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5 Solutions to Stop Your Dog from Digging Under the Fence

Although our canine companions might have a different opinion on this matter, fences are not just for decoration.

Besides providing privacy, a fence’s purpose is to keep the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. The solid structure acts as a wall of protection and safety.

Until your canine decides to escape from Alcatraz (at least in his eyes).

Learn how to keep your dog from digging under the fence with these simple and effective methods.

While a yard that resembles the moon’s surface is not the most beautiful sight, it also becomes dangerous once your dog starts digging deep holes and eventually escapes through one of them.

If you want to own certain breeds in countries like Germany, you are required to fence your yard in a way that it’s high enough and safe enough for your dog to remain inside.

You always have to consider your dog’s behavior when choosing a fence type.

If you’ve got a guarding dog breed for your family or if your dog undesirably patrols and guards a lot, you should choose a fence that is not see-through.

A jumper should be secured with a very high fence, preferably with lean-ins at the top.

What about a dog who loves to dig?

Dog resting on their side in front of a wooden fence.
Photo by Jaromir Chalabala on Shutterstock

At this point, you’ve decided what material to use. Probably wood or vinyl, maybe even a fence made out of iron. You’ve probably already calculated the height for your dog who just loves to jump.

Now comes the monumental digging question. How do you get your dog to stop?

You can stop your dog from digging under the fence by redirecting to a sandbox, placing chicken wire under the fence, hammering another fence layer into the ground, or decorating your yard with dog-friendly bushes or heavy stones.

Causes of Dog Digging

Digging is an instinctive behavior that a couple of breeds display more excessively than others, namely Terriers (don’t forget about the Dachshund, of course).

You should not try to prohibit this behavior as some dogs have the need to do it just like other dogs prefer sniffing over toys or even treats.

It can definitely be linked to psychological problems, among them:

  • Boredom
  • Attention-seeking
  • Anxiety
  • Hunting
  • Nesting (pregnant dogs)
  • Hiding possession

Some dogs learn to dig in connection to hiding possession when they’re with their littermates.

Other issues like excessive hunting could be learned behavior, especially if there’s a second dog in the household that displays this behavior.

Depending on the cause, various solutions can be considered. But how do you know what causes your dog’s digging behavior?

Anxiety

Anxiety in dogs would not only be displayed while digging. An overall anxious dog will also show other symptoms when being confronted with new situations or triggers.

Especially separation anxiety might cause digging when you leave your dog alone in the yard. There would be holes under the fence all around the yard.

He would also show typical signs of anxiety which include: pacing, aggression, destructive behavior, depression, barking, and excessive eliminating.

Your dog would really put in an effort and try to escape the yard to get back to you as quickly as possible. So the digging usually only occurs when being left home alone.

The best solution for this problem would be to work on solving separation anxiety which should eliminate the digging.

Hunting

Every dog has a different level of prey drive. Breeds with high prey drive include Terriers, Hounds, and hunting breeds like the Weimaraner.

Your dog would not only show hunting behavior in the yard but also on walks and while playing.

The digging is more concentrated on one or two spots where your dog suspects an animal and the holes would have a path-like structure.

If you are generally okay with your dog’s hunting then read the solutions down below. To lower your dog’s prey drive, you should read the tips mentioned here.

Boredom

A dog usually gets bored pretty quickly when being left alone in the yard for longer periods without anything to do.

Especially high-energy breeds or puppies will have the biggest problem with this.

The holes would be all over the place and not very deep. To solve boredom, you can read my blog on how to exercise your puppy (+ a free DIY Agility course PDF). You’ll also find a great resource below.

Dog Digging Solutions

Once you have excluded all underlying behavior or medical problems and your dog is still digging, you will need something better.

The best way to stop the digging is to prevent or redirect it.

1. Redirecting to a Sandbox

Dogs that love digging will need an outlet for that. It’s a natural behavior and without the right outlet, he will continue to mess up the yard and possibly even escape.

Providing your dog with a safe digging zone will keep him happy and your yard clean.

You can use a simple kids’ sandbox or even build your own. Make sure not to use one out of plastic as your dog might chew off some parts and choke on them.

Solid and waterproof wood would be the best material for this job. Something like the Octagon Wooden Sandbox.

The sandbox should be filled with loose sand or soil and placed in the shade. When introducing the sandbox, make it very engaging and fun so your dog will not be tempted to dig up the yard again.

Hide his favorite toys in the sand and reward him with treats whenever he is in the box. If you catch him digging in another spot, say a firm “no” and guide him back to his sandbox, followed by a treat.

Make your yard as unattractive as possible for your dog with tips that you will learn in the following paragraphs.

These solutions don’t have to be permanent and can be removed at any time.

2. Chicken Wire

By burying chicken wire under the fence, you will discourage your dog from digging there. Measure your fence carefully and buy the right amount of chicken wire to bury under the fence with one side sticking into the yard.

Dig a trench under the fence that is deep enough to comfortably lay the chicken wire inside.

The trench should have the exact width of your dog’s digging holes. Put the dirt back into the trench until the wire is fully covered.

3. Landscaping

Decorating the spots where your dog is constantly digging will eventually eliminate the behavior.

Look into planting dog-friendly bushes along your fence or placing different-sized rocks and stones there.

A stone path beside the fence looks great and will keep your dog inside.

Get creative with it, you could even consider building an Asian-inspired water feature.

Infographic explaining five steps on how to stop a dog from digging under the fence.

4. Fence Under a Fence

This tip works just like the chicken wire but it’s hammered into the ground horizontally instead of at a 90-degree angle. It’s the best solution for dogs that are digging tunnels and are eager to escape.

For this, you will only need the top part of the wired fence that will be pushed into the ground from the inside of the fence.

Paired with the chicken wire, this will build an underground security system that your dog won’t be able to escape from.

5. Supervise!

A dog should be always supervised when being in the yard. It’s boring to be alone there anyways.

Especially fence fighters or escape artists should never be left outside alone.

Interacting and playing with your dog will build a strong bond and your dog won’t even be thinking about digging. You will be able to correct any undesired behavior which will speed up the learning process.

The tips mentioned above should only be considered for situations where you have to get inside for a minute.

If you are leaving your dog at home alone then rather crate him instead of leaving him outside. There are just too many risks involved.

Recommended Reading: 12 boredom busters to keep your dog entertained in the yard.

How to Keep a Dog from Digging Under a Chain Link Fence

Chain-link fences are easy to install and one of the cheapest options out there.

If your dog gets very stressed out by the outside world or gets into fence fights with other dogs then consider using a fence that is not see-through.

Apart from that, just look out for any spots around the fence that have dips or no grass growing on top of it. Bare soil will make it easier for your dog to dig under the fence.

All of the solutions I have mentioned above will work just great with a chain-link fence.

Another option would be to drive tent stakes into the ground while connecting them to the bottom wire of the fence.

They can be placed a few inches apart and will discourage any digging behavior.

Neighbors Dog Digging Under My Fence

Now that we have talked about keeping your dog inside, it’s time to see what we could do against the neighbor’s dog that is digging under the fence from the other side.

This can really evolve into an issue if two dogs rile each other up.

One solution would be to build a redundant fence which means a fence within a fence.

Building two fences apart from each other with a nice walking space in between creates a safe place for both of the dogs so they won’t encourage each other to dig.

Talk to your neighbor and speak with them about the solutions I have mentioned above and if they could implement them in their yard too. It’s the responsibility of an owner to keep their dog confined.

Take pictures of the holes and document different incidents for legal matters.

A dog that is about to escape from digging under the fence is a danger to others and himself.

Conclusion

Digging behavior starts with the right type of fence. Animals, dogs, or people outside might encourage your dog to escape under the fence.

Behavior issues like hunting or separation anxiety will need to be ruled out first in order to stop the digging.

Always supervise your dog in the yard and keep him from getting bored. That way, you can also correct undesired behavior if you catch your dog during the act.

By placing rocks along the fence and burying chicken wire in the ground, you will ensure that the digging will stop eventually.

Provide your dog with a sandbox digging zone that is filled with loose sand or soil.

Consult a behaviorist or dog trainer if you have tried all of the above and nothing seems to work.

Let me know in the comments if you were able to solve your dog’s digging and how you accomplished that.

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Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutrionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.

About Danielle

I am the founder of PawLeaks where I share weekly tips on dog training and behavior. Sharing a passion for dogs and helping owners to solve problems through understanding canine behavior and modification is my number one goal.

Grandma Ann

Sunday 3rd of April 2022

My border collie/cocker spaniel mix is obsessed by digging underneath my cement back steps to the point that my chihuahua can go under and they think prey is under there they do the sane under my shed and up the water drain from my gutters they are driving me crazy

[email protected]

Sunday 13th of February 2022

I have a Australian Shepard, hunter, and blonde lab that I rescued from a shelter. He is a digger and the 6 ft. wooden fence I put up 2 yrs ago is being literally demolished. Just recently the renters that moved into the house next door got a terrier and he and my dog are destroying my fence. They both seem to be digging underneath the fence. I am installing a new fence on the one side in the next 2 weeks and instead of wood I am going with vinyl. I also plan on using steel reinforcements under it to keep both of them from digging into my yard, I have had my dog for 5 yrs now but his behavior lately has me concerned. Is there some kind of deterrent spray I can get to keep them from digging until my new fence comes? It has to be something that will not harm either of them.

Danielle

Thursday 24th of February 2022

Hey Sheila, ways to deter the dogs would be spraying vinegar, citrus, a mix of essential oils, or store-bought dog deterrent spray. However, all this will affect the lawn and vegetation surrounding it if you're not careful. Also, it's not really a totally sure way of deterring them as they might just plow through it, especially if you have a longer fence and there are other areas.

If it's just the digging behavior you're concerned about, installing a secure fence and giving your dog an outlet might do the trick.

Cheers, Danielle

shiela

Friday 7th of January 2022

Thanks for the ideas and solutions, I plan to install a fence and choosing a design is important and most of the contractors will just do their work and manage your dream fence now I have an idea I hope it will prevent my dog to dig under the fence .

Jacqueline Barden-Esquivel

Sunday 4th of October 2020

My dog breaks my fence boards. Or breaks the bords and escapes.

Danielle

Monday 5th of October 2020

Hey Jacqueline,

you may want to think about a different material because making the fence digging-proof surely won't solve that problem :). Proper exercise could lessen the desire to escape, and I'd recommend not to let your dog alone in the yard when you're away to prevent any accidents.

Have a great day, Danielle

Linda

Wednesday 11th of September 2019

I love to read honest and educated tips from an obvious animal lover.