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How to Stop Your Dog from Digging

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Why your dog is digging and how to stop it.
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Two dogs digging in a backyard.

Your garden is ruined. There’s a hole next to the fence. The backyard is torn to pieces. Their paws are covered in dirt. Your dog won’t stop digging and you can’t figure out why. 

Digging is a common, though annoying, habit for dogs. The good news is that most of the time it’s easily fixable — once you identify why your dog is digging. Digging can be related to many different factors, from genetics to boredom to anxiety. Determining the reason for the behavior is the first step to curbing it.

Why Do Dogs Dig Holes? 

Before you can choose a course of action to stop your dog’s digging, it’s important to figure out exactly why it’s happening. Is your pup doing it to bury a bone or a toy? Is this a predatory instinct to hide food? The reason your dog is digging could be:

Boredom

Many behavior issues can be related to lack of stimulation or exercise for a pet. Dogs will find ways to entertain themselves if they’re not participating in activities or if they don’t have toys to play with. This is especially true for younger puppies. 

Making an Escape Route

Many dogs are curious and wonder what’s outside of their fenced-in world. Sometimes they’re frightened or trying to escape uncomfortable sounds. Other times, they’re ready for a new environment. 

Seeking Shelter

On a hot, sunny day, you may find your dog has dug a hole to lie in to try to stay cool. Or if it’s raining, they may be trying to stay dry. Dogs often dig for comfort and naturally seek the shelter of dens. 

Burying Food and Toys 

Did your dog dig a hole to bury an object? They may be saving a tasty treat for later or simply playing with a toy. Some dogs have a natural instinct to hide food from other animals to save it for their next meal. 

Anxiety 

Dogs may dig holes to relieve stress. Many diggers suffer from separation anxiety. Your dog may be upset when you or another human they’re attached to leaves home.

Genetics

Many dog breeds, such as terriers, are natural hunters and will dig for prey in the ground. Many female dogs dig holes as part of the mating process. Dogs that aren’t neutered may dig to try to escape to find a mate, too. 

 

You may get upset at your dog for digging up your yard, but remember that they could be doing it for an important reason. Keep in mind that digging is a normal trait and can usually be corrected or minimized with training and learning about why your dog is exhibiting this behavior.

 

How to Stop Dogs from Digging

Once you’ve identified the reason behind your dog’s digging habit, it’s time to divert their attention to other, more preferred activities or environments. 

Exercise 

Exercise is a common fix for digging caused by boredom, anxiety or attempted escapes. Playing fetch, teaching new tricks or walking your dog more than once a day can give them the stimulation they need to prevent their mind from wandering. Learning your dog’s play style and favorite types of exercise can help keep them stimulated, too.

Explore Outside

If your dog never goes beyond the fenced-in backyard, naturally, they can be curious about what’s outside. Try letting your dog roam outside of the fence, but definitely keep an eye on them and use a leash if necessary. Venturing to a dog park is another way to let your pup explore new sights, sounds and smells.

Barricades

Barricade your fence using rocks, chicken wire or other deterrents to prevent your dog from digging by the fence. This is very effective for escape-route diggers.

Build a Doghouse 

A doghouse could deter your dog from digging for shelter because they’ll now have a place to go. A doghouse will also protect your pup from the elements (though it’s important to bring your pet inside any time weather is extremely hot or cold), and it provides bored dogs a place to play and hide their treats and other objects. You can also create a separate cool spot for your dog such as an awning or outdoor umbrella. Be sure your dog has access to clean water in an un-tippable bowl any time they’re left outside.

Evaluate Your Dog’s Diet 

If your dog is burying food, they may be full and saving part of their dinner for later. Are you feeding your dog too much? Is your pup running off with scraps in their mouth? If you discover food or treats in a hole, it may be worthwhile to limit your dog’s portions. 

Designate a Digging Spot in the Yard

Giving your dog a place to dig in the yard is a great solution. Dogs with a natural predatory instinct to dig holes in search for prey, or female dogs looking to mate, can’t help themselves: These dogs need to dig. Find a spot where the ground isn’t hard so it’s easier to dig, and reward your dog for the corrected behavior. 

Treats and Praise 

Use typical dog-training techniques and enforce good behavior. Like the example above, dog owners can bury treats in a specific place and designate that as the digging spot. 

Eliminate Rodents 

Dogs often dig because they’re hunting for small animals. If your yard is home to chipmunks or mice, your dog may be on the prowl. Catching the rodents yourself could eliminate your dog’s reason to dig — and help keep your pet away from critters that may be infected with parasites

Your dog may dig for several reasons, ranging from the natural to the environmental, and you may need to try several approaches to curb the behavior. If all else fails, shower your dog with attention. Sometimes puppies just need love

References

  1. Dig this: How to get your dog to stop digging. (n.d.) Retrieved May 31, 2020, from https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/stop-dogs-digging
  2. Bender, A. (2021, October 12) 4 Reasons Your Dog Is Digging and How to Stop It. Retrieved October 26, 2021, from https://www.thesprucepets.com/why-your-dog-is-digging-5203017
  3. Gibeault, S. (2019, October 25) Why Do Dogs Dig? Retrieved May 31, 2020, from https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/why-is-my-dog-digging/

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