A dog fence is an important detail to consider when adopting a pet for the first time or moving your dog to a new home.

By Leah Lopez Cardenas
August 24, 2020
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A dog fence is a way to protect your precious pooch and probably one of the most expensive pet costs to prepare for. Dogs are curious creatures, and that means they may wander off if not contained. A pet fence can also provide your dog with an extra stimulating environment they can’t get indoors. Here are all the types of dog fences to consider when choosing the best option for your family.

Why Should I Install a Dog Fence?

“Fences are basically an extension of your home for a dog. They may provide an outlet for extra energy if your yard is big enough, but more importantly, will give your dog freedom of choice to experience enrichment outside the home,” says Erin Schmitz Menard, Dogtown Team Lead at Best Friends Animal Society.

Types of Dog Fences

Choosing the right type of fence depends on your dog's needs, what your property and budget will accommodate, and what you find most aesthetically pleasing. Here's a breakdown of the different types of fencing options available:

Solid Barrier Fences

Dog fences made with wood, metal, vinyl, and other solid materials work great for dogs that are easily distracted by other animals, kids, or neighbor dogs as they can’t see through them easily. Wood fences also add privacy, curb appeal, and overall value to your home. A physical fence like this not only contains and protects your dog, but also other pets and small children that could potentially wander into the street or neighbors’ yards. 

“Many dog owners like a full wood fence because it tends to be the most secure, provides extra privacy, and depending on who you ask—looks the nicest!” Schmitz Menard says. “Wood privacy fences are a great option for most dogs if you have the means to build one.”

That said, wooden dog fences are also one of the most expensive options to install, and it can be time-consuming to do yourself. Some pet owners also have trouble with their larger dogs digging or jumping over fences, and though there are solutions to these problems, keep them in mind. Underground barriers like Dig Defence or natural dog repellent sprays made of things like vinegar or cayenne pepper may be a useful solution to keep your dog from digging under the fence.

Additionally, Mick McAuliffe, Director of Behavior and Enrichment at the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, says dog owners can deter dogs from jumping over the top of a fence by building it high enough (about 4–6 feet high depending on the size of your dog) and angling the top at a 45 degree angle so they’re more likely to fall back down if they try to jump.

Another key consideration, McAuliffe says, is how you’re setting up enrichment opportunities to make your yard more dog-friendly if you use a material like wood, PVC, or picket fencing. “Sometimes [it can be frustrating] when the dog can’t see past the fence. Installing a plexiglass viewing window or a fort in the middle of the yard so the dog can climb up to the fence height to see over and smell different smells from their outside environment can be more stimulating,” McAuliffe adds.

Building a physical fence is typically the most costly and time consuming option, but it serves various purposes beyond safely containing your dog and is a great choice for families who live in busy neighborhoods with small children or other animals.

Pros of Wooden, Metal, and Other Physical Barrier Dog Fences

  • Keeps doggo contained
  • Other animals and people cannot easily get past the barrier
  • Better privacy
  • No training involved
  • Great for smaller yards
  • Adds curb appeal

Cons of Wooden, Metal, and Other Physical Barrier Dog Fences

  • Costly
  • Labor intensive
  • Not portable
  • Not for indoor use
  • Not great for all terrain
  • Dog can dig it up
  • Regular maintenance required

Chain Link Fences

This type of dog fence is a cheaper option for dog owners that want all the perks, but not the high cost of materials like solid barrier fences. Chain link or wire dog fences can also be installed by a professional quickly in a matter of hours for the average sized yard. However, they might not work for all dogs.

“Chain link fences are a more affordable option that many pet owners have, but some dogs can jump or climb them,” Schmitz Menard says.

Pros of Chain Link Fences

  • Keeps doggo contained
  • Other animals and people cannot easily get past the barrier
  • Inexpensive
  • No training involved
  • Great for smaller yards
  • Adds curb appeal
  • Minimal maintenance

Cons of Chain Link Fences

  • No privacy from neighbors
  • Labor intensive
  • Not portable
  • Not for indoor use
  • Not great for all terrain
  • Dog can dig it up

Electric Dog Fences

These fences draw interest from owners who want to maintain an aesthetically pleasing landscape and get the benefit of containing their dog without the added labor or cost of building a fence. There are two types of electric dog fences, including in-ground and the wireless kind. Wireless electric dog fences tend to be easy to set up, but may take some training to get your dog used to the collar. Underground electric fencing is installed using a trencher and burying the wire. While they may be more convenient for a pet owner to set up than a physical barrier fence, they may not be the right choice for all types of dogs.

Schmitz Menard recommends electric dog fence alternatives in every situation. “Repeated exposure to a negative stimuli for a dog can lead to behavioral challenges down the road. Your dog may start to become afraid of people or things outside of the fence since something hurts him each time he gets near it. This can definitely be a slippery slope and could lead to a fearful, reactive dog to many things over time.”

“While an electric fence may keep your dog in the yard, it does nothing to deter other dogs, animals, or even people from entering the space,” according to Schmitz Menard. “This can obviously be dangerous for not only the other people or animals coming into your yard, but for your canine buddy as well,” Schmitz Menard says. 

If you’re considering an invisible dog fence, it’s worth doing some additional research to better understand the pros and cons of electric dog fences.

Pros of Electric Dog Fences

  • Keeps doggo contained
  • Great for larger yards
  • Great for smaller yards
  • Minimal maintenance

Cons of Electric Dog Fences

  • Other animals and people can get past the barrier
  • No privacy from neighbors
  • Costly
  • Labor intensive
  • Training involved
  • Not portable
  • Not for indoor use
  • Not great for all terrain
  • Dog can dig it up

Virtual GPS Fence

This type of dog fence is cheaper than traditional physical barrier fences and also is very easy to install. A virtual fence system works using GPS signals that communicate with the dog collar itself. Jennifer Joyce, President of SpotOn Virtual Fence, says that if you want to contain a dog via a virtual fence, walk around the perimeter where you want to contain them to enable GPS on the collar. The GPS technology communicates with satellites to correspond with the collar and let your pup know when he’s getting too close to a perimeter boundary. One perk of using a fence like this is that it is also portable and can store up to 10 perimeter maps, so it’s convenient for families with second homes or who travel often with their pets.

Those with a large acreage may save quite a bit of cost using a non-physical fence option like electric or GPS operated fencing alternatives. But for smaller homeowners who can build a fence around the perimeter of their property within budget, the old-fashioned barrier fence might be a better solution.

DIY enthusiasts will be happy to learn that a virtual GPS operated fence is easy to set up and use quickly without having to dig in the yard or build a structure. However, it’s important to note that there is a lot of training involved with this type of fence, similar to an underground or wireless electric fence.

Pros of Virtual GPS Fences

  • Keeps doggo contained
  • Quick and easy setup
  • Great for larger yards
  • Portable
  • Great for all terrain
  • Dog cannot dig it up
  • Minimal maintenance

Cons of Virtual GPS Fences

  • Other animals and people can get past the barrier
  • No privacy from neighbors
  • Costly
  • Training involved
  • Not for indoor use

Indoor Dog Fences

Many dogs prefer being indoors and don’t need a fence to be happy or get the recommended exercise they need. Depending on the size of your home, size of your yard (if you have one at all), and your ability to take your dog with you on active adventures, a dog fence may not be necessary.

“Not all dogs need a fenced-in yard! In fact, we have quite a few dogs [at our shelter] who would probably do better in a home where they are only walked or hiked for their activity,” says Schmitz Menard. “Some dogs won’t utilize a yard at all if their person isn’t out there with them. Many dogs have never known a fenced-in yard, and prefer to go on long strolls with their families instead. Dogs acclimate to change really nicely if you give them time. Even the most high-energy, active dog will be happy without a fenced-in yard if their person ensures they get the activity they need each day.”

Although, it’s typical for many pet owners to have certain areas of their home they would prefer to keep their dog away from. That’s where an indoor dog fence can be useful, because it closes off certain rooms or parts of rooms so your doggo won’t accidentally break anything valuable or wander into unsafe places (down steep stairways, in the food pantry, or that room where you keep the potentially poisonous sage palm or poinsettia plants, for example).

Pros of Indoor Dog Fences

  • Keeps doggo contained
  • Inexpensive
  • Quick and easy setup
  • Portable
  • Indoor/outdoor use
  • Minimal maintenance

Cons of Indoor Dog Fences

  • Other animals and people can get past the barrier
  • Training involved
  • Not great for all rooms or flooring
  • Larger dogs can knock it over or jump over

Portable Dog Fences

If you’re a world traveler or your family is really into camping, it’s possible to take your pet along for the ride with portable fences or playpens. These barriers can be placed in your yard at home or anywhere (within reason) on your adventures to give your dog some space to move and experience the new location with you. These are probably the cheapest option out there if you’re the type of pet owner that hasn’t quite found your forever home to plant roots yet.

Pros of Portable Fences

  • Keeps doggo contained
  • Inexpensive
  • Quick and easy setup
  • No training involved
  • Great for smaller yards
  • Portable
  • Indoor/outdoor use
  • Great for all terrain
  • Minimal maintenance

Cons of Portable Fences

  • Other animals and people can get past the barrier
  • No privacy from neighbors
  • Not great for all terrain
  • Dog can dig it up

After researching the best type of dog fence for your pet, just make sure to check in with your local municipality or Homeowner’s Association if you have one, as they may have restrictions on the types of dog fences and materials you can use based on your property.

Costs to Install a Dog Fence

The cost to install a dog fence ranges widely depending on various factors. According to HomeAdvisor, a typical wooden fence is on the pricier side, while a wire or chain link fence is a cheaper barrier fence type. An electric fence or virtual fence can oftentimes be about half the cost of a physical barrier fence, but only if you do it yourself.

Dog Fence Type Costs

  • Wood Fence: $$$$
  • Wire or Chain Link Fence: $$$
  • Invisible/Electric Fence (Contracted): $$$
  • Invisible/Electric Fence (DIY): $$
  • Virtual/GPS Fence: $$
  • Portable Fence: $
  • Indoor Dog Fence: $

Other factors that impact the cost to install your dog fence:

  • Size of the yard: Property size is an important factor in determining which dog fence to purchase. Those with larger yards may save quite a bit of cost using a non-physical fence option like electric or GPS operated, while smaller homeowners can build a physical fence around the perimeter of their property more cheaply. Joyce recommends physical fences for small patio areas or quarter acre lots, while wireless fences work better for land over an acre.Other factors that impact the cost to install your dog fence:
  • Geographical location: Rocky terrain in the northeast or rainy, muddy ground in the northwest is a pain when digging a trench to install an underground electric fence. A GPS enabled virtual fence is great for these areas and works over swamps, lakes, and other bodies of water. In more urban areas where very small patios or micro lawns are common, a traditional physical fence is probably your best bet for the cost.
  • Material: The cost of different full barrier fence materials like wood, wire, wrought iron, vinyl, stain, paint, and others can greatly alter the final price of your dog fence.
  • Contract or DIY: The cost of labor is often the bulk of the price of professional dog fence installation. Building one yourself is generally more cost effective for the average sized yard. Just be sure to weigh the pros and cons mentioned above for the commitments involved in DIY dog fences before you decide.

Training Your Dog

Depending on the type of fence you select, there may be some training involved. Virtual and electric fences work by warning your dog they are nearing the perimeter by releasing a sequence of audio tones or by initiating a static correction.

Joyce says that for options like the SponOn Virtual Fence, a GPS fence that uses a static correction as a last resort to sounds that tell the dog where his boundaries are, “About 90 percent of easily trainable dog breeds like Labs, German shepherds, and golden retrievers can be trained to recognize tones within a few training sessions up to about two weeks maximum.” Just like with any other kind of training, Joyce says to use positive reinforcement—like praise or treats—and to teach them to come back to home. “If you can train them to the tones, they won’t get statically corrected for the most part,” she says.

A good next step would be to check in with your local dog trainer or behaviorist to get their opinion on the best fence option for your family’s needs. Their recommendation may depend on many factors, including taking into consideration where your dog is at in their training.

“All dogs are individuals and are to be treated as such. We’ve had Chihuahuas here in Dogtown at BestFriends Animal Sanctuary who could scale a 6-foot fence, and we’ve had Huskies who would never dream of hopping a fence,” said Schmitz Menard. “While there are some behaviors more typically seen in certain dog breeds, you’ll want to tailor your fence choice to your individual canine friend.”