How to Stop Your Dog From Digging

Whether you know it or not, when you bring a dog into your home, you will likely never again have the perfect backyard.  Between bathroom breaks and playtime running around in the grass, your yard will take a beating.   But nothing is more damaging to a yard than a dog that likes to dig.  Some dogs never seem to pick up the digging habit, but if you have a dog that likes to dig, your yard pays the price.   It can be one of the most frustrating behaviors that a dog owner deals with.  So why does your dog dig holes?  There are several possible reasons, and before you can even attempt to control the behavior, you first have to understand the reason behind it for your particular dog.

Why Dogs Dig

Instead of getting upset with your dog, try to determine what is causing your pet to make a minefield out of your yard.  Understanding why your dog is digging is the first step in controlling the behavior.  Often, digging is just a sign of a greater problem.  Other times, it can just be a part of their temperament.  Here are some of the most common reasons dogs dig:

  • Anxiety, stress, or separation issues – dogs that are stressed need to find ways to relieve that stress.  Digging can be fun for dogs, and it is a great way for them to relieve stress.  Digging provides mental and physical stimulation, and it becomes a way for the dog to turn their negative emotions into something productive.
  • Escape – whether it is because they are bored or scared, your dog may be trying to make the great prison escape.  Thunderstorms, unusual neighborhood noise, sights, or smells can all be sources of fear that would cause your dog to flee.  Boredom, the call of other dogs, or chasing wildlife can also cause dogs to attempt to escape their yards.
  • Denning – whether seeking shelter or coolness, dogs have a natural tendency to den.  In the wild, that often means digging a den.  Dens are cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.  So your dog may be digging for shelter.
  • Genetics/Hunting – many breeds such as terriers still have strong hunting instincts and they will naturally dig in the ground seeking prey or food.  Many breeds of hunting dogs were actually bred to dig quarry out of their dens.  Some dogs will dig to find gophers, moles, chipmunks and other small animals in your yard.
  • Diet – Your dog may be lacking certain nutrients in their diet and seeking to replenish them with minerals found in the soil.

Why Is My Dog Digging?

In order to determine the best way to discourage your dog’s digging behavior, it is important to first determine the reason behind the digging.  First and foremost, it is important to understand that digging is a natural dog trait.  It is reported that as many as 80% of dog owners say that their dog digs holes.  It is a trait that is seen in normal wildlife behavior.  This may mean that preventing your dogs’ behavior may not be in their best interest.

Dogs that randomly dig holes throughout the yard are likely hearing, smelling, or seeing something underground and trying to get to it.  This type of digging is next to impossible to stop.  But you can redirect and retrain the behavior.  Try setting aside a specific area of your yard that will be “their” digging area.  Train them to that area by burying treats for them to find.

Dogs that dig near fences or other barriers are likely trying to escape.  If this is a frequent behavior, it is likely caused by boredom.  Take your dogs on frequent walks, play active games with your dog, or other activities that will tire your dog.  A tired dog is most often a well-behaved dog!  Additionally, do not leave your dog in the yard unattended.  If you observe your dog beginning to dig a hole, redirect the behavior to another activity.  Reprimanding them will rarely stop this kind of behavior.  But positive reinforcement to another activity can teach the dog that they can have fun without digging.

The most important thing is to ensure that your dog is well taken care of.  Do not leave your pet outdoors for long periods of time unattended.  Make sure they are getting enough food, and that the food is good quality and nutritious.  Keep your pet in an appropriate climate adjusted environment.

How Can I Get More Information

Your veterinarian will always be the best source of information on the medical care of your dog.  If you are concerned that your dog has a behavioral issue, consult with a reputable trainer or behaviorist.  If you would like more information, please check out the following links and articles that were referenced for this article: