Does your dog dig every chance she gets? Digging is a behavior that many dog owners find frustrating, but the behavior is extremely natural for dogs. To change your dog’s behavior and train your dog to stop digging under the fence requires making sure your dog’s enrichment needs are being met. You’ll also want to teach your dog new habits and behaviors while they are spending time in the yard.
Why is my dog digging holes?
Some dog owners may become surprised when suddenly, their dog starts digging. Dogs dig for a variety of reasons. The most common reason is boredom. Especially in warm weather, dogs may dig to get to a cool patch of sand or dirt to make themselves more comfortable. Many dogs also engage in digging behavior as part of natural hunting instincts. Dogs with a strong prey drive will often dig as a means of chasing/hunting rodents or even bugs. Your dog may also dig to gain access to something that seems more interesting on the other side of the fence like another dog.
How to train a dog to stop digging
Teaching your dog to stop digging holes requires patience and consistency. Digging is fun for dogs so it can quickly become a self-rewarding habit. The best way to stop your dog from digging is to reduce the number of opportunities your dog can practice the digging behavior in unwanted areas.
There are five main ways to teach your dog to stop digging:
- Supervision — The most effective way to train a dog to stop digging in your yard is to provide supervision even if you have a fully fenced yard. Instead of just opening the back door and letting your dog out to play or potty, go outside with your dog. Dogs who are bored or under stimulated will often look for activities to entertain themselves, which for many dogs will be digging.
- Redirection — Dogs are going to be curious about the environment around them, which can lead to digging behaviors. If you see your dog starting to paw at the ground, use positive reinforcement approaches to redirect your dog and encourage him to do something else. To do this, get your dog’s attention with treats or toys, and then engage your dog in a different activity like playing tug or chase with a toy.
- Enrichment — Provide enrichment opportunities for your dog in your yard. Many dogs dig for lack of anything else to do; it alleviates boredom. When your dog is in the yard encourage him to engage in other activities, such as playing with toys, practicing tricks or other skills. You can also use food dispensing puzzles or balls to help your dog play independently in the yard. Another option is to provide your dog with a dog-safe chew if you’re going to be spending time together outside, but won’t be able to engage your dog actively in play because you’re grilling, gardening or visiting with friends and family.
- Deterrents to digging — Even if your dog is just showing signs that he enjoys digging in your yard, it can be helpful to set up physical deterrents to digging. Place barriers in your yard, such as exercise pens, to prevent your dog’s access to his digging spot. You can also use environmental deterrents like adding rocks to your fence line and other popular digging areas. This, along with supervision and increasing enrichment can help your dog make choices that don’t include digging.
- Make a safe dig space — One of the best ways to train a dog to stop digging in certain areas is to provide an appropriate place to dig in your yard, such as building a sandbox or designating a corner of your yard for digging. If your dog starts to dig in an area other than where digging is allowed, gently get his attention and lead him to the digging area. Encourage appropriate digging by hiding toys. Alternately, bring your dog-to-dog friendly beaches and encourage digging in the sand.
How to stop a dog digging under a fence
Dog owners often realize their dog has a digging problem when he starts digging under the fence and escaping. Digging under a fence can be especially concerning as it’s an easy way for dogs to get out of their yards, which can lead to getting lost, stolen, injured or even killed.
One way to deter your dog from digging is to pile large rocks along the fence or use cinderblocks to line the interior of your fence. This barrier alone deters some dogs from wanting to dig.
Another option is to bury chain link fencing or chicken wire at the base of your fence. This adds an extra layer of security to your yard and deters your dog from trying to dig under. However, some dogs will continue to dig deeper until they reach the end of the chain fencing. Supervision is the easiest way to prevent a dog from digging under a fence. Never leave your dog unattended in your yard, especially if you know that your dog has an interest in digging. If you see your dog investigating the fence, or starting to dig, get your dog’s attention with treats or toys and redirect your dog to other activities. Don’t punish your dog for digging. Dogs learn best through positive reinforcement approaches and punishing your dog for digging can lead to your dog attempting to hide the behavior from you, making it harder to redirect.