Dog owners often complain that their dogs spend too much time digging in the yard. This common dog behavior problem can be extremely frustrating and is almost always a sign of a dog who's bored or understimulated.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to stop your dog from digging, or at least, make it a less-destructive habit. You'll be fighting the dog's instinct to dig and bury things, but there are ways to stop your dog from digging.
Why Do Dogs Dig?
Most dogs love being outside, but it's not possible for dog owners to spend all day, every day, out in the yard with their dogs. Instead, owners sometimes let their dogs go outside to play on their own for a portion of the day.
Left to their own devices, dogs often find a way to amuse themselves. For many dogs, this means digging holes all over the yard, especially if they've been bred to dig prey out of dens.
Sometimes dogs are entertained by roots they unearth that spring back and seem to be "playing" with them; other times they're just looking for something to do. Additional reasons include:
- Boredom or anxiety relief: Digging is often great fun for a dog and provides mental and physical stimulation, so it's a natural outlet for relief of boredom or anxiety such as separation anxiety
- Burial of possessions: Many dogs feel compelled to bury their toys or chews. If you allow your dog to bring toys or chews outside, it may dig holes in an effort to hide them.
- Attempt to escape: Some dogs dig near fences or garden walls in an attempt to get out of the yard. Although they probably have little reason for actually wanting to escape, if they see something, such as another animal, on the other side of the fence, they may try.
- Attempt to cool down: Some dogs mainly dig when the weather gets warm to provide themselves with a cool spot to retire to.
How to Stop Your Dog From Digging
The best way to begin fixing this problem is to only allow your dog to be outside when you can supervise.
Relieve Boredom and Stress
Since dogs are highly social animals, they need playtime with you and exercise to help prevent boredom and stress buildup. Plan on spending at least an hour playing with and exercising your dog every day.
You'll need to spend even more time with high-energy dogs such as border collies and terriers. There are a number of activities you can do with your dog that allow it to socialize and get exercise and mental stimulation; for example:
- Take your dog for a walk.
- Play a game of fetch or tug-of-war.
- Do several training sessions each day.
- Get involved in dog sports.
- Take your dog to a dog park. Interacting with other dogs is sometimes the best cure for a bored pup.
All of these activities will ideally help your dog to feel less bored and anxious and less likely to burn off energy by digging in the yard.
How to Play Tug of War With Your Dog
Don't Allow Toys Outside
The best way to deal with the burial of possessions is to prevent your dog from taking the toys it likes to bury outdoors. Only allow toys outside if you're using them to engage with your dog. Things like Frisbees or balls are fine if you're playing fetch.
You may also want to allow your dog to play with other types of toys outside if you're on hand to supervise. But a dog shouldn't be allowed to have toys that it's buried before; otherwise, they're likely to go missing again.
Attempted escape is actually one of the easier kinds of digging to deter. All you need to do is place a barrier in the way. Chicken wire (with the sharp parts facing away from your yard) or large rocks along the bottom of the fence line should discourage your dog from trying to dig there. The next step is to give your pet something else to do instead.
Provide a Spot for Digging
No matter how much you work on preventing it, some dogs are just driven to dig. Certain breeds, such as terriers and dachshunds, are naturally inclined to dig because they were bred to tunnel for quarry.
It can be tough to break them of this instinctive drive. You may be better off providing them an appropriate place to dig instead, such as a sandbox or a spot in your yard specifically set aside for digging.
To get your dog to use just one spot, you need to supervise it outside. If the dog digs anywhere but the designated spot, tell it "no" and redirect it to the correct spot. Give the dog lots of praise for digging in this area to reinforce that it's allowed.
Keep an Eye on the Temperature
If your dog digs when the weather is hot, be sure to provide it with a shady spot in the yard during the warmer months, and never leave it outside for long periods when temperatures are high.
Try a Dog Sport
Dog sports are a great way for your dog to burn off physical and mental energy. This helps to alleviate boredom and also may provide an outlet for your dog's natural inclination to dig.
Earthdog is a dog sport designed specifically for breeds that are bred to dig for prey. This sport allows dogs to scent prey through tunnels, thus allowing them to engage their natural instincts in a more appropriate way than digging in your flower beds.