How To Keep Dogs From Digging Under the Fence

Updated: May 16, 2023

Find out what motivates dogs to dig under fences and how you can get them to stop with some simple tips and positive training techniques.

My dogs love digging in the yard. My old terrier attacks molehills with vigor, and my whippet digs because she’s a lunatic. When she was younger, she liked to dig on the fence line, and I was always worried she would get out one day.

Turns out, she wasn’t trying to escape. She was just trying to dig up the mice and other critters making their homes along our rural property boundary.

Dogs dig under fences for lots of reasons, and there are plenty of non-aversive ways to get them to stop. The key: Training them positively and reinforcing the behavior you want. Let’s take a look at some of the most effective ways to stop dogs from digging under the fence.

Create a Digging Zone

Dog behaviorist expert and trainer Lizzy Scollo, creater of the It’s For Life Dog Training website, says dogs dig for various reasons.

“You may be surprised to learn that you can correct digging with … digging!” she says. “One dog may dig for a cool place to chill on a hot summer day. Another dog may dig to burn off some pent-up energy … If you can give your dog an appropriate digging place, this could solve your problem while fulfilling their need.”

Scollo suggests burying some of your dog’s toys and bones in a sandbox. Letting your pup dig them up, she says, can be enriching while burning off some energy.

“If they go to dig in another area of the yard,” she says, “you can redirect them by bringing them to the sandbox and then heavily reinforce them with high-value treats for digging in the right place!”

This is my preferred method, too. I put a large kids’ sandbox in my yard and filled it with play sand. My dogs can dig in there as much as they like.

I also let them dig in the part of the yard where we have moles. This is a great natural mole deterrent; eventually, the moles take the hint and leave.

I’m not fussy about my yard. It’s more of a semi-wild space for pollinators and an enrichment zone for my dogs. However, if you prefer a pristine lawn, then redirecting your dog from the fence or the wider yard to a dedicated digging zone like a sandbox is the perfect solution.

Install a Digging Barrier

Burying a digging barrier at the base of the fence is a really smart option when you can’t always be outside with your dogs or you’re struggling with training and redirection. It’s labor-intensive, but it works.

Materials and tools

  • Barrier material (chicken wire, hardware cloth or concrete pavers);
  • Shovel;
  • Gloves;
  • Wire cutters.

Steps

  • Choose a barrier material.
  • Dig a trench around the perimeter of the fence, one to two feet deep.
  • Install the barrier material at the base of the fence, extending it into the trench.
  • Fill the trench with soil and pack it down firmly.

Address Your Dog’s Needs

This may sound obvious, but your dog could be digging under the fence because of unfulfilled needs. They could have pent-up energy, lack mental stimulation, be bored or feel anxiety.

Like us, our canine buddies are sentient beings with emotions and physical and mental needs. So take a look at your dog’s behavior and see if you can identify any triggers.

Does the digging happen when you haven’t had time to take your dog for a decent walk? Have you been busy or out at work all day, leaving your dog without significant interaction or mental stimulation? If you’re not sure, see a positive dog trainer or behaviorist who can help you and your dog.

Materials and tools

  • Dog toys and puzzles or a snuffle mat for mental stimulation.
  • Treats for training and positive reinforcement.
  • Professional assistance (veterinarian or behaviorist).

Steps

  • Ensure your dog is getting enough physical exercise and mental stimulation to alleviate boredom and anxiety.
  • Consult with a veterinarian or behaviorist to address medical or behavioral issues that may be causing the digging.
  • Train your dog using positive reinforcement techniques to discourage digging and encourage desired behaviors.

Use Landscape Design to Your Advantage

Sometimes, you need a little creativity. So why not beautify your garden and deter your dog’s digging antics at the same time?

Materials and tools

  • Shrubs, decorative rocks, mulch or gravel;
  • Gardening tools (shovel, gloves, etc.);
  • Raised garden beds or other landscape features.

Steps:

Install a Privacy Fence

If you have an open-style fence, like chain link, consider adding a screen or replacing it with a privacy fence.

A see-through fence lets your dog observe fun and interesting stuff outside of your yard. A privacy fence blocks the view, making it far less tempting for your dog to dig under, particularly if you redirect their digging urge as well.

Materials and tools

  • Tape measuring;
  • Fence panels and posts;
  • Gate and gate hardware (if needed);
  • Post hole digger or auger;
  • Concrete mix;
  • Level;
  • Hammer or power drill;
  • Nails or screws;
  • Sealant or stain (optional);
  • Paintbrush or sprayer (optional).

Steps

  1. Measure your yard to determine the amount of fencing needed and mark where each post will go.
  2. Clear the fence line of obstacles and use string to ensure the fence line is straight.
  3. Dig the post holes to about one-third the length of the post.
  4. Place the post in the hole, ensuring it’s level.
  5. Fill with concrete and let it set.
  6. Fill the rest of the hole with dirt.
  7. Attach the fence panels to the posts, ensuring each panel is level.
  8. If including a gate, install the gate posts and hang the gate, ensuring it’s level and swings freely.
  9. Install a latch or lock.
  10. If a wooden fence, consider sealing or staining for added durability.