If your dog likes to dig, you may have long given up on having a presentable yard. Dirt holes, shredded grass, destroyed plants — it’s not a pretty sight, and it’s definitely frustrating. But if your dog is digging, it’s not because they want to make you mad or lay waste to your hard-earned garden. The truth is that digging is a common and natural behavior in dogs, and the dog’s wild ancestors, wolves, still dig dens to find shelter, hide valuables, and raise their young.
However just because it’s a natural instinct, that doesn’t mean you should let your dog wreak havoc. If you’re ready to reclaim your yard, here’s what you can do today.
Identify Why Your Dog is Digging
Before you can stop your dog from digging, you first need to figure out why they’re doing it.
Many dogs dig because they are bored or have excess energy. Try walking your dog for an extra 15 minutes, throw a ball in the yard, or sign up for a training class. If it’s stimulation your dog seeks, their digging may subside once you provide it.
Stress or Anxiety
Does your dog’s digging start when the neighborhood dog starts to bark, when you’re getting ready to leave the house, or when guests come over? If so, they could be digging to release anxious energy. Take steps to reduce your dog’s anxiety with exercise and behavior modification. And if you need help, contact a trainer, animal behaviorist, or your veterinarian.
If the weather is particularly hot or cold, a dog may dig a hole to escape it. If you find your dog lying in their hole, this may be the situation. Rather than leaving your dog in the yard without shelter, offer them a cool or warm place to rest, like a doghouse. And when you’re home, bring them inside for relief.
RELATED STORY: Is My Dog Weird? 5 Strange Dog Behaviors Explained
Thrill of the Hunt
Some dogs dig because they’ve sniffed out prey, and they’re trying to reach it. If your dog seems to be focusing on a single spot in the yard — especially near roots or along a path — check for signs of burrowing animals or other wildlife. If you suspect that a creature may be posting up in your yard, contact your local animal control to safely remove it, then take steps to make your yard less desirable.
Is your dog digging a hole under a fence? If so, they may be trying to escape. A dog who is happy and well cared for shouldn’t want to leave their home, so take time to evaluate their environment and living situation. Are they getting enough to eat? Are they being treated well? Are they getting regular attention and exercise?
To keep your dog from escaping, block off vulnerable areas with buried chicken wire, buried chain link, or partially buried large rocks.
What Not To Do
If you catch your dog in the act of digging, you can give them a firm “No!” and then bring them inside. However, if you find a hole after the fact, don’t yell at or otherwise punish your dog; they won’t understand, and if their digging is a result of anxiety, it could actually make the problem worse.
RELATED STORY: 8 Things You Didn’t Know About How to Talk to Your Dog
Give Your Dog a Digging Zone
If all else fails — or if you wish to let your dog dig to their heart’s content — consider creating a digging zone. A digging zone is a special area in the yard where your dog will have carte blanche to play excavator.
To encourage your dog to dig in their special zone, create a physical border around it (for example with rocks or bricks) and bury treats or toys just below the surface. Praise your dog when they dig them up, and replenish the goodies over to time to keep your dog going back. If your dog tries to dig elsewhere, get their attention and lead them over to their zone. Eventually, they should learn to focus only on their sweet spot.
Does your dog dig? Leave a comment and tell us how you deal with it, and consider signing up for PetPlus. PetPlus is a benefit program for pet owners that provides member-only access to medications at wholesale prices, plus discounts on food, supplies, vet visits, boarding, and more. Learn more at PetPlus.com.