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Dogs that dig – Why They Do it and How to Stop it!


Dogs like to dig, it is something they will do out in the yard for a number of reasons. But if you are looking at a yard filled with craters you may want to read on to find out why he is doing it and what you can do about it. Keep in mind he is not doing it just to annoy you and there is a way to preserve your landscaping with some training.

Reasons for digging in dogs

1) Your dog is hunting –

Dogs still have a hunting instinct, and some breeds have it more than others. If there are small creatures in the yard, even insects that are burrowing your dog may be digging to hunt them. You can spot this kind of digging when it is in one area rather than spread out, if it is digging at the roots of something, or if the layout of the digging follows a path.


Your first thing to do is look for signs of those borrowing animals and find a safe way to keep them out. You could use fencing, or make it an unattractive place for that species. Avoid using poisons or toxic methods as these can be harmful to your pets and other animals.

2) Your dog is entertaining himself –

When a dog digs through soil and roots it is almost like they play back when soil shifts are roots prove a challenge. This is entertaining to your dog especially if he is left in the yard for long periods with no interaction. You can see this in dogs who have too few toys to play with, in young puppies under three years who have an excess of energy, or in certain breeds that love to dig like terriers. Particularly energetic breeds of dogs may also do this because they like to have a job or be active. Also if you have recently done some digging in the yard of your own your dog is just mimicking your play.

Try to increase how much time he gets with people and make sure he has enough toys to play with and that you rotate through them. Walk him at least twice a day so he burns of his energy. Teach him new tricks to keep him occupied and practice daily for a minimum of five to ten minutes. You could also take your dog to a class for training dogs.

3) Digging for attention –

If a dog learns that when he does something he will get attention he will repeat that behavior. To him any attention, even negative, is better than having none at all. If your dog only digs when you are around to tell him off and there are long periods of time when you are not giving him attention this may be the cause.

Try to increase how much attention you give him in positive situations. Carry out some basic training with him, go on walks and play with him. When he misbehaves do not scold or punish. Ignore his bad behavior and reward his good behavior. He will eventually learn that digging is not going to get you to talk to him.

4) Looking for safety or protection –

When the weather is hot dogs sometimes dig a hole so they have cool dirt to lay on. They may also be digging to find a source of water. When it is cold they will dig a hole to find shelter from the wind or bad weather. Signs of this digging are holes that are near shaded trees, a source of water or near building foundations. Your dog does not have a shelter in the yard to use and is exposed to the elements and if your dog lies down in the holes he digs.

To stop this you need to make sure your dog has shelter. Bring him or her indoors more often rather than leaving them out so that they are safe in extreme weather. Be sure that your dog has enough fresh water for the time he is out there and that it cannot be accidentally spilled. If this does not stop the digging it may be your dog just needs somewhere in the yard where he is allowed to dig.

5) He is trying to get out of the yard –

Sometimes a dog will see or hear something that makes them want to get out of the yard and they will dig to escape. Or there may be something they want to get away from. If your dog is digging along the fence line and under the fence this may be why.

Try to work out why he wants to escape and remove it from the yard. Make sure he has a safe and happy place to play in. Try placing large rocks along the bottom line of the fence partly buried or you could bury part of the fence. You could also try chicken wire but sure there are no sharp edges your dog could get injured on. Finally chain link is uncomfortable for a dog to walk on so you could place some on the ground in front of the fence.

Further tips and ideas

Undertake training with your dog to modify his or her behavior.

Do not punish him after the fact.


Do not tie your dog near a hole as punishment or fill it with water.

Think about setting aside an area where digging is allowed. Cover it with sand or loose soil and make it fun by burying some toys in it. When he digs in his space give him praise. If he digs elsewhere stop him straight away with a firm No and take him to his space.

Make the areas you do not want him to dig in less attractive (temporarily until he has learned better behavior) put in rocks or chicken wire for example.

Put a large sand box in your yard for him to dig and play in.

If none of these strategies work you may need to consult a dog behaviorist for help and meanwhile keep him indoors and supervise trips to the yard.

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