Why Dogs Dig, and How to Stop a Dog From Digging

Do you have one of those back yards that resembles moon cheese, thanks to your hyper-digging dog? This rather annoying habit to us humans, aside from destruction, serves many purposes for our canine friends. The good news is, once you identify why your pet digs up your yard like it’s a minefield, you can correct this behavior. We’ve got tips that’ll answer the burning questions about why dogs dig and how to stop dogs from digging.

Why Do Dogs Dig?

It’s a question as old as the ages. Okay, not really, but it’s had dog owners wondering for years, what’s the fascination about going into the yard and digging like there’s no tomorrow. First off, digging is instinctual to dogs. Yep, they dig because they’re dogs. This type of behavior goes back to the dogs’ ancestor, the wolf. Digging and barking are merely part of dogdom.  

  1. Breed: Unfortunately, because certain breeds, especially hunting dogs, terriers and beagles, are bred to dig, the drive to dig is so strong in these breeds that your interference could make them want to dig even more. So expect some dogs to give up digging completely, while others might be a little more challenging. 
  2. Climate: Digging dogs can further blame their behavior on a few other reasons. Breeds like the thick-coated Siberian husky and Alaskan malamute tend to dig shallow beds into the earth as a way to cool off during warmer months and to keep warm in the snow.
  3. Denning: Dogs feel safe in enclosed areas, and digging out a den, aka “denning,” may be a dog’s only recourse for shelter. Pregnant female dogs will dig due to this denning instinct. If you’ve ever noticed your dog digging away on your couch, a blanket, or in their crate, this is denning behavior.
  4. Escape: Dogs looking to escape the confines of their yard can go “Shawshank” on speed, burrowing under a fence in a matter of mere minutes. Dogs aren’t stupid. They’ve got it figured out; if they can’t go over or around, they might as well go under as a path to freedom.
  5. Boredom: Doggy boredom is a real thing.  The signs include furniture legs chewed down to splinters, pillows reduced to polyester mounds, and toilet paper strewn about the house as if a Halloween prank. Digging holes is another avenue for dogs to keep themselves entertained.
  6. Treasures: One of the most common reasons dogs dig is to bury something “special” like their favorite bones, snacks, or toys. Burying items such as these is a way for dogs to save and protect their resources until they’re ready to eat or play with them.
  7. Fun: Can fun be a reason? Of course, it can; we humans have done plenty of stupid things all in the name of fun, so why not our pets? As a dog, tearing up the earth, flinging dirt clods, and unburying a few bugs, worms, even vermin are bonuses.
  8. Stress: Dogs can find digging comforting if they suffer from anxiety or stress. 

Some Dog Breeds Dig Digging More Than Other Breeds 

While it’s natural for all dogs to dig, some tend to dig more than others. With that said, every dog is unique, so it’s possible even if your dog’s breed isn’t known for it’s digging, your pet may dig it.

Here are some of the top dog breeds that dig:

How to Stop a Dog From Digging?

We didn’t forget your burning question: How do you keep dogs from digging? While you may not be successful in eliminating your dog’s desire to dig, you can reduce their impulses to act on these urges. So, once you determine why your dog is digging, it’s time to take action.

Give your dogs their own garden

Provide a dig area just for your dog. This space could be a designated spot in the yard, a sandbox, or a kiddie’s swimming pool filled with dirt that your dog can dig to his heart’s content without destroying your yard. If your pet doesn’t seem interested, bury something appealing like a few healthy treats into the sand or dirt to entice your pet to his new digging zone.

Don’t let your dog get bored

When boredom is to blame, ensure your pet receives sufficient exercise and mental stimulation. Any time you find your dog digging, redirect them with a few rounds of fetch, take them for a walk, or offer them a fun, entertaining toy that can keep him distracted from digging. 

Provide shade for outdoor dogs

If your dog has a good shaded area and access to plenty of water on warm days, they will be less likely to dig themselves an earth bed. Same goes for colder months. If your pets need to be outside for any length of time, make sure they have protection from nature’s harsher elements.

Curb their enthusiasm

To keep your dog from digging under the fence:

  • Place a line of large rocks, partially buried, at the base of your fence.
  • If a wooden fence, bury the bottom of the fence a foot or two below the surface.
  • Attach some chain link fencing or chicken wire to the bottom of your fence (your pet would find it uncomfortable to walk on).

If you believe your pet is digging due to anxiety or stress, discuss the behavior with your vet.

Creative ways to stop digging dogs

You can also give a few out-of-the-box dog digging deterrents a try. A motion sensor watering system can make your dog turn away. Thorny shrubs or rose bushes as border plants may keep a dog from digging up certain areas. Incorporating some citrus peels into your garden’s soil or across the grass may have your dog turning up his nose and away from the area. Although typically used for excessive barking (another annoying habit), you can use an ultrasonic training device when you see your dog digging up the yard. The ultrasonic sound emitted will grab your dog’s attention allowing you a chance to redirect him with a verbal command and provide praise and a reward, aka treat. 

Main photo by Kyle Smith on Unsplash

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