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How to Stop your Dog from Digging Holes in the Yard

Digging is a behavior that comes natural to dogs. Dog owners on the other hand find muddy paws and damaged landscapes justifiably aggravating. Dogs will dig holes for a variety of reasons. Trying to figure out the reason why your dog is digging is the first step to finding a solution for the digging problem.

As a trainer that does house calls, I have observed so many canine excavated backyards that I can usually tell why the dog is digging just by observing where the holes are located along with how many holes there are.

Below, I list 3 common reasons why dogs dig and possible solutions for each case.

Reason #1 Boredom or Enjoyment

Dogs that dig due to boredom will usually dig multiple holes in different places of the yard. They are usually moderate to high energy dogs that need an outlet to release their pent up energy. Once they find out how fun it is to dig a hole, the behavior can be hard to stop. These dogs can become habitual diggers if left unsupervised for long periods without appropriate exercise and mental stimulation.

Solutions:

  • Place your dog’s poop in the holes and then fill the hole with the dirt from the hole. (Except for vegetable gardens of course). The dog’s feces will act as a deterrent to keep them from returning to the hole.
  • Now you will want to offer engaging activities in the yard when unable to supervise. You want to get your dog in the habit of doing something else rather than digging. Provide chew bones or toys that are interesting to your dog. If you have a dog with a strong food drive you can scatter the dog’s food in the yard to offer an engaging activity.
  • If you think your dog is digging out of boredom, you will want to take a serious look at how much exercise and mental stimulation you are providing. You will want to increase the dog’s exercise regimen and provide other fun activities such as games or training to keep them mentally engaged.
  • It will also be helpful if you can monitor your dog when they are in the yard in order to redirect the dog if they start to dig. I would use a “leave it” cue as soon as the dog starts to dig and then offer a different activity such as fetch or chew toy. The aid of a dig box which is explained next may be a helpful supplement.

Reason #2 Searching For a Scent Underneath the Ground

Many dogs dig because they are searching for a scent they find interesting. They may be hunting another animal or simply investigating an odor. In my experience, this type of digging can be the most difficult to stop especially if the dog has had prior successful digs (catches moles).  This also may be a breed characteristic of the dog you own. Some breeds such as dachshunds and certain terriers were actually specifically bred to dig and find burrowing animals such as foxes, rats, and badgers.

Solutions:

  • Place your dog’s poop in the holes and then cover it with the dirt from the hole. This will make the current holes unappealing.
  • Build a dig box. The purpose of a dig box is to create a specific place for the dog to dig that should be more interesting than other areas.  To build a dig box, you simply build small sides with wood about 6 inches high and then add filling such as sand. You can also use a plastic baby pool filled with sand. You can also use small pebble size gravel.
  • You will then bury small objects underneath the top layer. You can bury dog treats, toys, or anything else your dog likes. The goal is to keep the dog in one specific part of the yard so the dog is not digging in multiple locations.

Reason #3 Trying to get cool and comfortable

This is a very common reason dogs dig holes, particularly with dogs that have heavy coats. Take a look at where your dog’s dig spots are located. They will usually have 1-3 spots and will be in the shade or underneath an object such as a deck. Holes next to tree trunks are also common spots.

Solution:

  • Your goal should be to make a more comfortable appropriate spot for the dog. You will first want to fill the holes and place some type of mesh or chicken wire over the holes.
  • Next you will need to decide what you are going to make for the dog that will be more appealing than the previous spots. (Remember, that in the house with air conditioning is usually a welcome spot for your dog.) You may want to build a well-ventilated dog house that is in the coolest part of the yard or underneath a deck.
  • You could also allow access to a baby pool for the dog to cool off periodically.

Follow these tips to stop your dog from digging. There are of course other reasons that dogs dig such as digging to escape or digging out of social mimicry (Often if your dog sees you dig in the garden yourself, they may mimic your digging in the same area).

Published on July 23, 2017

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