Pet Parenting: ‘My dog keeps digging out of the fence’

Dear Denise,

My dog keeps digging out of the fence and roaming the neighborhood. He’s a true escape artist. We need help before he gets hurt or completely lost. Do you have any advice on how to deal with this?

Dear Mama:

You said ‘he,’ but didn’t mention if ‘he’ was neutered. If he is past adolescence, then he is likely digging out to roam and breed. It’s time to get him neutered.

If he is already neutered, then it is likely that he is bored. Is he getting enough exercise, social and mental stimulation? Many people walk their dogs every day, but often times this isn’t enough. Walks take care of animals physical energy, but not necessarily their boredom. You need to play with your dog, take your dog to play at the dog park, or a mixture of both. This is what I refer to as ‘social stimulation.’

You also need to provide mental stimulation by way of training. Teach your dog a behavior: sit, down, shake, roll-over. It doesn’t matter what you teach, as long you are asking him to think. Most don’t need all these things every single day, but some interesting combination thereof. So, maybe a daily walk with some training, or a daily walk then ends at the dog park, or a trip to the dog park and some training.

If you are providing all these things, and your dog is still digging out, it is likely that he is just highly social, and really, really bored. Start thinking of ways to create a backyard playground for your pooch. If he likes balls, hang a tether ball from a tree, or if he likes tug, hang a rope toy. Try putting his breakfast in a treat toy before you leave in the morning. Since he obviously likes to dig (or at least dig out), try creating a ‘digging hole’. This is a custom designed place for him to dig, and you’ll bait it with all kinds of goodies and fun things to discover and do. You can find specific directions on making one of these in the ‘NOTES’ section of my Love Trust Teach facebook page.

If push comes to shove, and none of these things work, you may need to consider hot-wiring the fence. I hate to suggest that, but I think it’s a much better alternative than a shock collar, and it’s certainly better than getting hit or lost.

P.S. Don’t just hotwire the fence and NOT do any of the other things I suggested. That’s not fair! And he’ll likely just start tearing up something else, like your azaleas.

Good luck,

Denise Holmes is a pet behavior counselor with over 25 years of experience. She focuses on family pet training and animal-assisted therapy.  She has consulted with Arkansas Children’s Hospital, helped set up a variety of local programs and produced a CD to help expecting parents introduce the family pet to a newborn,