How to Train Your Dog to Stop Digging

Updated on January 1, 2018
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

Digging for crabs.
Digging for crabs. | Source

Have you ever arrived home and found your newly planted flowers spread over your back yard? 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 back yard you are not alone. Digging is one of the most common complaints when people talk about their dogs; it is not a simple problem or one that is easily taken care of.

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

Digging in the sand is good exercise.
Digging in the sand is good exercise. | Source

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. Dogs are trying to bury something: New toys, old bones, and favorites of all sorts need to be buried, for some reason.

4. Dogs are 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. Dogs are 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. Dogs are 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.

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. | Source

How Am I Going To Stop This 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 backyard 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 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.

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

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. (Don´t forget that even breeds like the Westie and Yorkie were developed to dig. A determined little dog can dig up a back yard as effectively as a big dog.) 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!

Sometimes dogs can fall into their own holes.
Sometimes dogs can fall into their own holes. | Source

Questions & Answers

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

    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 Dr Mark

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    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      4 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      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!

    • daxamite profile image

      James Livingood 

      4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      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).

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      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 profile image

      aykianink 

      5 years ago

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

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

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      6 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      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 profile image

      wetnosedogs 

      6 years ago from Alabama

      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?

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      6 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

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

    • profile image

      DoItForHer 

      6 years ago

      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.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      6 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

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

    • flacoinohio profile image

      flacoinohio 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      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.

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