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5 Reasons Why Your Dog is Digging and How to Stop It

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.

How to Stop My Dog from Digging

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.

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.
How to Stop My Dog from Digging

Pictured: Our Samoyed, Duke right after a day at the spa in 1995.

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.

How to Stop My Dog from Digging

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.

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.

About the Author Debi@RescueDogs101

Debi McKee is a dog mom, volunteer foster dog home, and lifetime dog lover. Debi’s mission is to guide you through every step of your dog journey, from adopting the perfect dog for you and your family, to training your dog and keeping your dog happy and healthy. Sign up for our free resource library of must-have resources, containing valuable downloads to help you in your dog journey.

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