Dog digging: How to stop your dog

Author picture Jessica

Why is my dog digging

For some dogs, digging is an enjoyable activity. However, for most humans, dog digging is not an acceptable activity. Especially if your dog is digging excessively and turning your beautiful garden into a giant sandpit! Digging can also be a dangerous activity. Imagine if your dog learns to dig and escape under a fence. Or if their holes start compromising the foundations of your house and become a trip hazard.

There are a couple of reasons why your dog might be digging. We will explore them below and share tips to stop your dog's digging habit.

Why is my dog digging?

Dogs dig because they are bored

Dogs that are left alone for long periods to time with no enrichment may dig to relieve their boredom. Especially dogs that are higher in energy. If they don't have an outlet for their energy, they might find other ways of entertaining themselves. Therefore, if you leave your dog alone for long periods of time, it's important to ensure that your dog has plenty of exercise and enrichment activities. Alternatively, consider booking a pet sitter to take your dog out for a walk. They can also provide some additional metal and physical stimulation.

Whatever you do, don't punish your dog after they have dug the hole. They won't be able to connect the punishment with something they have previously done. If you catch them in the act, you can sternly tell them 'no' and show redirect them to more appropriate behaviour.

Dogs digging for fun

Some dogs (like terriers) are genetically bred to dig and search for prey buried in the ground. Trying to go against their genetics and stop them from digging will be a challenge and could result in other undesirable behaviours. For example, preventing them from digging by keeping them indoors all day could result in destructive behaviours or behavioural issues such as excessive barking. Dogs that were genetically bred to dig really enjoy the digging! Therefore, they need a job and a dedicated area for them to satisfy their instincts. This can be as simple as providing them with a dedicated sandpit or ball pit and hiding some treats or toys inside. Anytime you catch them digging, redirect them to their dedicated digging area.

Fear or anxiety

If your dog is not used to being alone or is in a new environment, they could be digging as an attempt to escape or reduce their anxiety. This may commonly occur if you leave your dog somewhere new or during loud thunderstorms or fireworks. In this case, try and keep your dog inside where they will feel safe or build them an outdoor enclosure to retreat to. Alternatively, you can consider booking your dog into doggy daycare. This will provide them with plenty of company as well as mental and physical activities.

Dog digging for protection

If there is not enough shade in hot weather, dogs may dig holes to lie in the cool dirt. On the other hand, if it's too cold or wet, they may also dig a hole to create shelter for themselves. If you notice your dog lying in the holes they dig, this could be an indication that they are trying to protect themselves from the weather. In this case, ensure that you have enough shade and shelter for them during the day. Then they don't have to seek comfort by digging holes. Consider bringing them inside more often or booking a pet sitter to check on them during the day to ensure that they have enough water and shade.

Dog digging in lawn

Attention seeking behaviour

If you have previously given your dog attention for digging, they may continue to do it in an attempt to get your attention. This usually stems from boredom and a lack of physical and mental activity. Remember that any behaviour (good or bad!) can become attention-seeking behaviour if the dog learns that they can get your attention by doing it. Even punishment is attention, especially if your dog has limited access to your attention they may view digging as an opportunity to interact with you.

In this case, it's important to ignore when the dog starts digging. Instead, calmly place a leash on them and remove them from the area without interacting with them. They will soon learn that the digging does not result in any attention. At the same time, ensure that you spend more time with your dog playing or training so that they learn they can have your attention through other acceptable activities.

10 Tips to prevent your dog from digging

  1. Provide your dog with more physical and mental stimulation. If you can't provide this, consider booking a pet sitter to help during the day.
  2. Offer and rotate various toys to prevent them from being bored.
  3. Give your dog a job to do by hiding their toys or treats around the garden. This encourages them to use their nose instead if their paws.
  4. Fence off the area they are digging in to prevent them from continuing the behaviour.
  5. Provide your dog with their own dedicated digging area.
  6. If the digging a result of anxiety or fear, consider keeping them indoors. Or building a well-sheltered area for them to retreat to.
  7. If your dog is digging for attention, provide them with other opportunities to engage with you through play and training sessions.
  8. If your dog is digging to escape, place large rocks, partially buried, along the bottom of the fence line.
  9. Check your garden for rodents or burrowing animals and call pest control if needed.
  10. Ensure your dog has enough shelter to protect them from the heat or cold.

Depending on how long your dog has been practising their digging behaviour, it may not stop overnight. Remember to be patient. Try to understand why your dog is digging instead of trying to punish or immediately stop your dog from digging. If your dog is digging from boredom or genetics, you'll also need to satisfy your dog's generic desire to dig or their need for additional physical and mental exercise. Or you may find that while the digging my stop in the short term, you'll be faced with a new undesirable behavioural problem. If in doubt, seek guidance from a professional dog trainer.