How to Stop Your Dog from Digging Under the Fence
If your dogs are like mine, they are veritable Houdinis when it comes to escaping from your yard. I have one dog that is a true escape artist. He loves to burrow under the fence, jump over the fence, or just plain push through the fence, and it drives me crazy.
If you’ve got a dog like that, you need to know these tricks for stopping your furry friend from digging under the fence. Before we look at that, let’s examine some reasons why your puppy pal might be trying to escape.
Why Is Your Dog Digging Under the Fence?
There are several common reasons why your dog might be trying to escape your yard. In order to learn how to stop a dog from digging under a fence, you need to find the root cause. Let’s look at a few of these:
Dogs Dig Holes for Entertainment
If your dog’s digging under the fence or in your flower beds, he might just be doing it because he’s bored and looking for some fun. This is particularly true if you leave him alone for long periods of time or if he’s not getting enough enrichment.
Your dog might be looking for some entertainment if you keep him in an environment that doesn’t have any toys that he can use to keep himself busy. This is often the case with puppies that have boundless energy and are always looking for something to do. As it turns out, your dog likes playing games too!
Your pooch might also simply be one of several dog breeds, like certain terriers or beagles, that’s bred to dig. That means it’s in their nature to dig holes, burrow into the ground, and bury bones, toys, or even food. For some dogs, it’s their job and they’re anxious to be a good digger.
He’s Hunting After Prey
A lot of dogs will chase after burrowing animals and critters like small rodents or even insects. Some dogs have an extremely strong prey drive — beagles and dachshunds are one example — and they will stop at nothing to get what they’re hunting.
In this case, the digging usually focuses on a single area such as at the base of trees or shrubs. They’re not actually trying to escape the yard, but that can happen if they’re digging in the wrong area.
He’s Looking for Attention
Your dog needs mental stimulation. When understimulated, he will often dig holes or try to escape simply as a means to get your attention. Sometimes bad attention is better than no attention at all.
When this is the case, he will often even engage in digging behavior right in front of you. He’s letting you know he wants you to spend time with him.
Your Dog’s Digging to Escape the Yard
Of course, a common reason your dog might be digging is to simply escape. This doesn’t mean he’s not happy at home, but he might see other dogs or animals outside the yard or he may just want to roam.
This is a common reason for digging behavior if your dog is not neutered or spayed. Dogs that are not fixed will be attracted to other dogs when they are seeking a mate.
Some male dogs have even been known to jump through a window to get to a female dog in heat. What’s more, 70-76% of dog bites are from unneutered males! That could be a real liability for you if your “intact” dog is escaping your yard.
Another common reason for wanting to escape is if your dog suffers from separation anxiety. For many dogs who are very attached to their owners, it’s difficult to be apart, and they can suffer several symptoms associated with that separation anxiety they feel when you leave.
So what’s a dog owner to do to get their best friend to stop digging?
Strategies to Stop Your Dog’s Digging Behavior
As a good pet owner who wants to keep their dog safe from harm, you want to stop your best friend’s digging behavior so he can’t escape and so you can have a nice yard, too!
There are several strategies recommended by the Human Society to help you do just that. Before learning how to stop a dog from digging under a fence, let’s look quickly at what doesn’t work.
What Doesn’t Work
Punishing your dog after he has done anything wrong doesn’t work. He can’t make the association between why you’re punishing him and something he did in the past. Even showing him what he did while you punish him won’t work.
Dog’s minds just don’t work like that, and you might make the situation worse by causing anxiety in your beloved friend. It also won’t work to try and fill the digging pit with something like water or tie your dog up near the hole he has dug.
Dogs aren’t going to make the association between his digging behavior and these tactics. What works best for how to stop a dog from digging under a fence is positive reinforcement.
How to Stop a Dog From Digging Under a Fence: What Does Work
Now that you know what not to do, let’s look at a few things you can do that will work.
1. Figure Out Why Your Dog’s Digging
The first thing to do is to understand the reasons behind your dog’s behavior. Is he one of the dog breeds for which digging is part of his nature? Is he young and has too much energy? Is he suffering separation anxiety when you leave? Or is he trying to escape for some reason?
Once you know the reasons why your dog’s digging under the fence, you can implement the appropriate strategies to resolve the situation to everyone’s benefit.
2. Set Up a Digging Zone
This works particularly well if your dog is a natural-born digger and the usual deterrents aren’t working. With this strategy, you’re giving him a place where it’s okay for him to dig and he can’t escape. That way he has an outlet for his behavior, but you can still keep him safe.
You can teach your canine friend where to dig by covering the digging area with loose soil or sandbox. Then bury items like toys or other safe objects in the dirt for him to find. When he finds them, give him plenty of praise.
If your dog digs in an area where he’s not supposed to, tell him, “No dig!” using a firm, loud voice or make a loud noise. Then take him immediately to the digging zone and praise him for digging there.
You can also make the areas where he’s not supposed to dig unattractive by doing something like covering them with chicken wire or large rocks. Once he knows where his digging spot is located, you can remove those covers and restore your landscaping to its original state.
3. Make Sure Your Dog Gets Plenty of Exercise
If you feel like your dog is digging for entertainment, you’ll want to make sure he gets enough exercise. You should walk him at least twice a day and play with him using active toys like a frisbee.
It might also be a good idea to consult with a dog trainer and train your friend to do some different tricks or activities. This keeps him entertained, and if he’s a younger dog, it helps expend some of that excess energy.
When you’re not around, make sure your dog has some safe toys or a treat dispenser to keep him busy. That gives him something to do besides digging under the fence or in other parts of the yard.
4. Humanely Fence Burrowing Animals Out of Your Yard
If you feel like your dog is hunting, then you’ll want to take humane steps to keep those burrowing animals out of the yard. You don’t want to use any kind of toxic substance to kill them because that can be harmful to pets too.
You might try something like a capsicum mixture to ward off those pesky rodents. That can keep them out of your yard and help curb your dog’s digging behavior. You can also use a chain-link fence or bury chicken wire down at least six inches around the perimeter to keep them from getting in.
5. Praise the Good and Ignore the Bad
If your dog is digging to get you to pay attention to him, then you might want to spend more quality playtime with him and take him for walks at least twice a day.
If you know you’re giving him enough attention, then you’ll want to turn to other methods to curb his digging. First, ignore his negative attention-seeking behavior and effusively praise him when he’s good.
This will teach him that good behavior is what gets him the attention he craves. Make sure he has plenty of dog toys and spend time playing with him using those toys. That way, when you leave, you can leave the toys and he will associate them with you.
6. Make Sure His Environment Is Safe, Appealing, and Free of Escape Incentives
If you think your dog is just trying to escape, then there are several steps to prevent that from happening. First, if your dog is not neutered or spayed and you don’t plan on breeding him or her, then you’ll want to get that done. That curbs their natural instinct to roam in search of a mate.
If you have done that or can’t because you’ll be breeding your dog, another thing that works well is to bury chicken wire at the base of the fence. Be sure to roll the edges of the wire away from the yard.
You can also partially bury large rocks along the fence line as that will discourage him from digging around them. Another good technique is to anchor a chain-link fence along the bottom of the fence line and have it laying on the ground near the fence. That will make it uncomfortable for your doggy buddy to walk near it.
You can also simply bury the fence line about one to two feet below the ground. That makes it more difficult for your best furry friend to dig deep enough to escape.
When All Else Fails
When you’ve done everything you can think of to curb your dog’s digging behavior, there are a few more extreme measures you can try.
If you must keep your dog outside, you can keep your pooch in a pen. You can even make a DIY pen that will serve your needs, just make sure to use one that has a ground cover that’s uncomfortable for him to dig through, like gravel. If that doesn’t work, you can even put him in a smaller kennel like the ones you would use to take him to the vet.
Wherever you leave your dog, whether in your yard, a kennel, or a pen, make sure he has some shelter, plenty of water, comfortable bedding, and a few toys to occupy his time and his mind. Never leave them outside in dangerous heat.
At this point, it’s also a good idea to work with a dog trainer or behaviorist to help change your dog’s behavior. A little dog training can really do wonders for his behavior. It gives him something to do, it keeps his mind and body active, and he gets to spend time with his favorite person — that’s you!