How to Get Your Dog to Stop Digging (& Why They Do It)

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A digging dog can destroy your yard, track mud and dirt into your house and force you to drop everything to give them a bath. Even worse, if your digging dog is tunneling under a fence to escape, this can place them in danger. If you're fed up with your dog's behavior, keep reading to learn how to stop a dog from digging.

Why Do Dogs Dig Holes?

Orange Shibu Inu dog digs in a garden.Understanding why your dog digs is an important step in minimizing this behavior. Here are the most common reasons why dogs dig.

Instinct

Digging is an instinctive behavior dogs inherited from their wolf ancestors, points out the American Kennel Club (AKC). All dogs dig to some extent; it comes as naturally to them as barking or wagging their tails. Even if your dog is not a problem digger, you've most likely seen them "dig" in their bedding or sofa cushions before lying down.

Seeking Prey

Dogs with a high prey drive are likely to dig in order to go after rodents or other small animals they can hear or smell underground. This is especially true of terriers and small hound breeds such as dachshunds, who were bred to hunt rodents and small game.

Comfort

In hot weather, dogs will sometimes dig themselves a spot in the dirt to lie down in and cool off. Larger dogs with thick coats who are bred for colder weather, such as the Siberian husky, are particularly prone to this behavior, says AKC.

Boredom and Anxiety

One of the most common answers to the question of why dogs dig holes is that it's just plain fun. For dogs, digging is a great way to relieve boredom or distract themselves from anxiety, says The Spruce Pets. Often, chronic digging can be a sign that your dog isn't getting enough physical activity or mental stimulation.

Hiding Treasure

Some dogs like to bury treasures, such as a treat or a favorite toy, for safekeeping. Unfortunately, they don't always remember to make a treasure map, which leads to more digging as they search for their hidden cache.

Escape

If your dog feels compelled to leave your yard, tunneling under the fence is usually easier than finding a way over it. Typically, this type of tunneling behavior is prompted by wanting to get to something on the other side of the fence, such as another dog.

How To Stop a Dog from Digging

Medium-sized dog wearing red collar has head in a hole in patch of green grass.Because digging is so deeply ingrained in dogs, it's unlikely that you'll be able to put a complete stop to it. But you can minimize the behavior and reduce the damage to your yard by following these tips.

  • Place obstacles and deterrents where your dog likes to dig. This might include burying chicken wire along fences, placing rocks or paving stones in garden beds, or planting bushes around the perimeter of the yard.

  • If your male dog is an escape artist, having him neutered will reduce his desire to roam.

  • Designate a spot where it's okay for your pooch to dig. A sandbox can work great for this if your dog likes to dig for fun, suggests Rover.com.

  • Provide an outdoor bed in a shady spot for dogs who like to dig to cool themselves off. Redirect them to this spot when you catch them digging.

  • If you have a dog with a strong prey drive, controlling the rodent population in your yard will help reduce their temptation to dig for prey. Avoid using poison, which could end up getting transferred to your pup.

  • Don't allow your pup to take treats or toys outside if they like to bury them.

  • Provide plenty of mental and physical stimulation to help reduce the drive to dig. High-energy dogs like terriers need at least 30 minutes to an hour a day of activity and exercise, which can include walking and playing games like fetch, says The Spruce.

  • While it's not possible to watch your dog every moment, try not to leave them in your yard unsupervised more than absolutely necessary. If your dog is digging to relieve separation anxiety, consider acclimating them to stay in a crate while you're gone, along with interactive toys to keep them occupied.

While it's unlikely that you'll completely dig-proof your dog, you can certainly dig-proof your yard to minimize damage and maximize your dog's safety. By channeling your dog's digging urges into more productive and less destructive activities, you and your pooch will both be happier.

Contributor Bio

Jean Marie Bauhaus

Jean Marie Bauhaus

Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet lover, freelance writer and novelist. She currently lives in the Ozarks with her husband and their gaggle of four-footed dependents, where she enjoys watching a wide array of wild animals in her back yard while drinking her morning coffee.

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