Being a dog owner is a huge blessing, but let’s be honest…there are times when your k9 buddy drives you completely insane. It can get frustrating when they dig holes in the yard you’ve worked so hard to maintain. To make it even worse, once they dig one hole, some dogs get in the habit of hole digging and turn your yard into a battlefield.
Dogs of all sizes and breeds like to dig for many different reasons. The key to figuring out how to stop a dog from digging is to know why they are digging in the first place. That’s exactly what we are going to go over in today’s article. You’ll learn a few tricks to get your dog to stop digging holes in the yard and you’ll also learn what’s causing this behavior in the first place.
One last thing to keep in mind before we get started. You’re dog isn’t digging holes in the yard to make you mad. This is instinctual behavior on their end. Yes, with proper training you can teach your dog to stop digging, but until then, it’s best to avoid yelling and screaming at your dog. That will confuse them and will cause the behavioral correction to take even more time.
The Top Methods To Stop Your Dog From Digging
The good news is getting your dog to stop digging in the yard is a simple process and for 99% of dogs, one of the methods below will work. We will briefly list these methods below and then go over them in more detail towards the end of the article.
- Keep your dog cool
- Provide them with exercise and mental stimulation
- Trim their nails
- Put away the toys
- Assign a designated digging area
- Keep pests out
- Install privacy fencing
- Change the dogs food
- Crate train your dog or keep them indoors
- Be patient
The method you choose is completely dependent on why your dog is digging in the first place. This is why the next section is about the primary reasons dogs dig holes. As you read these, ask yourself if any of these apply to your dog.
Why Do Dogs Dig?
We don’t always know why dogs do what they do, but over time some behavior can be understood. Here are some of the most common reasons why dogs begin digging.
One of the main ways a dog will cool off is by laying on a cold surface. If the ground is too hot, your dog may dig a hole in an attempt to find a colder surface. If your dog only digs during hot months, there’s a good chance they’re just doing it to try to cool off, this is completely normal dog behavior.
Humans need a lot of stimulation, dogs need even more! Some dogs dig just because they are bored and have nothing else to do. This is especially evident in dogs that are tethered or enclosed in a small area.
Protecting Something Valuable
Humans use safes and banks to store our valuables, dogs use the yard. Burying their favorite toy or prized chew bone is their way of keeping it out of the hands (or paws) of others. Dogs that hide things will usually do it shortly after receiving it. Next time you give them a treat, see if you can catch your dog digging the treat in the ground shortly after.
We all know that a dog can smell things humans can’t. That increased sense of smell will turn a dog into a regular detective as they search for the source of a new scent. Terriers and Hounds are breeds of dogs that are particularly drawn to smells, and they will dig quite a hole to get to it.
Some dogs are diggers by nature. This is particularly true for hunting breeds. Unwanted animals and other pests in a hunting dog’s yard will send them on the chase. In some cases, this could be a snake or gopher hole. Hunting dogs will even attempt to dig under a fence to catch whatever they’re hunting.
Separation anxiety can cause many destructive behaviors and digging is one of the most common. For these dogs, digging distracts their mind from their anxiety. If left uncorrected, this issue can become compulsive.
Lacking Certain Minerals
Yup, some dogs that dig holes might be lacking certain minerals in their diet. Natural instincts are very powerful. They body knows what it needs and dogs will instinctively follow through with the need. Soil contains plenty of vitamins and minerals, when a dog is lacking in these vitamins and minerals the scent of the soil might smell too good to pass up.
Trying to Escape
Anyone who has ever owned a dog has likely experienced the moment when a dog makes every attempt to escape. In the case of a digger, when they cannot go through a gate or over a fence, they’ll try to go under.
Loneliness in dogs can cause a number of behavior issues. Some dogs will chew up furniture, others will constantly bark, and some lonely dogs will dig holes.
How to Stop The Digging
Did any of the above reasons on why dogs dig holes stand out to you? Do you think you might know the reason your dog is expressing this destructive behavior? If so, the solutions to each problem are mentioned below.
Keep Them Comfortable
Providing a cool spot in your yard as the heat rises will stop a dog from digging just to cool off. Alternatively, as the colder months set in, they may be looking for a place to keep warm. Making sure your dog has shelter from excessive hot and cold climates is important.
Provide Plenty of Exercise and Stimulation
Whether you want to take your dog on a walk or play fetch in the yard, spending quality time with your dog will help stimulate their brain and settle them down. A dog that is given plenty of exercise and played with on a regular basis will be less likely to dig for stimulation. On the other hand, a dog that gets a lack of exercise is more likely to express destructive behavior.
Let Them Run
Dogs need to be able to run around. This is especially true for dogs that are tethered or kept in a small enclosure. Take them somewhere they can stretch their legs. Just like regular exercise, this will help to settle a dog that has pent up energy. If you don’t have the ability to let them run around, walk your dog for 30 minutes.
Keep Their Nails Trimmed
Digging helps dogs trim their nails. By keeping nails short and trim, not only does a dog not have to dig to do it, digging can be slightly harder for the, so they may not want to dig in the first place.
Put Away The Toys
Whether you decide to bring toys inside when you are not there to supervise, or place them in storage outside, a dog cannot bury what it cannot access. If a dog tends to partially bury bones, treats, or dog toys, switching to smaller treats (one or two bites), will help lessen the chance of them digging a hole to hide the treat.
Give Them A Place to Dig
Some dogs are bred to dig; it’s part of their DNA. In these cases, providing your dog with a specified area they can dig may be the only option. Training them to only dig in the approved area may take some time, but the result will be well worth the effort. You can even turn it into a game for them by hiding toys and treats in their designated digging area.
Reducing Stress in Their Environment
Some dogs get easily overstimulated by other animals, sounds, and distractions around them. For dogs that get especially anxious when other animals are around them, spending some time socializing them with other dogs may help to decrease their stress.
Get Rid of Uninvited Guests (Burrowing Animals)
By guests, we mean pests. Whether it’s moles, weasels, or snakes. Dogs dig to get to or away from pests. Just remember not to treat the yard chemically since pesticides are toxic to dogs.
Change Dog Food
When was the last time you checked if the food your feeding your dog has all the essential vitamins and minerals? The easiest way to check this is to see if the label says “Complete and Balanced”. If the food is labeled with that phrase then it likely contains enough vitamins and minerals. If not, you’ll want to find a new brand that has that phrase on the label.
For dogs that run laps back and forth along the fence line trying to figure out how to get to the other side, installing a privacy fence with additional protection along the base of the fence (such as chicken wire or small rocks) will prevent them from digging. Some dogs are just curious and want to explore the other side. But they won’t have any desire to explore what they can’t see.
Crate Train Your Dog (Or Let Them Stay Inside)
This should be the last alternative when nothing else works. If you feel like you’ve tried everything else, it may be time to begin crate training. Or if you feel like you can leave your dog roaming around the home when no one is there, you can simply leave them inside.
Most vets and animal behaviorists actually recommend keeping your dog indoors when you are gone for a number of reasons. The first is the fact that they can’t tear up your yard when they are locked inside. But the main reason is because it’s safer for dogs to be indoors when no one is home. You never know what your dog is going to find in the backyard that could be detrimental to their health. Not to mention the greater chance they have of getting infected with a worm or fleas.
Most Importantly — Be Patient.
Most likely the dog didn’t start digging over-night, whether it’s from lack of stimulation to trying to escape, changing the behavior is going to take some time and patience. Overall, the best thing to do is to spend time with the dog. Making sure that you are correcting the digging when it’s happening and reinforcing good behaviors will help you succeed.
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