For most dogs, digging comes naturally. Digging can be a habit they’ve had since they were a puppy or something they discovered in adulthood.
In many cases, this can be a harmless pastime for dogs. Other times, like if your dog is digging up flower beds or digging under a fence, you need to find out how to get your dog to stop digging.
Fortunately, if you want to stop a dog digging holes in your yard, there are solutions, especially if you start early enough.
Why Is My Dog Digging Holes All of a Sudden?
Digging is a natural behavior for dogs, and occasional digging usually isn’t a problem for their humans. Repeated digging can become destructive in our eyes, though, so it’s best to identify ways to reduce the behavior. Otherwise, digging dogs can do significant damage to your home and garden. Plus, it will become harder to train your dog to stop digging if it goes on for too long.
Some of the most likely reasons why your dog is digging are:
- Lack of stimulation: Keeping dogs engaged in activities that stimulate their bodies and minds is essential to their well-being. A dog who is not sufficiently entertained, lacks interaction with humans, other animals and/or doesn’t have toys to play with will seek different forms of stimulation. That other form of stimulation might include digging. This is especially true of younger dogs and puppies who need to burn off their energy.
- Instinct: Most dogs have the instinct to dig, but some breeds are especially prone to digging behaviors. Terriers are enthusiastic diggers, as are Beagles, Dachshunds and Malamutes.
- To stay warm/cool: Dogs sometimes dig to get down to cooler dirt to lay in to escape the heat. Often they will retreat into the bushes to dig so they can get some extra shade. The opposite is also true. Breeds like Malamutes or Siberian Huskies have an instinctual drive to dig holes in the snow. This likely stems from their ancestors needing to find shelter from the freezing cold temperatures and winds.
- The urge to hunt: In the case of some dogs, like Jack Russell Terriers, digging comes from their long history as hunters who looked for small prey, like rodents that live underground.
How to Keep Dogs from Digging
If your dog is digging for any reason and you feel it’s time to act, there are a few ways to curtail that behavior.
Remove Any Sources of Stress
When figuring out how to stop a dog from digging, first look for any recent changes to their environment or routine.
If your dog is digging because of stress from things like boredom or separation anxiety, it’s important to understand the root cause of their anxieties. There are times where a dog can get stressed from unavoidable situations. For example, the sudden change of environment that comes from moving might give a dog anxiety.
In that case, you can ease the transition by spending plenty of quality time with your dog and setting up a “safe” area in the new house. In addition, recreating their sleeping space with familiar items and in as similar a location as possible helps ease the transition.
Is there anything a dog loves more than playtime? Well, maybe a nice bowl of dog food, but playtime is always a highlight of a dog’s day. Ensure your dog gets the right amount of exercise every day according to their size and breed. Different dog breeds require different activity levels. Also, don’t assume a small dog needs less exercise.
Your dog should get at least a half-hour of outdoor activity every day. Increasing their level of exercise could help them burn off the extra energy they are spending on digging up holes in the garden.
Dogs need as much mental stimulation as physical exercise. So, if your dog is suffering from excessive boredom, their digging could be due to a lack of mental stimulation.
The solution is to engage your dog in activities you both will enjoy. For example, playing fetch, going for long walks or a tug of war might be enough to redirect your dog towards more acceptable behaviors.
Plus, playing with your dog will strengthen your bond. Dog treat toys and obstacle courses are also fun ways to keep them stimulated. Enriching your pet’s environment with additional dog toys will also provide them with activities when you have to leave them alone. Fortunately, there are all kinds of games to play with your dog to help engage them mentally.
Remove Area Pests
Dogs hunting for area pests, like rodents who burrow in the yard, might be more likely to dig and be less receptive to more playtime and mental stimulation. Sure, it’s always a good idea to ensure proper exercise and social time for your dog, but in this case, the unwanted behavior is instinct driven.
The solution is to find humane ways to catch or trap the problem animals by hiring experts. Please make sure the professionals you hire relocate them somewhere far from an area highly populated with humans and, for that matter, dogs.
Provide Shelter & Shade
Although dogs’ ancestors came from the wild, most of them have developed a taste for the comforts of living with people. So, if you leave your dog outside for long periods, make sure they have proper access to shade when it’s hot out and shelter when it’s cold. You should also make sure they have access to plenty of fresh water.
How to Stop a Dog from Digging Under a Fence
You can’t blame a dog for wondering what else is out there in the neighborhood to discover, sniff and maybe even bark at. Digging under the fence and escaping is, of course, a serious concern, however. You can curtail this behavior by half-burying rocks and other obstacles along the edge of the fence to make digging more difficult.
The Art of Compromise
If your dog has an unbridled passion for digging and you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of your yard or garden to allow them their pastime, that’s okay. This can be done by creating a “digging zone” to play out their enthusiasm for digging.
First, find a place in your yard or garden you don’t mind being disrupted and praise your dog for digging in that spot. Then make sure to reinforce that they are not to dig anywhere else in the yard. Installing a sand pit for them in which to dig is another way to give them a place to express this natural behavior.
There’s much more to learn about dogs and their behavior from our experts on our Pet Expertise page.