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How to Get Your Dog to Stop Digging Holes in the Yard

Spudward getting ready to start digging a hole to China.

Spudward getting ready to start digging a hole to China.

How to Get Your Dog to Stop Digging Holes

One of the traits of many dog breeds is the urge to dig. It's one of the behaviors that has been programmed into their brains as instinct. Some dog breeds are more prone to digging than others because some are bred to chase prey that can hide in burrows, and the best way to get that prey out from its underground lair is to dig it out.

We were having digging issues with Spudward. He is an English Coonhound mix, also called a Red Tick Hound, with an unbelievable appetite for digging. Soon after his arrival at our house, the backyard started to resemble swiss cheese.

After a few modifications, we are now enjoying walking through our backyard without having to worry about turning our ankles in one of Spuddy's many calling cards. It's not easy to get a dog that is programmed to dig to stop, but with a bit of consistent training and modifications, we have been successful in this adventure.

Here are five things that we found worked for us.

1. Keep Your Dog's Nails Trimmed

Believe it or not, if you do not keep your dog's nails trimmed to a comfortable length for them, they will try to trim them by digging. Nail trimming should be a regular grooming ritual with any dog—let alone a hound dog—but it seems to be a common oversight by many dog owners. We trim our dog's nails once a month, and this has helped cut down on his digging.

If you aren't sure how to trim your dog's nails, have trouble with it, or find that your dog protests the deed so much that you just can't get it done, a veterinarian or grooming shop will be able to do it for you for a small fee. It takes just a few minutes to do. Pick someone that is close to your home to help keep travel time to a minimum.

Spudward relaxing in the back yard in the summertime heat.

Spudward relaxing in the back yard in the summertime heat.

2. Limit Time Outside in the Summertime Heat

When it is extremely hot outside, a dog will do almost anything to find relief. Some dogs that are left outside when the temps spike have discovered that if they dig a hole and lay in it, it helps to cool them off. If you find your dog digging in shady places when it's hot outside, you should consider bringing them into a cooler environment.

Spudward was digging holes under the bushes and laying in them to help cool himself off on hot summer days. He is not spending as much time outdoors when the temps climb, and that has stopped him from digging in those areas of the yard.

3. Make Sure Your Dog Gets Plenty of Exercise

Dogs become bored just like you and I do if they aren't occupied or mentally stimulated. They will dig holes in the yard because it gives them something to do to pass the time. If your hound dog is digging because of boredom, try either giving them a new toy or more exercise.

Hound dogs are high energy breeds. They have to be in order to run for long distances after small prey. Take the dog to a dog park and let them run for a while or go for hour-long walks with your hound dog to help burn off some energy. A tired dog is always a good dog! Especially if it is a hound dog or another high energy breed.

Having more than one dog will also help with getting rid of pent up energy if you don't want to take the hound dog for a walk every day. If you have a fenced-in yard, turning both dogs out to play for a couple of hours every day will give you the desired result of not only one worn-out dog but two. They will spend their time with each other instead of racing to see who can dig the deepest hole the fastest.

4. Take Corrective Action

I took corrective action with Spudward's digging by putting a remote control vibrating collar on him while he is outdoors. This takes a little time because you have to stand at a window and watch the dog so you know when they start digging. Every time he started to dig a hole, I hit the button on the remote control that made the collar vibrate.

The look on his face and his reaction were priceless. He immediately stopped the digging, practically forgot about it, and turned his attention to trying to figure out what the vibration was and where it came from. The vibration was just annoying enough to him that it helped with getting him to stop digging. He put it together in his head that when he started digging, he felt the vibration.

Spudward and Sophie taking a break from playing in the back yard.

Spudward and Sophie taking a break from playing in the back yard.

5. Retrain Yourself

Most behaviors in dogs that we see as a problem are actually traits that have been bred into the specific dog breed to accomplish certain tasks. Digging is a common problem in many dog breeds that can be changed or at least greatly reduced with a little patience, work, and persistence on the owner's part.

It's important to remember that not all of the blame can be put on the dog for doing something they were meant to do. As dog owners, we have to take the responsibility to train ourselves as well. Learning how to stop an undesirable behavior is the first step to retraining ourselves as a loving and understanding owner to our canine companions. Dogs want to please their owners. It's one of the things that makes them happy. Our job in the relationship that we have with our dogs is to tell them what we want so they can deliver and so they can be as happy and as loved as we are.

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.

© 2012 Helena Ricketts


Helena Ricketts (author) from Indiana on August 26, 2014:

Oh! Never thought about the accidental reward, that is a good point. I have a garden and a dog that used to dig all the time. I'm glad he never found anything good because that could have made it more difficult to get him to stop.

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

I've found that being bored is near the top of the list. Also, if there is an accidental positive reinforcement. For example, if digging in a garden they find a carrot. (My pup is a brat. I wanted that carrot...)

Helena Ricketts (author) from Indiana on July 23, 2012:

Thanks guys! It all worked on Spuddy and he's a HORRIBLE, persistent, crazy digger!

Jake Frost from London, United Kingdom on July 15, 2012:

Great information here, very interesting and makes some good points. Thanks for writing this!

toknowinfo on July 15, 2012:

Thanks Heather for this great hub. You really educated me about digging. I have a new puppy who just started digging like crazy. Even after I filled the holes she would dig again. When I got her a playmate, she stopped most of the digging, but still can't resist fully. On occasion, the two of playfully dig, but there are no new holes. These tips will hopefully help me help them stop it totally. Thanks for the info. Voted up, useful, and interesting

Kristy Sayer from Sydney, Australia on July 14, 2012:

Excellent hub! I have no problem with my dogs digging, but one of the families I nanny for has a dog who clearly wants to visit China! I'm going to use your tips to stop him while i'm there and help the family out!

Audrey Kirchner from Washington on July 14, 2012:

Good points, Helena - mine dig for 2 reasons, boredom and to get cooler. Although one of mine just digs because he thinks he's "supposed" to dig I think. Any time he sees us planting flowers or vegetables, he goes into the spot where it was planted and "undigs" it. I think he thinks he's helping somehow so we have found that if he never SEES us plant it, he will leave it alone - that is the craziest thing ever.... I had labs though over the years who I swear were digging a tunnel to China - it was part of their nature it seems. Malamutes will do the same but thankfully ours are pretty good about it...probably because they are always around people so they don't get the chance~

Choxy on July 14, 2012:

This was a very interesting read. Great information!

Heather Adams from Connecticut, USA on July 14, 2012:

I really enjoyed this hub. My dog is an English setter mix, and she seems to think it's her job to dig out all the chipmunks (and anything else) that is living on our property. I love her, but not the holes. So it was encouraging to read that there is hope to change her behavior. Thanks for great ideas!