Why do dogs dig holes? The most common reason for digging is boredom. Many dog owners underestimate the amount of exercise and activity a dog needs each day. For some dogs, one 20-minute walk each day is enough, but for some breeds, two daily walks are needed. Remember, if your dog does not get enough exercise doing acceptable activities such as walking, he will find other destructive outlets for that energy, such as digging holes.
When we ask, “Why do dogs dig holes?” we must also consider another very important reason. Some dog breeds are naturally predisposed to digging. It’s in their nature to dig. Breeds like terriers and dachshunds are bred to dig for badgers, so they are predisposed to digging.
If you have a breed that is naturally predisposed to digging it can be very hard to curb their digging behavior. For these dogs, try creating a safe digging zone where digging is permitted. Petition a section of the yard using rocks or boards. In this area, bury things your dog will want to dig up, like treats and bones. When you see your dog digging in that area, reward and praise him. You can even take the dog over to the safe digging zone and start digging yourself to show the dog that this is acceptable behavior.
While creating a safe digging zone is important, it is just as important to make the rest of the yard unappealing to your dog. When you are filling existing holes, try putting lava rocks or your dog’s stool in these holes about an inch above the surface.
How to Stop Your Dog from Digging Holes
Start by reinforcing good behavior. When you see your dog in the yard and he is doing appropriate activities, remember to praise him. When you increase your praise when your dog is chewing on a toy or getting some sun, you will increase the chances that your dog will continue to do these activities.
Next, you must make the yard less appealing to your dog. Try filling established holes with rocks, your dog’s stool or an inflated balloon. Dogs like to go back to the same place to dig again, so when he does, he will find it unpleasant. If your dog starts to dig in a new spot, continue to fill in those holes as well. But, it is very important that your dog does not see you filling in the holes. If he does, he will assume that since you can play in the dirt it is also acceptable behavior for him.
If your dog has centered his digging on one particular area, plant chicken wire about an inch from the surface. Even if the grass grows over the wire it will continue to be effective, making it uncomfortable for your dog to dig in that area.
If digging has become habitual for your dog, you should interrupt his digging behavior with a correction technique. It is important that your dog relates the correction to the digging, not to your presence, so don’t let him see you do the correction. You can startle your dog with a squirt of water from a squirt gun. Use a loud noise, an air horn, or a pet correction spray to stop the digging behavior.
Most importantly, be consistent. Make sure that the whole family remains consistent in deterring your dog’s digging behavior. Dogs like to dig, and it can be difficult to change your dog’s behavior, but it can be stopped with a consistent effort from you and your family.
Tips to Stop Your Dog’s Digging
Here are some ideas to help you put an end to your dog’s digging:
- Give your dog more play time and exercise. The main cause of digging is boredom and lack of exercise. Your dog needs a way to work of his energy. For some dogs, one daily walk is enough, but some breeds will need two walks a day. Spend more time with your dog by walking and doing other activities.
- Give your dog more chews and toys to keep him busy. If you want to stop your dog from digging in the yard, you must give him a distraction. Consider tennis balls, rope toys, treat toys, bones, and dental chews. Your dog may even respond well to a sandbox.
- Help your dog cool down. In hot weather, your dog may dig to create a cool spot to cool off. Make sure there is a safe shady area in your yard where your dog can stay cool.
- Designate an area of the yard for acceptable digging and discourage your dog from digging in off-limits areas. You may want to use a sandbox as a safe digging area, or use rocks or edging to create a safe digging area in your yard. Praise your dog when he digs in this area and use deterrents to keep him from digging in unacceptable areas of the yard.
- Add digging deterrents. Dogs like to return to the same areas to dig, so try to discourage digging in these areas by adding digging deterrents. You may want to bury deterrents with a strong odor or an uncomfortable feel to deter your dog’s digging. You can partially bury rocks or bury chicken wire just under the surface. Try putting citrus peels, cayenne or vinegar in that area. Plant rose bushes or thorny shrubs. Lastly, consider getting a motion detector for your sprinkler system.
- Get rid of rodents in your yard. You may have gophers, rats or squirrels that leave trails or scents that will cause your dog to dig. This is especially common when the digging occurs near trees and plants. If you have rodents or burrowing animals in your yard, call an exterminator or use safe methods to keep animals away.
To learn more about digging behavior in dogs, go to How to Stop a Dog from Digging. (Link to pillar article.)