Why Do Dogs Dig? And How To Stop A Dog From Digging

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So, you’re probably here because your dog is wreaking havoc in your yard and you want to find out what this is all about. Don’t worry, you’re not alone in this, this is actually a very common problem dog owners face a lot.

First off and before we discuss what you can do to stop your dog from digging, let’s talk about why dogs dig:

Why Do Dogs Dig?

  • Entertainment: Many dogs dig their way in your yard simply for entertainment purposes. Is your dog being left alone in the yard for long periods of time without any interaction from humans, dogs to socialize with or toys to play around with? If so, you’re only leaving your dog with very limited choices for them to channel their energy into, some of which are barking, whining and digging.
  • Dog See – Dog Do: This one is very common in dogs who have owners that work around the garden with their hands. If you’re someone who does gardening work around the house and your dog sees you in the process, some dogs like to imitate their owners and “dig around” just like you do!
  • Hunting Prey: One of the most common reasons that your dog might be digging in your yard is to find burrowing animals or insects who live there. The probability that your dog is digging for this reason greatly increases if your dog focuses on digging in just one single area, digs at tree roots, digs at shrubs or digs in a systematic way.
  • Valuable Possessions: Many times, dogs will dig and bury valuable things to them like food, bones, and toys for them to hide and come attend to later. Your dog might even bury something valuable to them one place, only to dig it up again and bury it somewhere else.
  • Haven: Many times, dogs will simply dig to provide themselves with a safe haven in circumstances that require them to do so. Such circumstances are during very hot summer days, where your dog might choose to dig a hole so they can lie in the cool dirt and escape from the intense hot weather. Your dog may also dig a hole to protect themselves from extremely cold weather which is often dominated by wind and rain.
  • Looking For Water: Believe it or not, dogs that can’t get access to enough water levels that they need during the day could very well resort to digging holes in an attempt to search for water.
  • Escape: If your dog is digging besides or under the fence on your property, then they’re most probably trying to find a way out. Digging to escape is very commonly seen in dogs which suffer from separation anxiety, where the dog panics from being left alone and starts digging a hole hoping it will lead them to their owner. You can learn all about separation anxiety in dogs in this article.
  • Attention: Dogs absolutely love to do things like this to get your attention. If your dog only digs when you’re around and they know you see them, then they’re screaming out loud for attention. If, however, your dog digs when you’re not around, then it’s probably because of something else.

What NOT To Do If Your Dog Is Digging

If you catch your dog digging and you’d like to have them stop, here are some things you should NEVER do.

  • Scolding: Scolding your dog pr physically punishing them if you catch them digging a hole is something you DON’T want to do, because this solves nothing when it comes to modifying their behavior and only leads to fear and anxiety developing in Fido.
  • Revenge: Many dog owners, because they don’t know any better, make the mistake of “taking revenge” on their dog when they dig holes. One of the most common forms of this act is when dog owners take their dog and have them sit next to the hole they’ve dug for a long time, which again will solve nothing in this case.
  • Filling It With Water: One of the most sickening ways some people deal with their dog digging holes in their yard comes to mind each and every time this subject is talked about. These people take their dogs to the hole they dug, fill the hole with water and hold their dog’s head in the hole under the water for a certain period of time. By doing this, these people think that their dog will learn that digging holes is a bad behavior and it should stop. But, the reality is that your dog will never be able to make the connection between you drowning them in water and them digging the hole, and other than the fact that this whole procedure is very sickening and inhumane, it worsens your dog’s behavioral problems rather than solving them.

How To Keep Dogs From Digging

  • Exercise: Giving your dog the proper amount of daily exercise they need is always key in preventing the development of behavior problems, one of which is digging. So, be sure to engage your dog with enough physical activity (such as daily walks) and mental stimulation, which will leave your dog with much less reasons that want to make them channel any energy into digging. A tired dog is a dog that doesn’t even want to think about digging for unnecessary reasons. If you’re giving your dog daily exercise but notice they’re still digging, ask yourself if you’re giving them appropriate amounts of exercise that’s long enough and challenging enough for them to be tired afterwards. If your dog is getting daily exercise but it’s not challenging enough to tire them, then they will still do things like bark, dig, jump, whine and chew to try to channel all the extra energy inside them into something else.
  • Entertainment: Try your best to make sure that your dog is rarely left alone with nothing entertaining to do. If you have to leave your dog alone for some period of time, make sure that they have enough toys around to play with and keep themselves busy.
  • Engagement: Make sure to engage with your dog on a daily basis and spend enough time with them so you make them feel valued, which in turn gives them no reason to go around digging holes in your yard for your attention. Anything from exercise, physical games, mental games or training sessions are excellent ways for you to engage with your dog and spend quality time together.
  • Repel Burrowing Animals And Insects: If you suspect that your yard has burrowing animals and insects in it, you have to use products that repel them from wanting to be there. However, be careful about using products that rely on toxins and poison to repel these burrowing animals and insects, because these products can be just as toxic to your dog if they come anywhere near them.
  • Proper Shelter: To make sure your dog doesn’t dig because they want to provide themselves with proper shelter, you provide them with proper shelter before they have the chance of thinking about doing such a thing for themselves. So, make sure you provide your dog with a proper doghouse that isn’t exposed to and affected by extreme weather conditions. Also consider not keeping your dog outside all the time and bringing them inside the house if you can.
  • Provide Water: Always make sure that your dog has easy access to water, weather in a bowl they drink from or whatever, so they can get a drink whenever they feel like it and don’t have to go digging around your yard to look for some.
  • Establishing A Digging Spot: If all else fails and you just can’t seem to get your dog to stop digging, probably the last resort would be to dedicate one spot in your yard for your dog to dig in, such as a sandbox that’s designed just for them. For this method to work, you have to continuously monitor your dog to see if they’re digging in that specific spot, which is when you will give them praise and a treat, or if they’re digging in another spot, which is when you’ll intervene and say a command you will always use for this case such as “wrong spot!”, and instantly take them to the spot they’re allowed to dig in. With time your dog will understand that they’re only allowed to dig in the spot you chose for them, and any other spot they choose to dig in will make you upset.
  • Training Class: Enrolling your dog in an obedience training class given by a certified professional dog trainer is a surefire way to get them to stop certain behaviors like digging and modify them to the better.

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