How To Keep Dogs From Digging Under Fences

If you have a backyard enclosed by a fence, you might think that it is enough to keep your dog under control and safe. And in theory, it should be enough, right? The problem is, that some dogs (especially certain breeds of dogs), like to dig under the fence, not only causing a mess, but also sometimes fully escaping!

Now, you can’t have your dog digging under the fence for many reasons. Primarily, because you need your dog to stay in the backyard, safe. Secondly, because the fence might collapse, and your backyard will be ruined. So… how do you stop your dog from doing this?

First, you’ll need to identify the reason why your dog is digging under the fence. Some dog breeds are a lot more prone to others, due to their nature and digging capabilities. Then, you need to put a stop to this habit, and there are many methods to do so.

As long as you are consistent and patient, you should be able to solve the issue pretty easily. So let’s get to it!

Why Do Dogs Dig Under Fences?

Let’s start by talking about why it is that some dogs like to dig under the fence. You’ve told them no a million times, and yet they keep at it, time and time again, digging holes right under the fence. Why?

Well, there are actually many different reasons why your dog might be digging under the fence, and the first step is to try and identify which one it is!

Curiosity

If your dog is especially curious, they might simply be digging under the fence in order to see what’s on the other side. This is especially common if your backyard is close by to something loud, or that smells good in any way. Something that is making your dog want to know more about it.

Hunting Drive

Dogs are prey animals, and as such, it is within their natural behavior and instinct to have a prey drive. Of course, different dog breeds, and different individual dogs, will have varying levels of prey drive within them. For example, terriers, hounds, and other dog breeds that have traditionally been used for hunting, will have a much higher prey drive than other breeds.

The way this relates to digging, is that your dog might suspect there is an animal burrow under the fence, or similar, and they are trying to get to it in order to “hunt”. This is especially true if your dog keeps digging in the same few spots.

Boredom

Dogs are full of energy, and require a lot of mental stimulation in order to thrive, and be happy. If they are not getting enough exercise or mental stimulation, they will become bored incredibly fast. And if they are bored, they will develop behaviors that keep them entertained, such as destroying things in the house, or digging under a fence. This can happen especially if your dog is left alone in the backyard for long periods of time, with nothing to do.

Anxiety

Dogs that develop anxiety can become highly destructive, as well as fearful, and aggressive. If your dog digs holes under the fence any time they are left alone, it could be due to anxiety, and them trying to escape the backyard to get back to you (or away from you, if you are the cause of the anxiety).

Attention-seeking

This kind of links back to boredom, but it has more to do with your dog wanting your attention, specifically. If your dog gets a row from you every time they dig under the fence, then they know that in order to get your attention, doing something naughty works, and they will keep doing it.

Hiding And Burying Possessions

It is natural behavior, and instinctual, for dogs to hide their possessions, such as a favorite toy, or a bone, in order to keep it safe until they want to use it later on. If your dog is digging under the fence, and then leaving toys or bones in the hole, then this is the reason. They are burying their treasure!

Nesting Behavior

If the dog that is digging under the fence is pregnant, it could be due to nesting behavior, and they are simply trying to build themselves a safe space for when they give birth.

How To Stop Your Dog From Digging Under The Fence

Now that you know the different main reasons why your dog might be digging under the fence, it’s time to determine how you can put a stop to such a behavior, and here are our main tips:

Identify The Reason

The first step that you need to take, is identify the exact reason why your dog is digging under the fence. This will require a few days of observation, and testing different scenarios to narrow down the exact reason behind the behavior.

Depending on the reason, the solution might be simple.

If it is due to nesting behavior, provide your dog with a safer and comfier place, pre-prepared for giving birth, and get them accustomed to it.

If it is due to boredom, make sure that your dog has plenty of toys in the backyard, and that they are getting plenty of exercise and stimulation throughout the day.

If it is due to attention-seeking, reward only good behavior with your attention, and make sure you spend some quality time with your dog, so that they don’t feel the need to beg for your time.

If it is anxiety, try and eliminate the source of stress and discomfort, and if needed, go to the vet as they might be able to provide you with suitable medication that is safe and effective for your dog.

Any other reasons, relating to natural behavior, can be corrected through methods of redirection and training.

Place A Sandbox In The Backyard

This will give your dog a specific space where digging is allowed, so that no harm comes to the fence!

Place Chicken Wire Under The Fence

This is one of the most popular methods of stopping a dog from digging under the fence, and is usually very effective.

Decorate The Fence With Dog-friendly Bushes And Rocks

Landscaping your backyard so that digging under the fence is less accessible, is a great way to redirect your dog’s attention into trying something else.

Supervise And Redirect Behavior

Make sure you supervise your dog, in order to assess the situation, and redirect behavior when needed. You can train your dog to stop digging under the fence, and doing so should be fairly easy as long as you are consistent and patient.

Final Thoughts

If your dog is digging under the fence, and you want to stop this behavior (which you should, as it can be dangerous to let your dog keep digging under a fence), then the first thing you need to do is identify the reason. There are many reasons why a dog will be digging under a fence, and depending on which one it is, the solution varies. But at the end of the day, training, re-direction, and ensuring your dog is well-exercised and entertained, are the best ways forward.

PuppyLists is written by J., who has owned, trained, volunteered with, and loved dogs for nearly three decades. When she isn't writing or researching, she's out adventuring with her 14 year old Lab mix.