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How to Train Your Dog to Stop Digging

Digging in the sand is good exercise.

Digging in the sand is good exercise.

Have you ever arrived home and found your newly planted flowers spread over your backyard? Have you broken your lawnmower when one wheel fell down a dog hole? Have you ever stepped out into your yard at night and fallen into a new hole?

If your dog is digging up your backyard, you are not alone. Digging is one of the most common complaints people have about their dogs; it is not a simple problem or one that is easily taken care of, but it is possible.

There are as many methods to stop digging as there are reasons to dig.

How Do I Get My Dog to Stop Digging?

  1. Increase exercise: If you can´t give your dog a job at least provide her with plenty of exercise. My dog usually falls asleep after our morning walks and digging is the last thing she wants to do!
  2. Provide diversions: Kong toys can be filled with kibble or even frozen when filled with peanut butter. A dog occupied with chewing and licking a toy will not think about digging.
  3. Make the back yard a fun place: If your dog is banished to the back yard every time something is going on in the house, she will be much more likely to dig. If she thinks of the back yard as a place where she plays games she will dig less.
  4. Provide a way for your dog to cool off: If your dog is trying to cool off you need to look for some alternate solutions. One of them might be to provide her with a child´s wading pool. Another is to build your dog a sand pit. Your dog will be muddy or sandy at the end of the day but will probably not dig.
  5. Have your male neutered: This is important for dogs that are digging to escape. It is a good idea to neuter any pet.
  6. Provide a designated digging area: I personally think this is the best solution for all dogs but it is always required with some hunting dogs (like Fox Terriers and Dachshunds) that like to “go to ground”. Either delineate an area to be used or build a special sandbox and bury some of her favorite toys in this spot. You might paw around a bit and as soon as she starts digging there give her lots of praise. I live in the tropics and since I left a hole for my dog to cool off she never tries to dig outside of the digging area.
  7. Leave stool buried in the holes your dog has already dug: This is a final option, after you have tried the other suggestions above, but it may work. If your dog has a good place to dig but still chooses to use an area that you need her to avoid (when my dog was a puppy she always dug holes right in front of the door), you can bury her stool in the hole and then throw a shovel of sand on top. The next time she digs there the first thing she finds is her own stool. If you combine this with some of the other alternatives, like providing your dog with a sandbox, it will definitely work. This will not stop digging but will make your dog dig somewhere else.
Digging is a good way to spend the time for a bored dog.

Digging is a good way to spend the time for a bored dog.

Why Does My Dog Dig So Much?

  1. Dogs get bored: This is number one on the list for a good reason. Since most dogs do not have jobs they need to find something to do. Sometimes dogs just want to be like us, such as when they dig in the garden. Digging is a good way to keep busy when you are a bored dog.
  2. Dogs can be too hot or cool: Digging in the winter is not much of a problem since the ground is frozen but in the summer dogs love to make holes to cool off. Long-haired breeds are especially uncomfortable and not meant to live in hot environments.
  3. Your dog is trying to bury something: New toys, old bones, and favorites of all sorts need to be buried, for some reason.
  4. Your dog may be searching for prey: This is an instinctual reason to dig. A dog may be unsuccessful many times but if he finds something to eat, even once, he will have a new reason to dig.
  5. Your dog is trying to find something: Buried objects have to be found, obviously. Sometimes dogs suffer from the “lost keys syndrome” and can´t remember where they buried a favorite toy or bone. They have to dig everywhere to find it.
  6. Your dog may be looking to escape: This is a common problem with some dogs, especially males who have not been neutered. Some dogs need to escape if they are not taken out often enough. It usually happens along the fence line but the holes can be deep.
Some dogs are going to dig no matter what you try.

Some dogs are going to dig no matter what you try.

Keep in mind that digging is just a normal part of your dog's life.

Do not get mad at your dog when she is digging. If you decided to buy a Dachshund it should be no surprise that she loves to dig, it should be expected. Try some of the techniques here and your problems will be decreased.

Decreased, not solved! No matter how much training you do though, dogs love to dig!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: My dog only digs in the early morning before 6 a.m., which is the time when he is allowed in. Why is this?

Answer: Digging can be a sign of anxiety. Your dog may be nervous and does not know if you will let him in the house, so he digs as an outlet. One of my Pitbull puppies digs when she is nervous. She goes to the designated digging area and keeps busy digging. It is quite normal, so just try to give him a special space to dig every morning before he comes in.

© 2012 Mark dos Anjos DVM


Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 29, 2019:

Laura, check the seven suggestions in the article to learn how to stop your dog from digging.

If your dog keeps digging despite everything, ask your dad if he can build a special digging area for your puppy. It might help the two bond, and you can train the dog to use it by burying treats and toys in the area that you block in for a digging area.

Laura wojtas on April 28, 2019:

My dog likes to dig it makes my dad mad while my dog is digging hes barking hes 2 and we live on a very busy street hes a nice dog what can i do to stop the digging and have my dog be good

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on August 26, 2014:

It really depends on where your dogs are digging, too. My dogs find prey all the time on the beach, and if I were to try to ask them to stop digging there I would face an impossible battle.

They leave my garden alone though--I guess they do not like carrots!

James Livingood from Seattle, WA on August 26, 2014:

I am not so sure about digging for prey. Perhaps if gophers or other rodents already exist. Then again, my pup started digging for carrots I missed in my garden (because he found a tasty carrot treat when I wasn't looking).

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on January 18, 2013:

Good point. I think I´ll just give my dog the treasure map and leave her poo in the compost pile. Less cruel that way!

aykianink on January 17, 2013:

Imagine finding a treasure map, then following all the directions until you find the X. start digging.

Surprise! It's your...own...poop. So cruel...and yet, this makes me smile:-)

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 30, 2012:

Something, right? My dog finds a crab about 5% of the time when she digs holes on the beach, so she constantly digs on our walks. Jenny might be like Ajej though, she just wants to dig for the critters, doesn´t really want to catch them.

wetnosedogs from Alabama on July 30, 2012:

My dogs have dug their holes and seem content with that. Sometimes dig deeper. Jenny, my youngest did dig two deep holes near a tree. When I discovered her, she stuck her head in one hole and stayed put. It was hard pulling her out. She goes back occasionally, though I covered the holes with big rocks. I don't know if I want to know what caused her to dig there. Rodent? Reptile?

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 30, 2012:

I think that's because I would do the same thing in a dogs place!

DoItForHer on July 30, 2012:

I love your approach. You provide a positive activity that replaces the digging, thereby forgoing the common negative approach of focusing on "stopping" the dog.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 30, 2012:

Good point. Tethered dogs are bored and dig a lot. Thanks for the visit.

flacoinohio from Ohio on July 30, 2012:

I used to have a problem with one of my Dalmatians digging, she was bored. I no longer attach her to a dog line. We use a remote collar and head held receiver to allow her to be controlled while outside, but with out restraining her to a single area in the yard tethered to. Very useful though.