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17 Solutions for Dogs Who Dig Under Fences (and 4 Things NOT to Do)

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Dog Behavior By Kate Brunotts 11 min read November 14, 2021

stop dog digging under fence

If you have a hound Houdini at home, you know firsthand how challenging it can be to keep your furry friend safe and secure while he’s spending time out in the yard. Dealing with a pooch who’s constantly plotting prison breaks is undoubtedly stressful. 

Thankfully, with patience, creativity, and a little elbow grease, you can likely shore up your fence and keep your dog from digging his way to freedom. We’ll share some tips to help below! 

Solutions for Dogs Who Dig Under Fences: Key Takeaways

  • There are many ways to stop your dog from digging under a fence, but you need to identify his motivation for escaping to have the best chance of success. For example, some dogs dig under fences to escape a perceived threat, while others do so because they are just bored.
  • Once you’ve identified your dog’s reason for escaping, you can start to implement strategies to stop him from tunneling to freedom. For example, if your dog is digging because he’s bored, you may need to provide more enrichment opportunities and entertainment.
  • While there are numerous strategies you should consider implementing to stop your dog from digging under the fence, there are also things you should not do. This includes, for example, scolding him after he’s already escaped or implementing any strategies that may cause injuries.

Why Do Dogs Dig Under Fences?

reasons dogs try to escape

In order to help your dog stay safe, it’s important to understand why he may seem determined to dig his way out of the backyard. Your dog may try to escape for a variety of reasons that may include:

  • He’s bored. It’s possible that your dog is just looking for something to do. Particularly brainy dogs need a job to stay happy, and hanging out in a yard with the same old toys (or none at all) doesn’t always fit the bill. Some smart canine contenders may include border collies, poodles, and German shepherds among others. 
  • Your furry friend sees a squirrel he can’t resist. Some dogs have stronger prey drives than others. Those who are particularly drawn to something beyond the fence may attempt to cut loose after their prey. This can be more common in sight and scent hounds, as well as terriers. 
  • He’s taking his guarding duties a little too seriously. Protective pups, particularly guardian breeds, may be inclined to escape if they detect a perceived threat which can present potential safety issues for everyone involved. 
  • He craves companionship. Plenty of pups want nothing more than to spend time with those they love. Therefore, your furry friend may try to seek out companionship beyond the fence if he’s left alone outside without a sufficient amount of interaction. 
  • Nature calls. Dogs that haven’t been fixed, especially males, may attempt to escape if they smell a nearby female in heat. Mating urges can sometimes override your pup’s desire to stay inside the confines of your backyard. 
  • He’s anxious. An anxious or stressed dog may try to escape a yard simply because he is confined. Your pooch could be panicked out of separation anxiety or spooked by a scary stimulus like approaching thunderstorms or fireworks.  
Take The Time To Train Your Dog

As the saying goes, dogs will learn whether we are there to teach them or not. Basically, these solutions will not always work on their own — you will often need to teach your dog appropriate ways to modify his behavior.

It’s also important that you monitor your dog closely after installing a new physical barrier to ensure that he doesn’t unintentionally hurt himself. Unfortunately, combating habitual digging is rarely an overnight fix.

17 Solutions for Dogs Who Dig Under Fences

Without further ado, here are some super solutions that will help prevent your dog from digging under your fence. Some of these methods take more time to implement than others, but investing in these strategies is certainly worth keeping your canine companion safe. 

1. Fill Any Present Holes

fill in holes dogs dig

Sometimes, dogs can be attracted to existing holes, so it’s essential to fill up any holes as they arise. If there are any regular “problem spots”, it might make sense to cover up the area with landscaping or other lawn fixtures to deter your dastardly digger. 

2. Bury The Bottom Portion of The Fence

If your dog tends to dig under the fence, you’ll want to bury the bottom portion of the panels as soon as possible. This is pretty essential for building any dog-proof fencing for an escape artist. You can bury the fence at least one to two feet below the surface to ensure that your furry friend doesn’t slip under and out.

If your canine is a climber and you have a chain link fence, you might want to bury large rocks or another obstruction near the fence line as an additional deterrent. 

3. Attach Wire To The Bottom of The Fence

Burying or attaching a bit of chicken wire to the bottom of your fence provides an extra barrier that your dog won’t be able to dig through. You can also anchor a small strip of plastic fencing to the bottom of any DIY dog fence which makes it tricky for your four-footer to dig his way to freedom.

4. Pile Gravel At the Base of the Fence

gravel to stop dog digging

Gravel is uncomfortable for dogs to dig through, so creating a top layer near the base of the fence may stop your hound Houdini right in his tracks. This is an easy solution, especially for privacy fences which can be challenging to modify with wire. 

5. Pour Concrete at The Bottom of the Fence 

Your furry friend can’t dig through concrete, so this extra layer is a surefire way to prevent your pooch from escaping underground. That being said, this can change the landscape of your backyard and be a pretty costly option, but it’s also one of the most effective ways to keep your canine contained.

6. Dog-Safe Digging Deterrents

Using a dog-safe deterrent spray may help prevent your pooch from coming near your fence and therefore, trying to escape it. That being said, you’ll need to test a small portion on a less visible section of privacy fences, since it’s possible that deterrent sprays could discolor wood or other materials. 

You can also use things like diluted vinegar near the base of the fence to help deter digging. This doesn’t work for all dogs, but it’s certainly worth a try since it’s a pretty inexpensive solution. 

7. Give Your Furry Friend A Place Where He Can Dig

give dog somewhere he is allowed to dig

Plenty of pups dig for entertainment or do so since it’s in their nature. Sometimes, providing your dog with a safe space where he can dig will prevent him from needing to dig where he shouldn’t. You can help your dog stop digging holes in the yard by providing a digging safe space like a sandbox. Digging can be a very rewarding enrichment activity, and many owners have success relocating their dog’s digging rather than halting it completely.

Note that you may have to spend some time redirecting your four-footer to his approved digging spot before he gets the idea. 

8. Neuter or Spay Your Pet

If your furry friend is digging himself out in pursuit of a mate, it’s a good idea to get him neutered. There are several benefits to having your dog spayed or neutered, one being that the surgery may reduce your dog’s urges to find fun outside of the fence. 

9. Provide More Physical Exercise

Is your furry friend getting enough exercise? Plenty of pooches may as a result pent up energy, so providing more enrichment before your best buddy relaxes in the yard could be the key to eliminating unwanted digging. 

A couple of ways you can integrate more physical exercise into your dog’s life include:

10. Eliminate Sight-lines 

block sightlines to stop escapes

If your pooch is digging in pursuit of prey, it may be a good idea to look into a privacy fence. Chainlink fences can help contain your canine, but unfortunately, they still give your furry friend a sightline to the outside world, which could lead Fido to get mixed up in some mutt mischief.

Eliminate any direct lines of sight by using solid fences and strategic landscaping. 

11. Add An Invisible Fence

While it’s always best to opt for physical barriers first and foremost, some owners may be inclined to explore the possibilities of installing an invisible dog fence.  If you are going to go this route, you need to spend plenty of time training your pooch how the invisible fence works to keep him safe. 

There’s nothing wrong with having an invisible fence in conjunction with a physical fence for extra security. Just remember that this option isn’t fit for every pooch, and not all owners are comfortable with zapping their dog every time they attempt to leave the perimeter.

12. Make Sure Your Canine Is Comfortable

give your dog a house for comfort

Your dog might be digging in an effort to become cooler or find a warm place to relax. Depending on your dog’s needs, a pooch pool or an outdoor dog house can help him stay comfortable and prevent digging.

If your furry friend is too cold, make sure his dog house has some cozy bedding — you might also want to send your canine out with a coat before heading out to the yard. 

13. Make Sure Spot Isn’t Spooked

If your dog is attempting to escape out of fear, it’s essential to identify the source of your dog’s worries so that he can confidently relax in the yard. Take the time to observe your dog outside — are there any stimuli that send him into a digging fury?

You can also use a dog camera to keep tabs on your furry friend from far away. Your dog might be experiencing separation anxiety, which entails a whole different set of strategies you’ll need to implement. When in doubt, speak with a trained behaviorist to get to the bottom of your furry friend’s fears. 

14. Eliminate Digging Rodents With Pet-Safe Tools

If you have digging rodents like moles or gophers, it’s possible that your dog is simply following their lead or chasing after them. Eliminating the infestation can help curb your dog’s dedicated digging, though it’s essential that you do so in a dog-safe manner.

To obtain the best results and ensure you employ a dog-safe strategy for ridding your yard of rodents, it’s wisest to solicit the help of pest-control professionals.

15. Provide More Enrichment 

Flirt Poles for Dogs

Is your best buddy just bored? Some dogs may end up digging if there’s nothing better to do, so providing more engaging toys or games for you furry friend can help save your yard and keep Fido secure. Remember, for many dogs, mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise!

Some canine enrichment activities your dog may enjoy include:

16. Add New Landscaping Features

Creative landscaping like cleverly placed trees, rocks, and gravel can all help keep your canine confined. Just make sure you’re planting dog-friendly shrubs and discourage your dog from munching on the new garden. 

17. Supervise Your Precious Pooch When He’s Outside

Some dogs need constant supervision while in the backyard, especially while they are mastering their mutt manners. Until you’re certain that your dog can be trusted on his own for short periods of time, it’s best to keep a keen eye on your dog while he’s enjoying the outdoors. This will also give you the opportunity to redirect your furry friend if he starts digging up the yard. 

4 Things NOT To Do to Stop Digging Dogs 

things not to do to stop dog digging

While it’s important to understand how to keep your furry friend secure, it’s just as essential to know what NOT to do. Here are a couple of faulty strategies you’ll need to avoid:

1. Don’t Punish Your Dog Long After An Incident

We don’t always catch our dogs in the act. While it’s fine to tell your dog to knock it off if you catch him in the moment (and better yet, redirect him to a more productive activity), it’s not productive to scold your dog long after the initial digging occurred. Your dog will just be confused and none the wiser. 

2. Don’t Use Anything That Could Hurt Your Dog

Don’t use aggressive chemical repellents or poisons that could easily hurt your dog in any effort to deter digging. Also, stay away from sharp objects or hard obstructions that could injure your precious pooch. 

3. Don’t Leave Your Dog Tethered and Unsupervised

Neither tethers nor dog tie-outs are safe to use while unsupervised. They can be used as a replacement for a long leash while you’re outside with your dog, but not when your four-footer is on his own. 

4. Don’t Fill The Hole With Water 

Water isn’t going to permanently fill the hole and might even encourage your dog to explore it further if he’s fond of splashing or swimming. Take the time to properly refill any holes to match the terrain of the rest of the yard. 

Be Warned: Determined Doggos May Look for Alternatives

Redirecting your dog to stay safe while unsupervised outside can be a process. Remember that dogs who’re absolutely determined to escape may change tactics if you prevent them from digging.

Unfortunately, you may have to look into other solutions once you eliminate the digging issue. This isn’t unnecessarily an issue you can fix overnight, but with a little patience and some of these strategies, you’re sure to find a way to keep your sweetheart secure.

***

Dealing with a serial digger can be incredibly frustrating. However, with a couple of creative solutions and training sessions, you’ll be able to keep Spot safe while he spends time in the yard. 

Does your dog dig under the fence? Have any of these solutions worked for you? Tell us all about it in the comments below! 

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Written by

Kate Brunotts

Kate is a dog-loving content specialist with over a decade of canine-care experience. She is currently a professional dog walker and pet sitter, with previous experience working at the Heart of Chelsea Animal Hospital in Manhattan. When not spending time with four-footers, she can usually be found crafting top-notch dog-care articles that pet parents can trust. Kate loves dogs of all shapes and sizes, but Bernese Mountain Dogs hold a special place in her heart.

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