Having a yard where your dog can run around and play is so much fun for both you and them. A sturdy fence is designed to keep your dog safely enclosed in your garden.
However, if you have a dog who loves to dig, you may be getting sick of them creating holes along your fence line or digging up your flower beds. Thankfully, there are lots of ways you can stop your dog from digging under the fence aside from just filling in the holes.
1. Determine the Cause
Before you do anything else, it’s best to determine the cause of your dog’s digging if you can.
Digging is a natural instinct and many breeds will dig for fun. Some dog breeds are more prone to digging than others because they were bred to do specific jobs. For example, terriers were bred to follow prey into tunnels, digging their way through.
A common reason dogs may dig is if they’re not spayed or neutered. They may try to escape when they’re in heat if they’re female or if male dogs smell a nearby female in heat.
Other dogs will dig out of boredom, through anxiety (including separation anxiety), to hide something, or because they aren’t getting enough stimulation.
If you can observe your dog and figure out why they’re digging, you can work on changes and training to solve the problem.
2. Provide a Digging Spot
If your dog simply loves to dig, why not provide them with a place to dig in the garden? This might sound counterproductive, but by offering them a place where they’re allowed to dig they can fulfill that instinct without digging up the rest of your garden.
Set aside a ‘digging area’ in one corner of your garden with plenty of loose soil or sand. Each time they go to dig under the fence, direct them to their digging area and encourage them to have fun there. Reward your dog anytime they dig in the digging zone so they understand that’s where they’re allowed to dig.
3. Ensure Your Dog Is Getting Enough Exercise
Many dogs dig because they’re bored and frustrated. As dog owners, we need to ensure our dogs are getting plenty of exercise to prevent boredom and keep them healthy.
If you’re unsure if your dog is exercising enough, you can do some research online about the breed’s exercise needs. Alternatively, you can check in with your vet for guidance.
You can increase exercise by taking them on longer walks, playing interactive games, joining in with canine sports, or trying some new training commands.
While you’re working on tackling their digging, try giving them a brisk walk before they go out in the garden. This gets rid of excess energy, so they’re tired and therefore less likely to dig.
4. Ensure Your Dog’s Needs Are Met
Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise. Without it, dogs will be bored and frustrated and are likely to try and make their own fun.
Consider mentally stimulating toys such as treat dispensers and puzzle toys. You can even make puzzles yourself for your pup! A simple one I love to do with my dogs is playing ‘find it’ games with their treats or favorite toys.
Try new activities with your dog, such as dog agility or going running. You could even get involved with a local club or dog activity group.
You can also think about what your dog was bred for and try to fulfill those instincts. For example, if they were bred to work in water, find a safe swimming area. If they were bred to hunt, try scent games. The American Kennel Club has a great guide to scent games.
When your dog has their needs fully met and they’re happy, they’re far less likely to exhibit destructive behavior.
5. Ensure The Garden Is Comfortable for Your Dog
Some dogs dig when it’s hot to create a shallow, cool area to lie in. This is particularly true of breeds with thick coats who are bred for colder temperatures, such as Huskies.
If it’s hot weather, it’s crucial your dog has an area of shade to lie in and access to plenty of water. They shouldn’t be outside for long when the temperature is high as dogs can get heat stroke quickly.
6. Make the Garden More Interesting
If you feel like your dog’s motivation for digging holes is to escape, the most effective way to tackle this is to make the garden more interesting. Make it a place they want to be!
Try introducing garden toys such as balls, sprinklers, a paddling pool, tug toys, and anything else you can think of. Get involved and play with your pup to make their garden time more exciting.
You could do some training in the garden, which gets their mind working and keeps them engaged. You could even make a sensory area with lots of different dog-safe smells and textures to keep them occupied.
Regardless of their motivation for digging, if you make the garden exciting, they’re more likely to focus on the new fun activities than on digging.
7. Offer Treat Dispensing Toys
You could offer your furry friend a treat dispensing toy to keep them busy, especially if you don’t have time to join in with play when they’re outdoors.
Try a snuffle mat you can hide treats in or a lick mat that you can spread dog-safe peanut butter on (my dogs love this). You can buy treat dispensing toys that move as your dog tries to access the treats to keep them active. You could also go for the classic KONG, which can be filled with treats, chewed, and even used to play fetch!
8. Try Puzzle Toys
Puzzle toys are a great way to get your dog’s mind working. There are so many different types on the market with different levels of difficulty, so you can find something that works for your pup.
By engaging your dog’s mind, you tackle boredom which can reduce digging. Ensure you are supervising your dog with puzzle toys, especially if they have small removable parts as they can be a choking hazard.
9. Bury the Bottom of Your Fence
The Humane Society suggests burying the bottom of your fence one to two feet below the surface. This will help to keep your dog safely enclosed in your garden.
However, this can be a big job so it depends on your resources. If you have a large garden and a lot of fence to bury, it might not be the best option for you.
10. Install Wire
You can add wire mesh to the bottom of the fence to create a physical barrier. While this won’t stop your dog’s digging behavior by itself, it will help to keep them from escaping.
Chicken wire is an excellent option for this, and even better if you can bury it at the base of the fence. It works best when it’s installed in an L-shape, with part of the wire attached to the fence and the rest bent and buried under the ground to block digging.
Ensure you roll any sharp edges away from where your dog has access to protect your dog’s paws.
11. Install Chain-Link Fence
Installing chain-link fencing on the ground at the base of your fence is a similar concept to installing wire. This method discourages your dog from walking near the fence and from digging.
It provides a durable barrier that should keep your dog safely in the yard. Be sure to anchor it to the base of your fence or partially bury it so it’s securely installed.
12. Add Rocks
A simple, cheap way to create a barrier around the perimeter of your fence is to add rocks along the fence line. Use large rocks and try to bury some, as well as placing some on the surface. This will discourage digging and is a fairly cost-effective solution.
13. Add Gravel
Another good option is to add gravel to the base of the fence. It’s fairly affordable to buy a big bag of gravel at a garden center. Scatter it along the fence line, particularly in the places your dog tends to dig.
Gravel is uncomfortable for your dog to try to dig through, so this top layer may discourage your pup from digging.
14. Add Baseboards
Another way to block your dog from digging is to install baseboards. Use any sturdy wood planks and partially bury them at the base of your fence to create an extra barrier. This is particularly helpful to block any gaps at the bottom of your fence, making it more secure and giving you peace of mind.
15. Reduce Your Dog’s View
If you have a chain-link fence or one that allows your dog to see outside your garden, it may be time to reduce or block their view.
Sometimes seeing what’s going on outside can make them frustrated, for example seeing other dogs and people passing or kids playing. This may be because they want to protect their home, chase prey, or because they want to join in the fun and say hi!
Blocking their view can help to reduce this frustration and therefore, the associated digging behavior. You can either do this by replacing your existing fence with a solid fence, or by putting up a ‘screen’ in front of your current fence. A fabric or bamboo screen attached to your fence can be an easy solution.
16. Supervise Your Dog
It’s always best to supervise your dog when they’re out in the garden. The American Kennel Club advises that dogs are never left outside alone for long periods of time.
If your dog is prone to digging or other destructive behaviors, it’s even more important that they’re supervised for their safety. That way, you can notice your dog’s behavior straight away and work on redirecting their energy.
17. Add a Path Along the Fenceline
If you prefer a more aesthetically pleasing option to block your dog’s digging, why not install a path along your fence line? The gravel or stone will prevent digging, and it creates an added landscaping feature to your garden.
18. Add Trees and Bushes
You could plant trees and dog-friendly bushes along the fence line to deter your dog from digging. Dense, sturdy bushes and trees are best so your dog can’t easily dig them up.
Ensure anything you plant is safe for your dog to be around and won’t harm them if they decide to try and eat it. It’s best to combine this method with training, to teach your dog not to eat the plants and redirect destructive behavior.
19. Keep Pests Out of the Yard
If you think your dog is digging because they’re hunting pests, then you can work on keeping pests out of your garden. There are lots of humane ways to keep pests at bay. Of course, this depends on what animal is bothering your dog.
If you’re struggling, you could always contact a pest control professional. Ensure that any method used is safe for your dog and won’t harm them.
20. Praise Good Behavior
One of the best solutions to combat digging is through training. Your dog needs to understand that you don’t want them to dig, and what you want them to do instead.
Positive reinforcement and constant supervision are key here. As soon as you see them starting to dig, redirect your dog’s attention (there are more details below). Give them lots of praise and a reward when they exhibit good behavior instead of digging.
If you think your dog is digging for attention, it may be better for you to completely ignore the digging behavior. Instead, only give them attention when they exhibit good behavior. Make a big fuss and give them a treat each time they do something positive.
21. Redirect Your Dog’s Attention
As we mentioned above, one way to tackle digging is by redirecting your dog’s attention. When you see them digging, stop them and call them over to you. If they won’t come or aren’t listening, you can go over and bring them away from the fence.
Then give them something much more fun to do than digging! Spend some quality time with them, offer them a toy to play with, try some training, or create a game to play with them. This gives them a positive outlet for their energy that’s fun for them and not destructive.
22. Use a Deterrent Spray
A dog-safe deterrent spray may help to keep your dog away from the fence. These can be bought or made yourself but it’s important you do plenty of research to make sure it’s safe for your dog. Some people use a mixture of water and vinegar as dogs tend to dislike this smell.
It’s worth patch testing any spray on a less visible part of your fence, especially if you have a wooden fence as some sprays can cause discoloration.
23. Install a More Durable Fence
In some cases, a weak fence makes it easier for dogs to dig underneath. If this is the case and you have the resources to do so, you could install a more durable, new fence.
Find materials that are highly durable and sturdy, and be sure to bury the base of your fence well underground to deter your dog’s digging.
24. Add a Smaller Fence
Installing a smaller fence in front of your fence serves as a barrier to deter your dog from going near the fence line. The best way is to leave enough space for people to walk between the two fences, but not enough space for your dog to dig.
This method can be particularly useful if both your and your neighbor’s dog are aggravating each other, or if your dog is an escape artist . It provides a bit more security while you work on training.
25. Pour Concrete
If other options are failing, you could pour concrete around the base of your fence. A solid layer of concrete is pretty much impossible for your dog to dig through.
However, keep in mind that this is an expensive option and can be quite time-consuming if you have a larger area to cover. It’s also not the most aesthetically pleasing solution.
26. Work With a Dog Trainer
If you’re struggling to train your dog to stop digging yourself, it can be helpful to work with a professional trainer. They can get you off to a good start tackling the problem. They can also give you tools to continue training after your sessions with them.
This is a great option if you’re a first-time dog owner, or if your dog is simply resisting the training techniques you’ve tried. Often there are simple, small training adjustments that can be made to communicate more effectively with your pup.
27. Add a Dog Pen
As a last resort, you could put your dog in a dog pen when they’re outdoors for any length of time. You can put it in an area of your yard where there’s a solid surface, such as gravel or concrete to prevent digging. Many smaller dog pens come with solid bottoms.
However, this takes away the joy of the garden for both you and your dog, so it’s worth trying other methods first.
What Not To Do
It’s just as important to understand what not to do about your best friend’s digging. You shouldn’t:
Punish them later
If you catch your dog actively digging, telling them no and redirecting them to another activity is a great option.
However, you should never punish your dog later on when they’re no longer digging. They won’t understand what they’re being scolded for and it will only create confusion. Any correction needs to be done instantly for your dog to make that connection.
Although repetitive digging can be very frustrating, keep in mind that shouting at your dog isn’t very productive. Instead, focusing on a quick ‘no’ when appropriate and praising good behavior is much more effective.
The Humane Society states that punishing your dog after the fact: “won’t address the cause of the behavior and will worsen any digging that’s motivated by fear or anxiety.”
Fill holes with water
Filling the hole with water is not only unsightly, it typically won’t discourage your dog from digging. In fact, it might do the opposite if your dog enjoys splashing and swimming. They might have a great time creating a muddy bog and making even more mess.
Leave them tied up
You should never tether or use tie-outs to leave your dog restrained outside when they’re unsupervised. These items are useful during supervision but can be dangerous when your dog is left alone. Your dog can get tangled up and hurt, or a very determined dog may break free.
Use anything harmful
If you’re using any chemical substance to deter your dog, ensure it isn’t harmful to them. The last thing you want is to use something poisonous.
You should also make sure any physical deterrents you install aren’t hazardous to your dog.
Digging can be highly frustrating and unsightly, but thankfully there are plenty of ways you can stop your dog from digging under the fence.
Stephanie Gibeault, MSc, CPDT, (2019), Why Do Dogs Dig? American Kennel Club.
Sassafras Lowrey, CTDI, (2021), Indoor Scent Games for Dogs. American Kennel Club.
The Humane Society of the United States, (2022), How to get your dog to stop digging.