Digging Dogs: Why They Do It and How to Stop it

So, you just filled up yet another hole that your dog dug in your yard and you are wondering what to do to make him stop digging. Some studies have been done that show that 83 percent of dog owners admitted that their dogs dug holes in the yard, with digging being one of the top 10 most common dog behavior issues.

Just why do dogs seem to like to dig so much?

Reasons Dogs Dig and Solutions

Dog trainers and veterinarians alike agree that digging is a natural and normal dog behavior. There are many reasons why dogs feel the need to dig. Your dog could be anything from too hot to just plain bored, or anything in-between. Even in the wild, some types of wild dogs bury their prey to protect it from being stolen, or they have to dig into rodent’s dens to catch their prey. Even though our domesticated dogs no longer have to hunt their own food, they still retain that natural instinct.

Other reasons dogs dig that are related to instinct include the urge to dig a den. If a dog is left outside all the time, it may dig a hole for shelter from either the rain or the sun. If that is the case, providing a good dog house could help alleviate the problem. You could even provide a small wading pool in the summer to cool your pet off or one of the special heating pads that go inside of dog houses to keep him warm in the winter. Or better yet, keep your pet indoors.

Some dogs dig if they are bored or frustrated. They could even be digging to escape to go find adventure elsewhere. If your dog is doing it for attention or just because he doesn’t like to be left alone, then you need to provide some stimulation for him during the times you aren’t there.

One of the great toys that tend to keep a dog occupied for several hours are the rubber Kong toys that can be filled with treats or peanut butter. Of course there is no substitution for spending time with your pet. If you leave your dog alone in the yard for long periods of time provide him with something to do.

There are also other types of food dispensing toys that you can fill with treats that your dog has to roll around to make the treats fall out the tiny holes. You can even hide them around the yard for your dog to find as part of the stimulation.

If a dog gets enough attention, he may stop digging those endless holes. You can also hire a dog walker or have someone walk your dog or otherwise pay attention to them periodically throughout the day. Anything you can think of that gives your dog mental and physical stimulation can help keep him occupied and your yard hole free.

But sometimes, dogs just like to dig because it feels good. My old lab Cooper liked to dig a hole because the cool dirt felt good.  He had plenty of shade, access to the house, a companion dog playmate and me close by, but lying in a freshly dug hole was pure bliss for him.  So I redirected his digging to a less obvious spot behind a bush.

Breeds that Dig

Of course, there are types of dogs that are more inclined to dig holes than others, such as the terriers, dachshunds and beagle breeds. These dogs were originally bred to dig out small animals, so it’s part of their nature.

If you own one of these or other breeds of dogs that just can’t seem to help themselves, then you can provide them their own special area they are allowed to dig. This can be a child’s sandbox you encourage them to dig in by hiding toys, treats, and other special surprises. With a little bit of training and encouragement, he will soon happily dig in that area and hopefully leave the rest of the yard alone.

Unfortunately, there are some reasons that dogs may dig that require a veterinarian’s help. If a dog’s digging habit is somehow related to an accident or other trauma, it may take the help of a veterinarian to stop it. Some dogs need to take anti-anxiety medication until they can be reconditioned.

Other Ways to Stop Digging

If you have tried the above tips and your dog just doesn’t seem to fit any of those categories, don’t give up yet, as there are other things you can try.

If you think perhaps he is digging to escape to go find a mate, neutering could help get rid of the problem. Neutering is also a good way to alleviate other dog behavior problems and help keep your dog healthier.

Is there a neighbor that could be encouraging your pet to stray? Maybe you need a better fence, such as one that goes under the ground for a few feet that discourages your dog from digging. You could also consider putting large rocks around your fence or otherwise changing the texture or makeup of the ground.

Even a short course in basic obedience is sometimes useful in stopping a dog from digging because it conditions him to look to you for direction and guidance.

Any of these things could make things just enough different that your dog will stop digging those annoying holes!

Things That Don’t  Work to Stop Digging

Of course there are some things dog owners should never do that definitely do nothing to help train your dog to stop digging, and in some cases could injure or traumatize you pet. For instance, it’s worthless to drag your poor dog over to where he dug the hole and punish him. Dogs live in the moment and they won’t understand why you are punishing them. It’s just not possible to correct something that occurred hours beforehand. This will only scare your dog and hurt your relationship.

How Your Dog Fits In

The main point is that if your dog has a digging problem, you can’t fix the problem until you know the reason why your dog digs. While that could take a few tries, it’s worth it so you can find a way to stop the behavior. So, if your dog is driving your insane by digging hole after hole, then take a good look at the possible reasons and then try whichever of the previous suggestions that fit the situation.


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