How to Stop a Dog From Digging?

“Our yard looks like a minefield. The moment we fill up the holes, Bruno digs them all up again. Why is he so obsessed with digging?”

Digging can be a difficult habit for dogs to break. Dogs are born to explore and dig. Unfortunately, they do not know that we humans would prefer they don’t do it – especially when they leave lots of holes all over the yard or in the bed, sofas, or blankets.

In this guide, we cover some tips to help you stop your pet from digging.

Why Do Dogs Dig?

Most dog breeds, especially terriers, were trained to dig out rodents, vermin, mice, moles, etc. from their holes and burrows. This implies that digging is an instinctive behavior for these dogs.

These days, house dogs do not need to dig but they don’t know that. They certainly don’t know they are not supposed to dig beds, blankets, and especially your prized rose garden.

Dogs also dig due to:

  • Boredom or lack of mental stimulation
  • Separation anxiety or stress
  • Frustration
  • Lack of exercise
  • To stay cool on a hot day.
  • To hide food, toys, or bones

Steps to Stop Your Dog from Digging

Here are some steps you can take to prevent your dog from digging:

Understand the Root Cause of The Behavior

Has your pet always been a digger? Or does s/he do it once in a while? What triggered the behavior?

Some dog breeds like Huskies, Malamutes, and other large dogs with heavy coats are known to dig a hole in the yard in summer, walk a few circles around it, and then plop down in it. This helps them keep cool. Some dogs like terriers simply love to dig. They do it all year round because it is an instinct they cannot control.

Once you know the root cause of your dog’s digging behavior, you can take steps to avoid those triggers.

Exercise Your Dog

A tired dog is less likely to dig. Boredom and lack of exercise are often the main causes behind excessive digging. Thankfully, both these root causes are easy to eliminate. 

Simply increase your dog’s daily walks to keep it mentally and physically stimulated. If needed, hire a dog walker who can walk or play with your pet for at least 30-45 minutes two times a day. A tired dog won’t have any energy left for digging.

Mentally Stimulate Your Pet

In addition to physical stimulation, your digging enthusiast also needs mental stimulation. Most dogs that dig have a mighty brain that needs to be creative. Here are some ways to keep your smart dog’s boredom at bay.

  • Add some peanut butter and low-calorie treats inside a Kong toy and freeze it. Your pet will love getting the frozen treats out. Puzzle toys work in the same way. Your dog needs to figure out how to get treats from the toy.
  • Create an obstacle course for your pet to navigate.
  • Teach your dog the names of its toys and encourage it to bring each toy to you when you say the toy’s name.
  • Give your dog a job to do.
  • Encourage your kids to play fetch or hide-and-seek with your pet.
  • Go on camping, or hiking trips at least once a week where your dog can sniff and explore.
  • Add some “nose work” to the daily routine for terriers and hounds like Basset hounds and Beagles. Even 10 minutes of “nose work” can tire and mentally stimulate your dog to prevent unwanted digging. Nose work involves using your dog’s strong sense of smell to find hidden toys and treats. Nothing “lights up” your dog’s brain like finding hidden objects they love. And it can tire your pet out considerably.

Manage Your Dog’s Stress/Anxiety

Many dogs indulge in anxiety-related or obsessive-compulsive digging. Stressed dogs also show the following signs

  • Indoor urination or defecation
  • Digging the carpet under the door or the areas under the window to escape
  • Excess panting or drooling
  • Signs of separation anxiety like barking, whining, etc. when the owners leave

If you notice these in your dog, it could be stressed due to being left alone or due to some environmental changes like a new baby, loud noises in the vicinity, etc. Please speak to your vet to manage your dog’s anxiety.

Hiding Toys and Bones in the Holes

Some dogs dig holes all over the yard to hide their toys or bones. You can tackle this in several ways:

  • Prevent your dog from taking the toys or bones outside. Note that some dogs might still hide their “stash” under the pillows and blankets. But it will at least keep your lawn safe.
  • Provide a designated digging area and teach your dog that it is OK to dig only in that area.
  • Provide treats and bones that your dog can finish quickly so it need not hide them.

Digging to Seek a Cool Spot

This digging is best tackled by allowing your pet to dig in a designated area. You might have to fence the off-limit areas and add an extra layer of dirt in the designated digging area for your pet to dig in.

For dogs with thick coats, provide a kiddie pool so they can cool off on hot days. The easiest solution is to keep thick-coated dogs indoors in an air-conditioned room.

Never Punish Your Dog For Digging

Never drag your dog to the holes and punish it for what it might have done in the morning while you were at work. Your dog won’t be able to associate the punishment with its reason. Never use shock collars, hitting, shouting, or tying up or crating your dog. These methods could make your dog fearful or aggressive.

Do you have this problem with your dog?  Give us a call and let us help you!  


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