One of the most fantastic feelings as a dog owner is being able to give your dog his or her own space in which to run and play. Simply being able to let your dog go off-leash feels like you’re giving your dog the world and knowing that he or she has a safe spot of his or her own can give you a fair bit of comfort even when he or she is just lying out in the sun.
Unfortunately, many dogs aren’t content to just lounge about in the backyard. These dogs seem to make it their mission to dig up every spot that they can, transforming your lovely greenspace into a real nightmare. If your dog is a frequent digger, those lovely feelings that come with having a backyard will often turn to feelings of frustration and anger.
Unfortunately, your dog’s digging behaviors will cause more than just a handful of aesthetic problems in your yard. When your dogs dig, they’re making your yard a more dangerous place for both dogs and humans alike. While you might feel like your only real option to stop this problem is to keep your dog inside, there are steps that you can take to help break your dog from his or her obnoxious digging behaviors.
How to Stop Your Dog’s Digging Behaviors
As with most problems that occur due to a dog’s behaviors, there is more than one solution for your dog’s digging problem. The great part about that, of course, is that you’ll have plenty of options in front of you. The downside, though, is that you may have to work your way through a few different techniques before you hit on the method that’s going to work best for your dog. Worry not, though – the vast majority of digging problems can be solved by applying at least one of the techniques below.
Figure Out Why or She is Digging
Dogs are definitely creatures of habit. If you look out in your backyard right now, you can probably identify a host of very specific spots in which your dog likes to dig. These are his or her favorite places, and by looking at them you may be able to understand a bit more about why your dog is digging.
While it’d be nice to have a degree in dog psychology for this part, the truth is that you’re going to put in some work by just looking at where your dog is digging. The reasons why a dog might dig are varied and often surprising, but they tend to fall into categories like shelter-seeking, hunting behaviors, running away, or even just plain boredom. You’re going to take some time to look at where your dog digs a lot and how he or she is digging to figure out into which category his or her actions fall.
So, is your dog digging close to a boundary line of some sort like a GPS dog fence? If your dog is constantly digging near a fence or invisible fence line, there’s a good chance that he or she is very curious about what’s on the other side of the boundary. In some cases, then, your dog is going for an old-fashioned prison break and actually trying to get out of your property to see what else is out there.
Holes that tend to be near one another but not near the property line, on the other hand, might be more of a sign of hunting behavior. This is a very common behavior among beagles and retrievers, for example, and it’s more apt to happen when your dog gets the scent of something like a mouse or a vole. Your dog’s just trying to indulge in his or her instincts to hunt down prey animals and doing so by digging.
When your dog digs near your house, though, he or she is probably trying to tell you something about how he or she is feeling. Just as your dog might be seeking out comfort in his or her crate when he or she gets to worn out, your dog is trying to create a nice, cool spot in which to hide out or relax when the temperature is too high or he or she is just getting a little too tired.
Finally, there are those dogs that truly do just dig random holes all around the backyard. Just as he or she might start going a little stir crazy depending on how long your dog is left in a crate, Fido may very well by acting out because he or she really is ready to come inside. Your dog may be digging as a way to get your attention, to join in with you in your backyard activities, or just to burn off the kind of excess energy that is so common in many dog breeds.
Give Your Dog a Reason to Dig
If your dog’s digging behavior seems like it’s destructive to your yard but otherwise fairly healthy for your dog, you can really help yourself out by teaching your dog how to dig in a way that’s a little less problematic. This means doing a little digging of your own to help out your dog.
The starting point here is to figure out where you feel comfortable with your dog digging. The biggest thing to keep in mind here is that this spot needs to be a space where your dog doesn’t usually use the bathroom and, in a best-case scenario, is different from the spots in which your dog already digs. If you’re looking to put your lawn back together after years of dog damage, it’s usually a good idea to get as far away from the old digging spots as possible so that you can focus on some emergency landscaping in the areas that have already been damaged.
Now it’s time for you to create a spot where your dog can dig. This digging zone is a spot that’s going to be safe for your dog to dig, but you obviously can’t just tell your dog that this is the spot for digging. Instead, you’ll want to bury a few little treats or toys just a few inches underground to incentivize your dog to dig there.
Now it’s time to make the old digging spots a little less attractive for your dog. Go back to the damaged parts of your lawn and place down a few basic deterrents – plastic chicken wire is the best, but anything that will stop your dog from digging is usually a good idea. Once you’re done, add about six inches of topsoil to these spots. This should convince your dog that these old holes aren’t quite so fun to dig in and give you a chance to start thinking about repairing your lawn.
Your last step is going to involve a thorough walkthrough of your lawn. Your goal here is to look for old dog feces that might have been deposited into some of your dog’s favorite digging spots. As odd as it seems, old dog feces can be something of a dinner bell for many types of vermin, which can cause them to come into your yard and drive your dog to keep digging. Pick up the old leavings, wash off the spot with a hose, and then get back to repairing your lawn to finish your job.
Keep an Eye on Your Dog
Some dogs aren’t going to be dissuaded from digging by applying some pet psychology or even by creating new digging zones. Unfortunately, the only way to stop these dogs is to keep a direct eye on them and making sure that you can catch them in the act of digging.
Now you’re going to put everything you’ve learned to work while you watch your dog. If you catch your dog digging around the foundations of your home in an attempt to find comfort, you can direct him or her to a dog house or a shady spot in the yard. You can also go ahead and bring your dog back inside to get him or her a well-deserved drink of water and some time in the air conditioning with his or her favorite people.
One thing you absolutely can’t do, though, is fill in your dog’s holes with water. This isn’t something that’s going to help your dog and it’s certainly not going to be a healthy way to keep your dog hydrated. Likewise, you need to make sure that you’re not punishing your dog – you need to correct them, to be sure, but keeping your dog isolated or otherwise enacting some kind of punishment behavior is just going to confuse your animal and lead him or her more stress-based behaviors like digging.
Correcting your dog is as easy as catching him or her while digging and firmly telling him or her to stop. If you set up one of the digging zones recommended earlier, you can take your dog directly over to that zone to remind him or her of where he or she is supposed to dig. When your dog starts digging in the right spot, praise him or her and even consider offering your dog a treat to reinforce the proper behavior.
Spend More Time With Your Dog
Finally, your best bet might be to spend more time with your dog. In many cases, your dog is digging holes because he or she is bored  and might want to spend a little more time with you. While it might be hard to carve that time out of your day, you’re really dealing with a problem that your dog can’t help creating. If you’re willing to give your dog the attention and exercise he or she needs, the digging problem might go away.
The big goal here is for you to make sure that your dog is getting more exercise and more attention than he or she has been getting in the past. Don’t just let your dog out to run on his or her own – spend some time taking your dog on walks, which will not only tire him or her out but it will give your dog some of the important bonding time that he or she might miss. Likewise, don’t limit your playtime to the yard – take your dog to a park and spend some time playing so that he or she really gets to enjoy his or her time with you.
Breeds that typically have higher energy are going to require some special care, though. You might need to make sure that your dog is getting enough mental exercise as well as physical exercise, so this might mean investing in puzzles for your dog or figuring out ways to really let your dog go all-out in terms of running around. It might be a good idea to look into sports like agility for these breeds, as having a high-energy, high-stakes type of competition might be just what your dog needs to stop digging.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Will vinegar stop a dog from digging?
It’s unlikely that vinegar will stop your dog from digging in most cases. Unless you can figure out a way to coat your entire yard with vinegar, which is probably counterproductive if you care about your yard health, your dog will just move on to a new spot.
2. Why do dogs dig holes in the yard?
Dogs dig holes in the yard for a variety of reasons. They might be trying to escape the yard, they might be trying to catch prey, they may be looking for cool spots in which to escape the heat or they might just be bored and trying to get rid of some excess energy.
3. Do dogs grow out of digging?
Some dogs do grow out of digging, while others don’t. It’s usually a good idea to try to break even young dogs of the habit, though, as it’s easier to correct them when digging is a fairly new experience than when it has become an ingrained part of their lives.
4. How to get your dog to stop digging
You’ll first start by figuring out why your dog is digging. Then, you’ll look to solve the problem. This might mean less time outside, creating a designated digging zone, or just spending more time with your dog depending on the reasons why he or she is digging holes. What’s important, though, is that you figure out a solution that addresses not just what your dog is doing by why he or she is digging.