How to Stop Dogs from Digging

Nothing is more frustrating than spending a day planting a new garden, only to have it dug up by the family dog. Before you scold your dog, find out why he is digging and what you can do to keep your yard free of holes.

Why dogs dig
Dogs dig for various reasons, but revenge is not one of them. It is likely due to one of the following:

  • Prey – Gophers and insects are attractive to dogs, especially terriers, retrievers and other types of dogs with strong hunting instincts. If you notice digging at the roots of the trees or in specific areas of the yard, then prey may be to blame.
  • Entertainment – Dogs, particularly puppies that are very active, need to keep busy. If they have no toys or playmates, they may resort to digging. Boredom and loneliness can also lead to digging as the dog’s way of releasing anxiety and energy.
  • Comfort – On hot days, a dog may take solace in the cool dirt near the house or under a tree. If your dog has no shelter and is frequently found lying in the holes, then he is using his digging skills as a way to cool down.
  • Attention – If a dog only receives attention when he does something wrong, then he will continue to do the offending behavior, even if the attention is negative. When a dog digs in front of his owner, he is doing it as a way to seek attention.
  • Escape – Holes along the fence line means that your dog is trying to escape. There may be something in the yard that is threatening him, or more likely, he may smell something appealing, such as food or the scent of a dog in heat (particularly if your dog is not neutered).

How to stop the digging
Once you determine the root cause of your dog’s digging, you can then find a way to curb the desire. Here are some methods you can try:

  • Exercise – A tired dog is less likely to engage in undesirable behaviors. Many dogs misbehave simply because they have too much energy. Keep your dog busy by engaging in play time and frequent walks. He will then be too tired to dig.
  • Confinement – If you cannot watch your dog while he is loose in the yard, you will need to confine him in a kennel or crate or keep him indoors until you can determine the reason for the digging.
  • Keep him entertained – If you must leave your dog alone, provide him with things to keep him busy. Treat dispensers and sturdy toys, such as rawhide bones, are ideal. If the digging persists, it may be worth it to hire a neighborhood teenager to take your dog on walks or play with him while you are away.
  • Reprimand him – Create a negative association with digging. For example, you may want to spray him with a hose or water bottle when you catch him digging holes. However, this only works if you are consistent and able to do it immediately when you catch your dog in the act of digging. If you wait until after the fact, your dog fails to associate the digging with the punishment, and this can actually make the digging problem worse.

Another negative association is the popping sound of balloons. Bury balloons where your dog likes to dog. When your dog attempts to dig there, the sound of the balloon popping will likely startle him enough to avoid the area.

  • Don’t let your dog work in the garden with you – Sometimes dogs just want to mimic their owners. If they see you working in the garden, they may feel compelled to do the same. Therefore, it’s better to keep your dog confined while gardening.
  • Fix the fencing – If your dog is trying to escape under the fence, make it impossible to do so. Fill in any holes and keep chicken wire or large rocks along the base of the fence (or where the dog likes to dig) to keep your dog in the yard.
  • Protect your dog from the elements – Extreme heat can cause your dog to dig to cool off. Make sure she has a dog house or other shelter to keep her cool in the summer.
  • Provide a digging area – Some dogs just love to dig and nothing can stop them. If this is the case with your dog, and you have the extra space, consider making him a digging area. Fill a hole with sand and bury his favorite toys and treats in there. He will enjoy digging there so much that he won’t dig anywhere else. You can also use a small sandbox.
  • Fill holes with dog feces – This doesn’t sound nice, but it is very effective. When your dog digs holes, fill them back up with dog feces. Your dog will be so turned off by this that he will likely never dig there again. For an added effect, feed your dog pineapple before doing this. To dogs, pineapple and dog feces mixed together create a horrible smell.

Less radical solutions include scattering ground pepper or small rocks that are unpleasant for your dog’s paws in digging areas.

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