How to Stop My Dog from Digging
Wondering how to stop your dog from digging up your yard? Have you ever let your dog outside to go potty and get some fresh air, and you go back inside to get some stuff done around the house, then go back to let your dog in and WOAH! Your dogs paws are covered in mud… Stop right there!
Your first instinct is to scream and yell at your dog… trust me I know. The picture below is of our Ginger in our backyard a couple of years ago.
We’ve had a few dogs that decided that digging in the backyard is fun. Our first dog, Symba would dig in the flowerbed around the tree in the back. Our trainer at that time told us to fill the hole with water and shove his face in the water filled hole. I will be honest, we listened to our trainer and my husband did this once and Symba never dug again. But before you go off and tell me we were abusing our dog, that was 20+ years ago… I don’t condone this technique today.
I do think there are better ways to stop your dog from digging. In fact, our newly adopted dog, Ginger, was a digger. The first summer with us, she dug several holes in the backyard. I did take her out to the hole, and told her “NO” in a very stern voice. I then filled the hole with her feces.
She never dug in that spot again, but did dig several holes in other areas of the yard. I repeated with the stern NO and filled the hole with her poop. She dug in the backyard three more times until she gave up and hasn’t dug in the back yard since. I guess this was my “home remedy” for stopping a dog from digging.
Related reading: 5 Simple Ways to Stop Your Dog’s Pee from Killing Your Grass
To understand the how to stop a dog from digging, we need to start with the why your dog is digging…
5 Reasons Why YOUR Dog May Be Digging and How to Stop the Dog From Digging
Different dogs dig for different reasons. First step in stopping your dog from digging is to figure out WHY your dog is digging. It’s also important to come to terms with the fact that it’s natural for dogs to dig. It’s in your dogs DNA, some breeds more that others, but it is a natural instinct all dogs are born with.
The Why #1: Your Dog is Bored
Many bad behavior issues in dogs is caused by the lack of exercise and/or mental stimulation. Your dog may be digging because he is bored if he is:
- a puppy or young dog and doesn’t get enough exercise and/or mental stimulation
- left alone in the yard for an extended amount of time without toys or another person or dog to play with
- a breed that was bred to dig, such as a Dachshund, Terrier, Beagle, or Siberian Husky
How to stop your dog from digging if he is bored:
- Walk your dog. There are so many benefits to taking your dog for a daily walk. Exercise and/or mental stimulation is a very important part of your dogs life. If you are already walking your dog on a daily basis, he may need even more… try extending your walk time or add multiple walks to your day.
- Find other ways to stimulate your dog, whether it’s going outside and playing fetch, frisbee or other games your dog loves to play.
- Teach your dog some new commands. If he already knows how to SIT and DOWN on command, try working on the STAY command, the PLACE command or how about ROLL OVER, FIND IT, or SIT PRETTY. Take 10 minutes every day to train your dog, this will help fulfill his need for mental stimulation.
- Take a training class with your dog. Even if your dog knows basic training, there are advanced training classes available by many trainers. We took an agility class with our dog Ginger. We had so much fun, we took another class and are continuing to take classes!
- Don’t leave your dog outside unattended, simply go outside with your dog when he needs to go out.
The Why #2: Your Dog is Trying to Escape
Your dog may dig under the fence to escape a loud noise or something that spooks them. Or your dog simply wants to see more of the world. Your dog may be digging to escape if he:
- digs under or at the fence line
- is never is allowed to take walks outside of your yard
How to stop a dog from digging under a fence:
- Walk your dog. The benefits of taking your dog for a daily walk are endless. Exercise and/or mental stimulation is a very important part of your dogs life. Dogs are not meant to live only in our homes and back yards. They need to get outside the confined walls of your space and explore the neighborhood. If they are never allowed to do this, they will find ways to run away and explore on their own.
- Protect the fence area with dog digging deterrents such as rocks, chicken wire fencing or other barricade-like techniques to prevent your dog from being able to dig under the fence. You can find sprays, granules and other dog deterrents on Amazon. I don’t necessarily recommend them, but if you are desperate, you may want to try it.
- Don’t leave your dog outside unattended, simply go outside with your dog when he needs to go out.
The Why #3: Hunting Prey
Dogs love to chase small animals like moles, chipmunks, gophers, rabbits and even insects. This is why I think our Ginger was digging, we have rabbits constantly in our yard and they leave their little feces in our grass all of the time. Your dog may be digging because he is hunting prey if he is:
- digging in a single area rather than the boundaries of the yard
- digging around the base of trees, bushes or decks
How to stop your dog from digging if he is chasing prey:
- Do the job for your dog by getting rid of the problem rodents. Find a humane way to remove the rodents by fencing or other natural remedies. DO NOT use anything toxic. Using poisons may get rid of the rodent, but can also poison your dog!
The Why #4: Shelter and Comfort
Going back the natural instinct, it is very natural for your dog to dig on hot summer days to get cool. Your dog may be digging for comfort if he:
- digs a shallow hole and lays down in the hole
- is an outdoor dog and does not have a dog house or shelter to get away from the weather elements
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How to stop your dog from digging if he is seeking shelter:
- Bring your dog inside. I don’t condone dogs being left outside alone all day. With that said, I understand that there are many people that disagree and their dogs may be happy living outside. I remember before I was married, my now husband, had a Samoyed that he had rescued from a situation that the dog was never an inside dog. And when he lived with us, the dog refused to come inside, even when it was freezing out. We had a dog igloo outside for him to sleep in and he was happy as can be. But we had neighbors that did not understand that particular situation and they called animal control on us. The officer was understanding and noted we had the proper shelter and water available for our dog.
- If your dog insists on staying out side then make sure he has the shelter he needs with a good dog house that can keep him warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
The Why #5: Survival
Again it is a natural instinct for a dog to bury food to survive. Your dog may be digging for survival if he:
- digs to bury a high-valued bone, food or toy that he wants to save for a later time
How to stop your dog from digging if he is burying bones, food or toys:
If he is burying his food or bone, ask yourself, are you feeding your dog too much. His instinct may be telling him he is full and he needs to save this bone for later when he is hungry. Do not let your dog take the bone or toy outside with him.
If all else fails, make lemonade!
The best and only 100% for sure way to stop your dog from digging, is to never leave him outside unsupervised. Now if you are like most people, this may not be realistic. So if your dog insists on digging despite all of your efforts, consider giving him his own spot he is allowed to dig. A sand box is a great way to do this. You can train your dog to dig in the sand by burying his favorite toy or treat. Have fun with it and so will your dog.
We gave our dog Ginger a place she was allowed to dig – my daughters sand box. It was actually hilarious to watch, she had fun digging and we had fun watching her!
If you don’t want to give your dog his own digging spot, and you’ve tried everything to stop him from digging, then your only option is to never let your dog outside alone.
Next for you to read: 5 Simple Ways to Stop Your Dog’s Pee from Killing Your Grass
P.S. So I want to hear your story, why does your dog dig? Have you tried giving him a sand box to dig in? Comment below and help our Rescue Dogs 101 community learn more.
I rescued a dog that has lived on a chain his whole life and slept I very deep holes he dug.I can't bring him home to my house just yest because I have 3 dogs and 1is dog aggressive so it will be a work in progress plus the rescue dog is going thru heartworm treatment.Fortunatly my mom has a wonderful big back yard with a utility shed for his bed and food and water and he has the freedom of a fenced in yard.He refuses to go inside even though he loves her 3 dogs but they do come out and play.My problem is that he is tearing up her yard,everyday I'm filling in holes,it's not his fault digging holes has been his only source of entertainment for 3 yrs.I walk him,play with him,he has toys but still wants to dig hole,lots of deep holes while I'm at work.I did by the plastic chicken mesh wire for one area around the back of her house and it's has worked.Im really reluctant to try the cayenne pepper but may have no choice.Help I'm open to any more suggestions.
Our two dogs dig to put their toys in the hole and smash the toys with their noses to hear it squeek.
Thanks for explaining how stones, chicken wire, and barricades can prevent dogs from digging under the fence. My aunt wants to keep her dalmatian in the yard because he keeps getting out, and she isn't sure how. She would really like to have a new fence installed that will make it easier for her to keep him contained.
When you yell at your dog hours after an incident has taken place they don’t associate your yelling at them with the act of them digging a hole, after all digging is a normal dog behaviour why would you be angry about that?
I never said you should yell at your dog. But I do understand most people have the initial reaction to yell at their dog for doing something they aren’t suppose to.
Hi there, my dog Daisy digs for rocks. I met her brother who lives near us while walking her. Her brother also digs for rocks. The next time we met out walking he had an elizabethan collar on him as he had dug for rocks and eaten them. Luckily my dog doesn’t eat them but leaves them at the back door for us. She actually digs after exercise and after my husband mows the lawn. Her brothers owner had to get temporary fencing all over his backyard. Daisy has lots of chew toys and bones and never buries them in the garden but buries them in a blanket I have covering our outdoor lounge. Any help would be appreciated as this will help two bichon frise dogs (18 months) out. Cheers Jodie Melbourne Australia
Hi Jodie, It’s odd that both siblings do the same thing. It must have been a learned behavior when they lived together. I honestly recommend finding a behaviorist dog trainer… maybe the both of you can work with the trainer together to lower the cost.
since moles were in the garden my 1year old puppy continually digs holes in the lawn.
fast as I fill them in she digs another one.
I’d focus on getting rid of the moles first. We had the same problem, our dog would run to the hole she knew the moles were going into. We tried everything to get rid of the moles in our yard and finally found the only product that works is the GopherHawk
I took my puppy from a dog foster home about a year ago. I love him to bits; he has a great personality, and I feel that he loves our family so much, but he barks A LOT… So, leaving home is always a challenge for us. My husband and I were thinking about taking him to ‘doggy school’, but then again, it’s extremely expensive, and the nearest ‘doggy school’ is far away from us. Maybe you have some advice? THANK YOU!!!
Getting rid of moles is easier said than done for sure.
Fencing is expensive though works.
Most people will go directly to chemicals that can harm you dog. If used, make sure not to let your dog in the treated area until after a heaven rain.
Natural ways to get rid of moles is probably the best choice. Get rid of the food source and you will get rid of the moles.
Mole feeding sources are works, slugs, etc.
The one down fall of ridding your yard of the food source is they are what makes a healthy lawn.
Even fencing doesn't work for me, he can break it. Yea seriously