There’s no doubt that we love dogs, but sometimes some of their natural habits annoy us.
Take, for instance, digging. Imagine that you have a beautiful garden full of vibrant flowers and hedges which form a pretty border alongside a picket fence. Now imagine your happy-go-lucky dog bounding through your garden as he chases a squirrel. He frantically scrabbles under the fence to continue after the squirrel.
Does this sound like something that happens to you? Dogs digging under fences can not only be dangerous for your gardens. Dogs also run the risk of escaping through a hole or hurting themselves on wood or metal.
So how do you prevent your dog from digging to the center of the Earth to get under a fence? Here we’ll cover some tips and tricks you can use to keep your dog and your fence safe and secure.
Why Dogs Dig and How to Address These Causes
Identifying why your dog digs marks the first step in addressing how to stop it. The Humane Society of the United States remarks that dogs dig for a number of reasons:
- To entertain themselves
- Hunting prey
- Comfort or shelter
- To gain attention
To Entertain Themselves
Lack of stimulation often appears as a root cause for canine behavioral problems such as digging. Some dogs dig if they become bored. Maybe they lack toys to interact within the yard, they come from a breed which inherently dig such as terriers, or they enjoy working such as border collies or sheepdogs.
If you suspect your dog digs to alleviate boredom, you can try a few different things to increase the amount of time they spend with people instead of by themselves.
Try placing toys around the yard for your canine friend to play with. We especially recommend interactive ones such as Kong brand toys or frisbees that allow you to help your dog burn off their energy.
Also, ensure your dog receives plenty of exercise each day through walks or romps through their favorite dog park! Or, you might try teaching them some tricks or commands.
Overall, spend as much time with your dog as possible. Not only will you bond with them, but you will also hopefully lessen the amount they dig!
By nature, dogs are carnivores and possess an innate desire to hunt. Dog owners replicate this by giving our dogs toys, playing with them, and giving them other companions to play with. These, however, may not be enough. Sometimes dogs just want to chase the furry critters in your backyard!
Your dog might be hunting prey if they dig in a particular, isolated location, at roots or shrubs, or follow a path in your yard. They may also simply take off after a creature which runs across your backyard.
To combat this, consider humanely removing any rodents or prey animals from your backyard. You can also place items around your plants such as herbs or other treatments (make sure to make them non-toxic and safe for your dog and other creatures) to decrease their desirability to animals.
Comfort or Shelter
Some dogs dig holes in warm or cold weather to make themselves more comfortable. Or, if they have no shelter and adverse weather acts up, they might dig to protect themselves from the elements.
Some signs your dog burrows for shelter or comfort include if they lay in the dug-out hole, they appear to be searching for water, or if they lack shelter or don’t use provided shelter.
Provide ample, comfortable shelter for your dog such as a dog house or other shelter. Also, give them enough water if they play outdoors. Lastly, bring them inside if the weather turns inclement such as rain, snow, or sleet. This will keep them safe, happy, and protected.
To Gain Attention
Most dogs love attention! However, some sassy dogs might feel neglected and dig to gain their owner’s attention. Sometimes, this turns into a cycle where dogs know engaging in an undesirable behavior gives them the attention they seek.
Fortunately, breaking this cycle doesn’t have to be difficult. Simply praise your dog for engaging in good behavior with lots of treats and pats. Interacting with them on a regular basis, such as playtime and walks, also helps prevent digging for attention and out of boredom.
Sometimes, dogs just want to escape if they see something that excites, interests, or scares them. You might notice your dog looking to escape if they run or dig along the bottom of your fence.
Ways to Stop Dogs from Digging
Above we mentioned a few ways to address the causes of dogs digging including boredom, hunting, seeking comfort or shelter, attention-seeking, and escape. Nevertheless, correcting the behaviors does not always work. Sometimes you need to take further steps.
Here are some more practical tips and ways to stop your dog from digging in a little more detail.
1. Interact with your dog
Dogs digging under fences often stem from boredom or want of attention. This in turn comes from their need and desire to interact with people. Spending time and engaging with them through walks, playing, and lots of pets and cuddles makes for happy owners and happy pups.
It’s tempting to let your dog into the backyard to amuse himself while you perform chores around the house. While great for short periods of time, you should supervise your dog as much as possible when they roam around outside.
Consider training your dog to desist digging when you see it with gentle commands such as “leave it”. The linked video provides a great demonstration about how to teach your dog to leave things alone, and this includes fencing.
2. Give your dog an appropriate place to dig
Create a “dig pit” for your dog to satisfy his urge to dig! Not only does it give him a designated place to dig, it saves the rest of your yard from being torn up. This distracts your dog from other undesirable areas in which he could dig.
Distracting your dog does not eliminate his digging behavior. Rather, it encourages him to contain his actions to one space. This makes both you and your dog happy!
Easily construct a dig pit by placing a barrier of bricks, stones, or wood around the designated area. Then, use a shovel or trowel to dig a little or spread the area with loose dirt or sand.
If needed, train your dog to use the dig pit by burying some of his toys or bones underneath the surface. He’ll learn to associate the dig pit with goodies. Any time you see him lying on or using the pit, praise him! Gently correct him if you see undesirable digging behavior by directing him to the dig pit.
3. Dig-proof your fence
Don’t worry – you do not have to replace your fencing! It’s quite cost-efficient to dig-proof your fencing without having to replace it. Through reinforcing the fence bottom, landscaping, or other barriers, you can decrease the likelihood of your dog burrowing under your fence.
Consider constructing an L-footer of chicken wire to form a dog-proof barrier that skirts around the perimeter at a 90° angle to the fence base. You can bury an L-footer in the ground or you can weight it down it with stakes, bricks, blocks, or other items so it’s difficult for your dog to budge.
Another prevention method concerns the use of landscaping to curtail digging. Rocks, for instance, can deter dogs from tunneling. They also have the added benefit of providing a nice aesthetic to your yard. The size rocks you use may depend on the size of your dog.
You may come across rocks from other landscaping efforts in your yard. Or, you can purchase them from your local gardening, outdoor, or hardware store. Keep in mind that larger dogs might require larger rocks to deter them.
As made famous in the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, shrubbery also forms a thick and leafy barrier against unwanted burrowing. Unfortunately, shrubbery may not deter the Knights Who Say Ni from sending errant knights to take them!
4. Add a barrier to your fence
If your dog wants to chase everything in sight and digs to escape, why not block his view? This way, your dog won’t know what they’re missing on the other side of the fence. Different types of barriers fit right alongside your fence to reduce your dog’s visibility.
Barriers come in a variety of materials including bamboo, wood, plastic, and others. Choose something that goes with your landscaping, if desired. Many barriers come in rolls so all you have to do to use them is unroll, secure with zip ties, and voila! instant barrier!
5. Redundant fencing
Replacing fencing can be expensive. If you are unable to replace broken fencing and are looking for a solution that doesn’t break the bank, check out redundant fencing.
Redundant fencing is essentially a fence within a fence. This fencing serves as another barrier between your dog and weakened or broken fences. This helps if your dog persists in digging or destroying weakened fences and/or if you’re looking for additional durability and security.
Redundant fencing is especially useful if you live in a busy area with lots of traffic or other happenings, if you share a fence with a neighbor, or if you aren’t able to otherwise replace weakened or broken fencing. Place fencing along one section of a fence or along the entire perimeter – the choice is up to you!
Your reasons for digging prevention will most likely shape which material fence you purchase and how much you install. Obsessive diggers who patrol entire fence lines may require a strong, full-perimeter redundant fence. Diggers with one problem spot may require a one-sided or one-corner fence.
Dogs digging can be one of the most frustrating behaviors dogs engage in. Not only does it destroy lawns and fences, dogs may also become hurt or worse if they escape. That’s why it’s important to alleviate or correct this behavior as soon as you can.
Dogs dig for any number of reasons including boredom, attention-seeking, comfort, or because they enjoy chasing things. Identifying why your dog digs goes a long way in determining how to correct or eliminate this behavior.
We’ve provided a few different ideas for how to stop your dog from digging. These included interacting with and supervising your dog, building them a dig pit, reinforcing your existing fence, adding a barrier, and redundant fencing.
You might not be able to completely eradicate dog’s digging. You can, however, at least correct some of the behaviors which might cause it or stop it through any number of the measures above we listed. We hope this helps with your doggone digging problem!