radio frequencies, it will release a tone. Depending on the brand of product and your specific settings this response may differ. Many will first warn with a tone that is played from the collar that serves as a warning to the dog. After the first tone, it will provide a small amount of static correction from the collar to tell your dog that they are at the boundary. Each consumer is able to customize the collar to respond to nearing and crossing the boundary differently. The brand Invisible Fence describes exactly how their fence functions and this system is similar to many other brands of invisible fencing.
Comparing to Standard Fencing
Wireless fences are not for everybody, and they are especially not for every dog. If you live in an urban area where there is much foot traffic or other dogs, you should consider how this may still tempt your dog to outside of the boundaries regardless of the currents that will be sent through their collar. In busy areas like this, it may be a good idea to consider traditional fencing or other options. Another comment to consider if you are thinking about a wireless fence is what is your dog like. Do they typically stay in the yard or do they often run off? Are they hyperactive and likely to chase anything they see or are they sedentary and unbothered by outside activities. If you have a relaxed dog in a more quiet and recluse area, you will likely be a perfect fit. This does not mean a wireless fence won’t work well for you if you have a hyper dog or live in the city. It simply means you may want to weigh your options and look into each product to ensure that it will work properly and ensure it will keep you dog safe.
The wireless fences have a well thought out structure, but how do they compare to traditional fences. There are a few categories that compare the main components that dog owners may look at when considering between the two:
Pros and Cons
Price: When comparing an invisible fence to a traditional fencing option, invisible fences are a much more affordable option. Traditional fence requires additional fees like wood, iron, and labor which is an added cast that invisible fences avoid. Some invisible fences do not require you professional installation which saves money, but even with professional installation, it is still much less costly than the traditional option.
Adaptability: The traditional wooden fence is much easier for your dog to adapt to than the invisible fence. When using a traditional fence, there is little to no training. The boundaries make is nearly impossible for the dog to escape the area. Your pet may require a bit of training to make sure there is no distress if being left out alone or to ensure that they cannot dig out of the fenced in area. The wireless fence brings challenges because it is more difficult to train your dog on boundaries when they are not visible. Wagwalking.com offers training tips to make the smoothest transition. Once you dog fully understands how the invisible fencing works for them, there are typically no issues.
Level of Protection: Both the wireless and the traditional fence offer a high level of security and protection for you dog. Each option offers a specific argument as to why they offer the most protection. The traditional fence offers additional protection as not only does it protect your dog from leaving the area, it also prevents other animals from coming in. The wireless fence on the other hand is a safe option because the boundaries are always active and owners don’t have to worry about leaving the gate open or fence malfunctions. It is safe to say that each option brings benefits that are specific to their product. There is no real winner in protection and really comes down to personal preference based off of individual needs.
Aesthetic: The aesthetic of the traditional and invisible fences also is a question of personal preference. Although the idea of a fence that you and others can’t see is very attractive to some, others love the look of a white picket fence. There are many options of traditional fencing that gives homeowners many options to find the specific look to their yard. Some find this fencing to be an accessory to their yard, while others would rather not have fencing at all for their own reasons. If you are having trouble deciding between the two, VCA.com offers a comparison of the visual component of fencing.
With many options and benefits available, it is most important that you find the wireless fence that works best for you. It is a great idea to look into fencing options and make the best decision for your dog.
Best Satellite and GPS Fence
SpotOn GPS Fence
Without a doubt, our favorite dog fencing solution is the 2020 CES Innovation Winner SpotOn GPS fence. There are no buried wires, no base stations to deal with, and the range is essentially limitless. The collar can remember up to 10 different maps (home, dog park, grandma’s house, Airbnb, etc), and adding a new one is as simple as holding the collar and walking the perimeter. The company also offers an optional monthly service that tracks your dog via GPS / cell towers. If your dog ever escaped a perimeter map, everyone in your family can be notified immediately along with a precise location.
Check out the SpotOn GPS Fence here. If you’re looking for a cheaper fencing solution, here are our top wireless fence picks:
Best Wireless Dog Fences
PetSafe Stay + Play Wireless Fence
- 3/4 ACRE OF CIRCULAR COVERAGE: The adjustable circular range can cover up to 3/4 acres from the placement...
- NO WIRE TO BURY: A wireless boundary allows you to create a secure barrier around your yard to protect...
- STATIC FREE REENTRY: Unlike traditional in-ground fences, this wireless fence allows your pet to return...
There’s no question PetSafe completely dominates the wireless dog fence market. In fact, it’s the only brand we currently recommend. Their Stay + Play model is our #1 pick due to a few industry-leading features, one of them being range and expandable containment zones. This model offers up to 3/4 acre range (from 22ft to 105ft in all directions) from a single wireless receiver. If this is not enough, you can add another receiver (perhaps at the other side of your house) and they communicate with one another to expand your range.
There’s also no limit in terms of how many dogs will use the wireless fence; simply purchase as many additional collar receivers as needed and sync it to the base station. The base station also has 5 levels of correction to accurately adjust the level of alerts.
One of my favorite features for the Stay + Play model is that the collars are all rechargeable. Simply plug them in for a quick 2-3 hour charge every 3 weeks or so and say goodbye to replacing batteries!
PetSafe PIF-300 Wireless Pet Containment System
- 1/2 ACRE OF CIRCULAR COVERAGE: The adjustable circular range can cover up to 1/2 acres from the placement...
- NO WIRE TO BURY: A wireless boundary allows you to create a secure barrier around your yard to protect...
- STATIC FREE REENTRY: Unlike traditional in ground fences, this wireless fence allows your pet to return...
This is the model that truly revolutionized the industry. While we prefer the newer PetSafe Stay + Play due to better range and rechargeable batteries, this PIF-300 model still offers impeccable performance and at a cheaper price. With 1/2 acre range
The 1/2 acre adjustable range expands up to 90ft in all directions. The waterproof receiver collar gives low-battery warnings when it’s time to replace, and the batteries cost about $6/pack on Amazon.
If you have a smaller yard and don’t mind replacing the batteries every now and then, you can save some money by going with this model.
Best Electric Dog Fences
SportDOG In-Ground Fence System
- Easy-to-install containment kit includes everything needed to cover 1 1/3 acres of land for one dog; can...
- Waterproof collar takes standard 9-volt battery (included) that lasts 6-12 months; fits dogs 10 lb. And...
- Contain an unlimited number of dogs with additional collars (sdf-r)
Now that we outlined the two best wireless dog fences, I felt it was important to also include our picks for in-ground (invisible) fence systems for those who need much more range. SportDOG is our favorite model. For a price that’s cheaper than both wireless systems shown above, the SportDog In-Ground Fence comes with 1,000 feet of 20-gauge wire, which amounts to rough 1 and 1/3 acre. However, if that’s not enough, you can simply purchase more wire to expand this system to 100 acres!
Similar to the other models, this package offers unlimited dogs (must purchase more collar receivers) and uses 9-volt batteries which last between 6 months to a year.
Extreme Dog Fence
- Improved: The 2nd Generation eXtreme Dog Fence STANDARD GRADE Kit Covers Up to 6 Acres. The Updated...
- Waterproof and Submersible: Most Other Inground Dog Fence Systems Claim to be "Water Resistant". The...
- Standard Fence Kit Includes: 20 Gauge High Tensile Boundary Wire with Heavy Protective Jacket, Digital...
Extreme Dog Fence is another great option for invisible fencing, but can’t be expanded quite as far as SportDOG and also costs a little bit more. However, the company proudly markets being manufactured in the USA and their heavy duty 20-gauge wires being thicker than competitors.
Extreme Dog Fence by Perimeter Technologies can be purchased in multiple increments of 500ft wiring and can be expanded up to 25 acres in total.
PetSafe Basic In-Ground Fence
- CREATE A SECURE YARD: Give your pets a secure yard to play in with our durable and weather resistant in...
- PERSONALIZE YOUR DOG’S COLLAR SETTINGS: Teach your pets to stay in the secure play area with a sound...
- FITS ANY YARD: This weekend do it yourself project comes with clear step by step instructions on how to...
Finally, PetSafe falls on our list once again with their impressively affordable in-ground fencing solution. The Basic model is significantly cheaper than anything else on our list, coming in over $100 cheaper.
The low cost is mainly because of the smaller out-of-box coverage. PetSafe Basic In-Ground comes with 1/3 acre of coverage, but can still be expanded up to 5 acres.
The same impressive collar receivers are used for PetSafe’s in-ground fence and wireless fences.