Has your dog turned your perfect backyard into an archaeological dig site, full of holes and mini craters? If this is the case, you’re not alone – many dog owners are in the same predicament!
But how to stop dogs from digging holes? Dogs dig for many different reasons, including instinct, boredom, lack of attention, stress, comfort, or to hunt prey. Figuring out what is causing your dog to dig and addressing the problem is the best way to stop unwanted behavior. Punishing your dog for digging will make things even worse.
In this article, we’ll go over the reasons why dogs dig and will tell you how to address and fix the problem once and for all. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Why Do Dogs Dig?
While a true nuisance for many dog owners, digging is a natural instinct for dogs, and in some cases, it can’t be completely stopped. Certain breeds, like Terriers and Dachshunds, were bred to dig and hunt vermin, and digging up dirt is a part of who they are (source).
Being bred to dig is just one of many reasons why your dog is suddenly obsessed with excavating your entire backyard. And the only way you can stop this dog behavior is to figure out why your dog is digging in the first place.
Let’s take a look at why do dogs dig:
Lack of exercise and boredom are the main reasons why dogs start to dig holes all of a sudden. If not provided with ways to burn excess energy, your dog will start to tunnel to China just to blow off some steam and stay entertained.
This type of behavior is common for puppies who are full of energy and just can’t sit still. But working and highly energetic adult dogs will start to dig as well if they don’t have a better job to do.
While lying in a dirt hole doesn’t sound comfortable to us, most dogs will beg to differ. If your dog doesn’t have a proper doggy house, he may find that a hole is more comfortable than lying on the grass or ground.
When not provided with adequate shelter in cold or hot weather, many dogs will dig out a hole to crawl in. A hole will keep your dog cool during hot summer days, but also keep him protected and warm in the rain and snow.
Dogs have a much stronger sense of smell than people, and they can catch the scent of prey and insects that are burrowing underneath your perfect lawn. If your dog is digging in a single area of your yard or near tree roots there is a big possibility that he is hunting prey.
Dogs that spend long periods of time alone may resort to digging to get attention from their owners. If your dog is digging in your presence or doesn’t interact or spend enough time with you, he is likely looking for attention.
If you notice that your dog is digging under or along the fence line, it’s highly likely that he is trying to escape. In this case, your pooch is either trying to go to a specific place outside your yard, or he is trying to escape from something that’s happening inside the yard.
If none of the above seems like a likely reason for your dog’s sudden need to dig around your yard, stress and anxiety might be to blame. Many dogs resort to destructive behaviors such as digging to relieve stress and anxiety.
Furthermore, dogs that suffer from separation anxiety can’t cope with being left alone and will turn to all types of destructive behavior to relieve stress and feel better (source).
How to Stop Dogs from Digging?
Figuring out why your dog digs will help you to stop this behavior once and for all. Addressing the underlying issue is the only way you can stop your dog from digging now, and prevent it from happening in the future.
Here’s what you’ll need to do:
1. Exercise Your Dog
To stop your dog from digging up the entire backyard, you’ll have to exercise him every day for 30 minutes at least. Keep in mind that working breeds and highly energetic dogs need way more exercise than an average pooch, so adjust the intensity and the length of the activity to suit your dog’s needs (source).
Hiking, running, swimming, cycling, and playing fetch are great ways to tire an energetic dog and prevent him from digging.
2. Give More Attention
Instead of scolding or punishing your dog for digging holes, you should spend more time interacting with him daily. Some breeds crave human companionship more than others, so make sure that your pooch is receiving as much attention that he needs.
3. Keep Your Dog Occupied
If your dog digs out of boredom you should enrich his environment and add toys that will provide mental stimulation. Chew and puzzle toys are super fun and will keep your dog busy and occupied for hours on end.
4. Get Rid of Rodents
Find a safe way to eliminate pests and vermin that are causing your dog to excavate the entire yard. You can set up traps, add a fence, or call pest control to deal with any unwanted animals that are calling your yard a home.
We strongly discourage the use of poison when it comes to dealing with pests. Any poison that’s lethal to vermin is also dangerous for your dog, so use only safe pest control measures.
5. Provide Accommodations
If your dog spends long periods of time in the yard, get him a dog house that will serve as a shelter when it’s hot or cold. Also, you should get your dog inside more often, especially during extreme weather conditions.
6. Prevent Escape Attempts
If you think that your dog is trying to escape from your property, you should first try to figure out why he is doing that and then give him a reason to stay inside the yard. In the meantime, you can make your backyard escape-proof by burying chicken wire underneath your existing fence.
Alternatively, many pet owners have found that lining the border of the fence with partially buried rocks serves as a great deterrent for digging and escape attempts. Regardless of the approach you choose, make sure that any sharp wires and rocks are pointing away from your pooch so he can’t get injured in any way.
7. Create A Digging Zone
Consider constructing a digging zone inside your yard that will serve as a doggy sandbox. You can create a simple pit in the ground or use wooden beams to build a box and fill it with sand or earth.
Bury some of your dog’s favorite toys inside the digging zone to encourage him to dig there. And to make the sandbox even more appealing give your dog treats and praise him whenever he digs in it.
Things That Won’t Stop A Dog From Digging
Even if your dog has dug up holes and craters all over your yard you should never:
Punish Your Dog
Punishing your dog after he has done the deed never works and it can make him anxious and afraid of you. When stressed out and anxious, your dog will start to dig even more to cope with the additional stress.
Chain A Dog To A Stake
Chaining your dog to a stake near the hole he has dug up doesn’t address the problem and can spur a dog into a digging frenzy. Furthermore, dogs that haven’t been chained before can get frightened and try to escape, which can lead to painful neck injuries or choking.
Fill A Hole With Water
If you thought that pouring water into the hole will stop your dog from digging any further, you thought wrong. Not only will your dog continue to dig enthusiastically he will also get muddy and in a desperate need of a bath.
As you can see, dogs dig for a variety of different reasons. While some breeds are bred to hunt rodents and are natural diggers, many dogs start to dig because they are bored or lack attention.
However, once you figure out what is the reason for this behavior you can deal with it and stop your dog from digging up your yard. And if you can’t identify the cause right away, you can always use digging deterrents such as chicken wire, cayenne pepper, or fence as a temporary fix.