Learn How To Stop Your Dog From Digging Under The Fence
I know the frustration all too well of dealing with a digging dog. My dog would dig up freshly laid flower beds. Lovingly planted time capsules. Toys that the other dogs have hidden. And, of course, dig under fences.
Unfortunately, stopping your dog from digging under the fence is harder than stopping them from jumping over a fence. This is because you’ll likely need more tools to help you.
This is because digging is a completely natural behaviour for dogs. Jumping or climbing isn’t as natural or common. Dogs also dig in the same spot over and over again. Therefore digging is a harder behaviour fix.
Don’t worry! In this article, we’ll break down why dogs dig and how you can stop them. Let’s dive in.
Why Do Dogs Dig?
The short answer is that digging is as natural to a dog as barking or panting. It’s a natural canine behaviour descendant from wolves. Wolves dig to hide and/or catch prey. For much of human history, we’ve found their innate instinct to dig to be very useful.
Related: Why Do Dogs Dig Holes?
“In the case of certain breeds, human intervention made the digging instinct even stronger. Think about terriers. These dogs are also known as “earth-dogs” because of their incredible commitment to following prey into tunnels in the earth, even if that means digging their way in. Humans purposefully developed these breeds to exhibit this behaviour.” - Stephanie Gibeault, MSc, CPDT from the American Kennel Club (1)
If a dog isn’t sufficiently exercised and entertained, they could take to destructive behaviours. Digging holes is just one of them. This is combined with the thrill of potentially escaping the garden fence to go exploring the outside world leash-free.
They are in heat and want to roam
Roaming is a behaviour you see in non-desexed male dogs (sometimes non-desexed female dogs too). It’s when a dog will walk around the neighbourhood in search of a potential mate. If a non-desexed dog can smell a female in heat in the local area, they may try an escaping act to get to them. This is rarer for female dogs but it’s not unheard of for female dogs to also try and escape to meet potential eligible bachelors in the wild.
If you leave your dog home alone, they may try to dig under the fence because of separation anxiety. This is a very pervasive issue in dogs. It takes plenty of gentle training and reassurance to help dogs grow out of this.
They are trying to get to someone or something on the other side
Similar to climbing the fence, dogs may dig under the fence to reach an aggressor or interesting party on the other side. This could be as simple as wanting to say hello to a neighbouring dog or chase the local postman.
7 Dog Digging Under Fence Solutions
Now we’ve discussed the reasons why your dog may be digging, here are some potential solutions you can put in place to stop the behaviour. Some solutions will work better than others depending on your dog and your fence. It'll all make sense very soon! Read on.
Related: How To Dog-Proof A Fence.
Make The Fence Impenetrable
If you can make the fence an unappealing or impenetrable force against your dog’s digging nature, you can stop your dog in their tracks before they cause any damage.
Deterring your dog is the simplest but also least effective. There are various anti-digging sprays or dog deterrents that you can spray on any garden areas you want your dog to avoid.
Related: The Best Electric Dog Fences.
The reason this is less effective is that not all dogs have the same reaction to repellents. They may dislike the smell but their goal of digging under the fence overtakes any discomfort of smelly smells.
It’s better to work on the fence itself. Ensure that the bottom of your fence is deeply buried by the ground. This works for both wooden fencing and chain link fencing.
Related: The Best Dog Digging Repellent.
You can also attach chicken wire to the bottom of your fence to avoid your dog being able to dig through it. Piling gravel around the base of the fence has the same effect.
Create A Space Safe For Digging
If your dog isn’t trying to escape, but rather just enjoys digging, you can give them the gift of a safe place to dig. A sandpit is an obvious addition if you’re happy to install one in your garden.
Your dog will love having a place to exercise their natural instinct to dig. You can even give them some toys to bury in their sandpit or bury some ahead of time for them to discover.
Desex Your Dog
In our list of reasons, we mentioned that your dog may have an ulterior motive for…erhm…fraternising with the neighbour dogs that aren’t necessarily aggressive in nature. That’s a posh way of alluding that a non desexed dog may be sniffing out a local partner and digging under the fence to get to them.
Desexing your dog can solve many behavioural issues. But note, this will only work if your dog is trying to escape to roam. If your dog’s digging is motivated by something else, this won’t stop them.
Block The View To Outside The Fence
If your dog is triggered by someone or something on the other side of the fence, blocking the view out can help soothe them. You can use a second fence or tall plants to block the view of the world beyond the fence.
This is mildly effective. Remember dogs have been hearing and smell so they can probably still tell that something interesting is happening on the other side of the fence. But I can attest to the fact that it does help to build an occlusive barrier. This is how I got my dog to stop attempting to escape by climbing or digging under the fence.
Entertain Your Fido
A bored dog is a destructive dog! Chewing. Stealing. Digging. The great trifecta of a dog in need of entertainment. There are a few ways to solve this without being locked into an endless tug of war game with your pup.
The first is to take daily long, active walks. This should help your dog burn off some extra energy that they’re using to dig holes. Bear in mind that a “long” walk is completely relative to your dog’s energy levels.
Next, you have robot dog toys that can interact with your dog whether you’re home or away. From ball launchers to automatic treat dispensers, you can count on these handy electronics to help keep your dog entertained when you’re away.
If you don’t want to spend that kind of money, simple chew toys and engaging crate spaces can help too.
Just Say No
You’ll likely need to train your dog to prevent them from digging under the fence if they’ve already established the habit. Dogs like to dig holes in the same places.
Here are some gentle training techniques you can use to stop your dog digging:
Consider A Playpen
Much like baby playpens, puppy play pens are large enclosures that can give your dog outdoor time without having free rein over the garden.
The best playpens have plenty of space for toys. Create an enriching environment and let your dog play in there if digging becomes a real issue.
My Final Thoughts
We hope this article helped you figure out why your dog may be digging under the fence and how to stop them. Remember that if the behaviour has built into a habit, it’ll take time and patience to correct. If nothing seems to be working over months of at-home training, speak to a professional dog behaviourist or trainer for help.
When it comes to dog digging repellent, vinegar is a common, natural alternative to the bottled stuff. But is it effective? Yes! Dogs dislike the smell of vinegar and will stay away from any areas where they smell vinegar nearby.
However, you may want to be careful with any neighbouring grass or plants.
“...use cotton balls soaked in vinegar in the area you wish to keep dogs out of. Do not pour vinegar straight onto the ground as this will kill plants.” (2)
- Gibeault, S. October 25, 2019. “Why Do Dogs Dig?”. American Kennel Club. Retrieved January 29, 2022. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/why-is-my-dog-digging/
- Rhoades, H. June 13, 2021. “Natural Homemade Dog Repellents”. Gardening Know-How. Retrieved January 29, 2022. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/plant-problems/pests/animals/natural-homemade-dog-repellent.htm