Unfortunately for pet owners, many dogs see a fence as more of a challenge than a boundary and will turn their unsupervised playtime into an underground escape. They’re not doing it because they hate you and want to run away, they are most likely doing it out of curiosity. You may have read our article about how to get dogs to stop digging. After we published it, we received email after email from people telling us their dog doesn’t have a problem with digging in the yard, their dog has a problem with digging under the fence.
Believe it or not, there’s actually a big difference between the two. Enough to justify an entirely new article on how to stop your dog from digging under the fence. Even if your dog has yet to escape, the mere fact that they’re trying to dig under the bottom of the fence you need to take action ASAP. It’s only a matter of time until your dog escapes.
So how can you leave your dog in the backyard without risking them digging under your fence? We have ten battle-tested methods to prevent your dog from escaping under the fence.
7 Methods To Prevent Your Dog From Digging Under The Fence
If your dog is in the habit of digging under the fence, immediate action is required to prevent the issue. We will list our 7 battle tested methods to instantly solve the issue below. However, keep in mind that these solutions aren’t a permanent fix. The long term goal is to correct your dogs behavior so they won’t dig under the fence even if you weren’t using one of these 7 methods.
- Bury chicken wire or rocks along fence line
- Use dog repellent along fence line
- Install motion activated sprinklers near fence line
- Reinforced ground fencing
- Use an invisible fence
- Install redundant fencing
- Keep them indoors when unsupervised
Any of these 7 should do the trick. In the next section we will go into more detail on each of these methods and then we will discuss how to correct the behavior so they stop trying to escape altogether.
The Preventative Methods
Bury Rocks Or Chicken Wire Under The Fence
Burying rocks (preferably flat ones), or plastic chicken wire in the soil, one or two feet below the surface of the fence, will prevent your canine from getting underneath the fence. Likewise burying the bottom of the wall one or two feet in the ground will be equally effective. However, owners should be careful with sticking metal obstructions beneath the surface as it can potentially harm the dog’s paws. A more high tech deterrent would be adding a wireless invisible fence, where a transmitter delivers an electric jolt to the dog’s collar if they get too close. We will talk about this soon.
Experiment With Dog Repellent
You already know canines have an enhanced sense of smell, and some scents are less appealing to them than others. Generally speaking, dogs hate the smell of cayenne peppers and it’s also a mild irritant to their eyes, nose, and throat. They also hate the smell of vinegar and have an extreme dislike of ammonia.
Sprinkling cayenne peppers around the fence should act as a short term deterrent to canine digging. Using vinegar and ammonia in the yard is a little more tricky as it can kill the lawn or flowerbeds. One workaround is soaking biodegradable coffee filters in either vinegar or ammonia, letting it dry, and then cutting the dried filters into strips laid out around the fence.
Motion Activated Sprinkler Systems
Getting a motion activated sprinkler system is a great workaround both for making sure your dog doesn’t associate you with them getting sprayed with water and will also make sure the fence edge is protected when you’re not around. As dogs are known to dig up non-motion activated sprinkler systems; getting a sprinkler that will spray approaching animals might be a solid purchase, even if your dog isn’t digging under the fence.
Reinforced ground fencing
This works in the same way the chicken wire/rock method works. It’s much easier to install but does cost more. Depending on the size of your yard, it can cost anywhere from $50 to $300. You can purchase a set at your local Petco or PetsMart. They are upright rods that you hammer into the ground right along the fence line.
The invisible fence is probably the easiest of these 7 methods, but it does give your dog a bit of a “shock”, which some dog owners don’t like. You’ll want to set the perimeter of the invisible fence about 1 foot from the fence. The reason this works so well is because your dog won’t start digging under the fence if they are constantly getting shocked. The other downside is that if your dog does make it past the initial barrier, they’ll get shocked again when they try to come back in. That’s why we recommend placing the perimeter about 1 foot from the fence line. This makes it impossible to “make it past” the barrier.
Imagine you just spent days climbing a massive mountain. The only problem is when you got to the top you realize there’s an even bigger mountain you need to climb. If you’re like most of us, you’ll call it quits at that point and turn around. Same is true with your dog!
Redundant fencing means you actually have two fences. If your dog manages to dig through one, they’ll see they now have to dig through another and will probably stop. The type of fence you install doesn’t matter, all that matters is that the only way to get through it is by digging under. You can even use an exercise pen such as this one and and place it about 3-4 feet away from your fence. Your local pet store should also sell a dog fence made specifically for this. If you want extra security, a chain link fence should give you that peace of mind you’re looking for.
Keep Your Dog Indoors
This is the last solution, and hopefully one you won’t have to use. To state the obvious, your dog can’t dig under the fence if they are indoors when you’re away from home. Many pet owners are uncomfortable with pets being indoors while they’re gone, but this is actually the safest thing you can do for your dog. You never know what your dog may get into when outside. Plus when left outside, they’re much more exposed to worms and other parasites that can be detrimental to their health.
The Behavioral Correction Methods
Now that the initial threat of your dog escaping is taken care of, it’s time to correct the behavior. Here are 7 more methods that will put an end to your dog attempting to dig under the fence.
Create A Designated Digging Zone
Some dogs, especially terriers which were bred to hunt small animals, are innate diggers and will want to scratch that itch no matter what. Creating a self-contained sandbox in the yard will provide your pet with a less destructive outlet for those urges. It can either be a literal dog sandbox or just a designated area in the yard, where through positive reinforcement it’s made clear this spot is okay to dig.
Exterminate Invasive Animals
Dogs are creatures of instincts, it’s possible your dog is digging up the fence trying to catch rodents or other burrowing animals that it’s encountering in the yard. Calling an exterminator to get rid of any unwanted pests on the property will alleviate the need for man’s best friend to take matters into their own paws.
Your Dog Might Be Bored
Sometimes dogs start digging because they’re bored or not getting enough exercise. Make sure your dog is being walked at least twice a day and has enough toys in the backyard to keep them occupied. Be sure to rotate the toys as well to increase stimulation.
In some case, dogs are digging holes because they’re too hot and are trying to cool down in the dirt or because it’s wet and windy out and they’re looking for protection. Sounds like thunder can frighten a dog, so they begin looking for hiding places to feel more secure. Providing either a traditional doghouse or any structure that protects them from the elements will address that problem.
Spay Or Neuter
Dogs reach reproductive maturity at around 6 months, and male dogs will subsequently become interested in seeking out females. Studies show that “reproductive roaming” decreases in 90% of the cases after a male dog is neutered. Having a female dog sprayed eliminates the risk of them becoming pregnant if they escape. This method of birth control not only decreases the number of unwanted pets, but it also increases the likelihood that you’ll be able to keep wanted pets where they’re supposed to be.
Address Separation Anxiety
If your dog is escaping right after you leave or hanging around the house even after they escape, that could be a sign they have separation anxiety.
One way to address that separation anxiety is through Independence Training, where you give the dog a treat after spending increasingly longer periods of time in a room away from them. Another great option is to enroll your dog in doggy daycare so they can be social while you are away at work.
Correct The Behavior In The Moment
If you are there during the escape attempt, your chances of correcting this behavior skyrocket. If you see your dog digging under the fence, either squirt them with a hose or make a loud noise. This will let them know you are not pleased with their activity and eventually they will stop.
It might be a challenge balancing your desire to give your dog as much outside time as possible while managing their inherent desire to dig. By experimenting with the strategies we’ve outlined, there’s no question you can keep that fence safe and the escape routes minimized. Solutions are attainable both through tactical maneuvers like planting underground obstructions like rocks or chicken wire and using dog repellent; or through addressing underlying behavioral issues like the pet not having enough stimulation or getting separation anxiety.
Once the problem is solved that will, of course, allow more focus on what you really care about, which is getting to spend more quality time hanging out with your dog!
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