How To Deal With Dogs That Dig

Digging can be a frustrating and destructive behavior, especially when it is occurs in a garden or yard that has been tended to with painstaking TLC. However upsetting this activity is to us, we need to understand it in order to deal with it.

dirty face from digging
Dirty Peke - Photo by Mary & 3 Pekes

Why Do Dogs Dig?

Simply put, dogs dig because it is a natural behavior. Even though it may be hard for us to rationalize when we are observing ruined flowerbeds, dogs do not dig out of spite or a desire to wreak havoc. Dogs will dig for the following reasons:

1) For Entertainment
A dog that is left isolated and alone in a yard for long periods of time is going to grow bored and start to act out in various ways. These behaviors often include barking problems and you guessed it…digging! Since roots and soil actually move when the dog digs, the process becomes an interactive game to your dog.

2) For Shelter or Comfort
In hot weather many dogs will dig a hole to get out of the sun and down into the cooler earth. This den building behavior is a natural survival instinct.

3) To Stalk Prey
Some breeds have a higher prey drive than others (Terriers and Northern breeds for example) and will dig to reach and corner any ground dwelling creatures. The instinct to tunnel is very strong in these dogs.

4) To Escape From an Enclosed Space
If you notice that your dog is attempting to dig along or under the fence, you can bet that he’s trying to make a great escape.

digging dog
Digging Lab - Photo by OakleyOriginals

What You Can Do About Digging Problems:

• Try to increase the amount of time your dog spends inside the house with the family when you are home and in the security of a crate when you are not.

• Include regular walks as part of your daily routine. They provide both physical and mental stimulation that will help curb your dog’s urges to dig.

• If your dog is going to spend time in the yard, provide him with some interactive toys (such as stuffed KONGs or treatballs) to keep him busy. Rotate these toys on a regular basis to give him variety.

• Provide your dog with a dog door so he can get in out of the heat of the yard. A doghouse in the shade should be the bare minimum. A kiddie pool with a few inches of water also can serve as a nice way for your dog to cool off and also entertain himself.

• Spay or neuter your dog. An unaltered dog will do almost anything to escape the confines of their yard to roam and mate.

• If your dog is attempting to dig under the fence, you can bury large rocks or chicken wire under the ground at the base to discourage the behavior.

• Create an acceptable digging area that is partitioned off with boards. The size of the area can vary depending on the size of your dog. You can encourage your dog to dig there by partially burying some treats or toys for him to unearth. Praise your dog when you see him digging there. Punishing a digging dog for acting on a natural behavior isn’t an effective or humane to deal with this problem. Remember, the more time your dog spends with you the less of a chance he will have to dig up your newly planted begonias!


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