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How To Stop My Dog Digging

Written by Anna Hollisey


Jack Russell butt digging in garden

Holes are appearing all over the garden. Plants are uprooted. Your favorite shoe is sticking out from a heap of dirt. So you got a digger? We feel your pain… Here’s some of the best advice for stopping your dog from digging!

Why Do Dogs Dig?

Honestly, there’s no single answer. The canine compulsion to dig can be strong. We believe that the domestic dog’s ancestors dug for shelter, prey, and hiding food. Today’s dogs have none of the same requirements!

In any case, there are several supposed reasons for this digging:

  • They are bored. Dogs need mental stimulation, especially when they’re young or under-exercised. Digging can be fun.
  • It’s in their genes. Many dogs were purposely bred to dig, helping hunters by rustling out badgers, gophers, or foxes. 
  • They’ve seen an animal which they might regard as prey. If your dog just started digging ferociously in one place, they could have picked up a scent that they want to follow.
  • They’re stressed. Digging is a distraction technique for dogs who are feeling worried or anxious –it gives them something to focus on.
  • When it’s hot, some dogs (especially the thick-coated types) dig to reach cooler ground that they can lie on.
  • If it’s cold or wet, they may be digging to create a kind of shelter. Certain breeds (such as Huskies) are more prone to this – because they originated in cold climates where shelter was important.
  • Some dogs dig (under fences or boundaries) to escape. Don’t feel offended. This may be because they have a destination in mind, they’ve picked up a scent, or they are simply bored.

Should We Stop Them From Digging?

We shouldn’t punish our dogs for digging. They’re enjoying a natural behavior which (to their minds) has a purpose.

Of course, ceaseless digging ruins yards and tests patience to its limits. Not to mention causing a potential danger if they manage to tunnel their way to freedom.  

How to Stop Unwanted Digging

Distraction can be a good technique. If you suspect that your dog is bored, supply them with other interests. You can purchase challenging puzzle toys – ideal for intelligent dogs to spend time solving. 

Teach your dog the ‘leave’ command/learn/dog-training/how-to-teach-a-dog-to-drop-it so that you can halt digging as soon as it starts. Ask them for a positive behavior in its place (such as bringing you a toy or ball), and reward them with a quick game of catch. 

If your dog is digging to escape, preventative measures may be necessary. Build a sturdy boundary from posts and chicken wire, digging down to extend it underground. Ensure that the boundary is high enough to deter jumping!

If your dog is a truly determined digger, you could consider providing them with a digging space. It could be a pit filled with sand (easy to dig – and to backfill again afterwards). If you live near the beach, take your dog for a digging spree to satisfy their urges. 

Further Reading

Did you know that there are certain plants which could deter dogs from parts of your yard? Learn more about the plants that dogs don’t like/learn/dog-health/plants-that-dogs-dont-like. If you suspect that your dog is digging for stress relief, read our comprehensive guide to dog anxiety/learn/dog-health/dog-anxiety-facts-tips-and-treatment-options. We explored the historic reasons for burying food and other treasures here/learn/dog-lifestyle/why-do-dogs-bury-bones