Dog digging is a natural behavior that our canine companions engage in because of their instincts. But that doesn’t make it any less frustrating or disappointing when our furry friends dig up our recently planted tulip bulbs or tear apart our brand new vegetable garden. Luckily, if you know why your dog is digging, it’s an easy habit to manage with these six tips.
Why Does My Dog Dig Up the Yard?
Digging is an instinctual behavior for dogs. Here are some factors that may be inspiring your dog’s digging behavior:
- Animal activity
- Temperature and weather
- Burying an item or escaping
A Bored Dog Is More Likely to Dig
One of the most common causes for dog digging is boredom. A dog that doesn’t get enough mental, social, and physical stimulation throughout the day might start digging to entertain himself. When they start finding various underground discoveries like rocks, roots, and small creatures, the digging becomes an engaging activity unto itself.
A dog that doesn’t have toys, playmates, or focused play time with their owner(s) is more likely to start digging up the yard in search of some fun. Similarly, some dogs will dig in a bid for attention – especially if you tend to react to their digging by saying “no” or “stop.” If they notice it gains your attention and they aren’t getting enough of it, the digging might be a showy effort to get you to look their way.
Dog Digging Is More Common in Certain Breeds
Breed can influence a dog’s likelihood of digging behavior. Some dogs, such as Jack Russell Terriers, were bred for their digging abilities, so even if they aren’t putting those abilities to good use hunting badgers or foxes, they’re still inspired to dig. Similarly, a working dog breed like a Border Collie or Australian Shepherd might start digging if they don’t have a job to do. Dogs like this prefer to have a task at hand for most of their day and have very high needs for attention and engagement – if those needs aren’t met, they will resort to digging.
Your Dog Might Be Digging to Hunt Underground Animals
If you have moles, badgers, or other underground animals in your yard, this likely explains your dog’s reason for digging. Even the most domesticated, lazy dogs are descended from hunters, so they will still feel a desire to find and kill prey. If small mammals are rooting around in their territory, they will likely result to digging in an effort to find the intruder.
Some Dogs Dig Beds or Dens for Temperature Control or Protection
Another reason for dog digging is to create a comfortable environment. If your dog spends a lot of time outside and is regularly fighting off the elements, they might try to dig a den for protection. It’s also common to see dogs digging a shallow pit in the dirt and lying down in it to fight off the heat. The churned lower levels of soil are cooler than the upper layer that has been baking in the sun.
Your Dog’s Digging Might Be to Bury a Treasured Item, or to Escape
Your dog’s reason for digging might be easy to identify by location or timing. If your dog starts digging after you’ve given them a precious item, like a bone, it’s likely that they are trying to bury and protect that new possession. Similarly, if your dog’s holes appear at the edge of the fence, they might be digging in an effort to escape their confines.
6 Ways to Stop Dog Digging
Once you’ve figured out a likely reason for your dog’s digging, you can address the issue in a few ways:
- Ensure your dog’s daily routine is complete
- Provide a distraction or alternative activity
- Use digging deterrents in your yard
- Create a digging zone
- Keep your yard pest-free
- Establish a comfortable outdoor environment for your dog
1. Make Sure Your Dog Is Getting Enough Exercise
The first step to eliminating dog digging behavior is to ensure your pet’s daily routine includes enough physical and mental stimulation. Since a bored or unengaged dog is more likely to dig, many pet owners discover they can eliminate dog digging by simply giving their dog additional play time or an extra walk each day.
If your dog is feeling relaxed and centered from their workout with you, they won’t have any excess energy left over for digging in the yard. There are plenty of ways to get your dog moving, from a simple walk to setting up an agility course at home or taking a trip to the dog park. Be creative and ensure your pet’s needs are being met – it just might be the solution your garden needs.
2. Redirect and Distract Your Dog When They Start Digging
Dogs respond well to redirection, and distraction usually works as a technique to stop your dog from digging holes. If you catch your dog in the act, serve up a solid “no” and redirect to a new activity. This might mean you give them a specific toy or even remove them from the yard and put them in the house. Be careful that your dog doesn’t start to associate digging with your attention and a reward, but provide them with fun, alternative ways to use their energy.
3. Set Up Digging Deterrents in Your Yard
If your dog won’t respond to redirection, you can also try physically blocking your dog from digging by using materials like large rocks and chicken wire. This definitely decreases the visual appeal of your yard and it also requires some time and effort to accomplish.
If your dog has a favorite digging spot, you can block it off with simple fencing and allow your dog to roam the remaining section of the yard. You can also partially bury large, flat rocks or plastic chicken wire (metal might hurt your pet) to deter your dog’s digging.
For a less aesthetically intrusive digging deterrent, you might sprinkle vinegar or cayenne pepper in the soil where your dog tends to dig. A thorny shrub or bush like roses can also be a nice, attractive way to mark off a popular digging spot.
4. Create a Digging Zone Where Your Dog Can Let Loose
If you have the space, you can establish an area that is dedicated to dog digging. You can put a child’s sandbox in your yard, or simply cover a section of the yard with soil or sand. Make this area more appealing by burying toys or items like bones fairly shallow and allowing your dog to discover new things in the digging area over the first few days after establishing it. If you see your dog digging elsewhere, redirect them to the digging zone and provide praise when they dig there.
5. Eliminate Underground Creatures from the Yard
If your dog’s digging is a response to the activity of underground creatures like moles or badgers, you should try to address these pests and ensure your yard is vermin-free. These animals are not safe or healthy for your soil or garden, anyway, so if you can also stop your dog’s digging by getting rid of them, it’s a win-win. We recommend using humane traps or contacting an animal specialist that can relocate the creatures elsewhere.
6. Ensure Your Dog Has Full Comfort When Outdoors
If your dog’s digging is because they are trying to get comfortable outside, you need to create a better outdoor environment for them. Overheating is a particular risk for our canine companions, and we need to take their temperature control very seriously. This might mean providing a water play area such as a baby pool where they can cool off on hot days. Your dog should always have shade and fresh drinking water when they are outside. If your dog is digging a den for warmth, they need a temperature-controlled dog house, or they should be spending more time inside during the colder months.
Dog Digging Is a Natural Behavior That Is Easy to Manage
Dog digging is an instinctive behavior, so no matter how destructive it might be, you should never punish your pet for digging. They’re unlikely to understand why they’re being punished for a behavior that is so natural to them, especially when there are many constructive ways to deal with dog digging that can protect you, your pet, and your yard. Start by figuring out why your dog is digging, then try our tips to help stop dog digging (or manage the behavior so it’s not so destructive).