Digging and Escaping

Reasons for digging

Your dog might dig:

  • As part of self-initiated play
  • If it is left in a relatively barren yard with no toys or playmates
  • If it is left alone for long periods of time without interaction
  • If there are no other outlets for energy, particularly if it’s a puppy
  • If it is a breed that has been specially used or bred for digging (e.g. terriers)
  • If it is an active dog that needs a job to do
  • If it has seen you ‘play’ in the dirt, i.e. gardening
  • If it is trying to pursue small insects or prey
  • If it is trying to keep cool or seeking shelter by sitting in a hole
  • If it is attention seeking
  • If it is trying to escape.

Recommendations to stop your dog digging

  • Walk your dog twice a day
  • Teach your dog to play ball or Frisbee
  • Teach your dog a few commands or tricks to stimulate the dog’s mind and keep them active and vigilant
  • Take your dog to training classes
  • Keep interesting toys in the backyard and rotate these around
  • Give your dog a view of the world – let them see what is on the other side of the fence so they don’t feel like they need to go there
  • Provide an acceptable digging area. Choose a spot where it is okay for them to dig and cover the area with loose soil or dirt
  • If you catch your dog digging in an unsuitable area interrupt the behaviour with a loud noise and say ‘No dig’. Then take the dog to the acceptable area and reward your dog when they dig in that spot
  • Make other areas unattractive to dig in
  • Look for signs of pests if your dog is digging at roots or has a specific path
  • Provide sheltered areas and cool places to sit in hot weather
  • Do not give attention to the dog while they are digging
  • Place chicken wire or rocks buried at the fence line
  • Do not punish after the incident


Reasons for escaping are similar to those of digging. Additionally, they may be suffering from separation anxiety, fears, phobias or frustration.

Some dogs escape by digging, but others by fence jumping, climbing or pushing open gates that are not secure. Knowing how your dog gets out will help you modify your yard. Like digging, it is important to discover why.

Sexual roaming

Dogs become sexually active at six months of age. Male dogs have a strong urge to seek out females and it can be difficult to prevent them from escaping.

Have your dog desexed. Studies show that neutering decreases sexual roaming in 90 per cent of cases.

Fears and phobias

  • Your dog may be trying to escape from fear, especially from loud noises like thunderstorms or fire crackers
  • Identify what causes your dog’s fear and desensitise them to that noise with the guidance of a trainer. You may also need to seek veterinary advice about the possibility of medication
  • Keep your dog indoors if there is a chance it will encounter the triggers that set off their fears, e.g. fireworks on New Year’s Eve
  • Provide a safe place for your dog by observing where they like to go when anxious
  • Do not comfort your dog when they are afraid as you will only reward that behaviour


  • Add an extension to your fence that angles 45 degrees inwards if your dog is a fence climber
  • For digging dogs (link to Recommendations to stop your dog digging – training and modification section)
  • Never correct a dog when it returns from escaping as dogs associate punishment with what they are doing at the time
  • Do not punish your dog if they’re escaping due to fears or phobias as this will make your dog more afraid


For further information on any of these problems or recommendations please speak with our staff.

Lort Smith