Behavioral problems

How to Stop a Dog from Digging in the Yard

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. January 9, 2018
How to Stop a Dog from Digging in the Yard

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Digging holes in the ground is unfortunately a natural habit of dogs. Actually, it is also a natural habit for humans as we can often see when children are left to their own devices in the garden. Like humans, some dogs will do it more than others. Some may feel an imperative to dig everywhere, some may just not be interested. However, the latter is usually a dog who is well trained and otherwise kept active. However, digging for dogs is not as common as their desire to chew.

While we find digging annoying when it comes to the cosmetic appearance of our yard, there are many reasons you will want to curtail this destructive habit. Damage the dog can do may extend to water pipes underneath, causing structural problems. It can also dig into electrical cables which threaten the dog's safety. As digging is instinctual for dogs, you may be unable to eliminate this habit. However, behavior management may stop it becoming a problem.

Keep reading AnimalWised to discover how to prevent a dog from digging in the garden.

You may also be interested in: How to Keep a Dog From Pooping in Your Yard


  1. Why do dogs dig?
  2. How to prevent a dog from digging holes
  3. Digging holes in a localized area

Why do dogs dig?

You may find your dog digging in the garden for seemingly no reason. It is important to remember they are satisfying some need, even if it is hidden to you. This can be anything from simple distraction to stress or anxiety. Working out the reason your dog is digging up the yard will help you restrain the habit. Here we look at some possible reasons you may identify in your dog's behavior:

  • Dogs burying objects: digging holes in the yard and burying items is instinctual behavior. It has to do with the wild animal aspect of their nature. In the wild, dogs were not always sure where their next meal was going to come from, so they would hide excess food so they could return to it when needed. They also give importance to certain objects, like a favorite toy or bone. Digging in the yard and burying this object is a way they feel they can protect their precious property.

    You may also find your dog hiding precious objects inside the house, whether under cushions, blankets or in cages. If this is so, you may need to ask yourself if you are letting your dog outside enough.

  • Dogs looking for cool places: we don't mean somewhere with hipster coffee and a killer jukebox. We mean somewhere it ain't so hot. In the summer, an animal with their whole body covered in fur will need to get comfortable. This is especially the case if they have been engaging in physical activity. The surface of the ground is exposed to sunlight, but just underneath you will see that the ground is much cooler. The dog will dig in under the surface and as a way to refresh themselves. In the wild, water is also available under the surface, so they may be looking for something to drink. It is especially important if there is a risk of heat stroke.

  • Dogs needing comfort: they might not simply want to cool down, but their whole body is uncomfortable. Some dogs, especially those with bony exteriors, can find laying down on hard ground uncomfortable. Digging in the yard might be a way for them to sculpt a more comfortable sitting or lying down position. It's the canine equivalent of fluffing the couch cushions. It's also similar to reasons for scratching the ground.

  • Dogs want to escape: if you see your dog digging holes by the fence or wall in the yard, it is likely they want to escape. The reason for this desire to escape could be wide ranging and doesn't have to do with their happiness. Unfortunately, some dogs escape and become stray, but more often than not they will come back to their source of food and family. Your dog may also be afraid of something If you have a rescue dog, there are many reasons they might want to escape. If they have been abused, as nice as you are to them they may find it difficult to trust anyone. It is also possible they want to escape to a previous place. However, some dogs are also easily excitable. Digging under the fence may simply be because they heard a noise behind it they want to chase.

  • Dogs pursuing borrowing animals: some breeds are bred for the purpose of hunting burrowing animals. Really, this is not a behavioral problem. Their instinct is to chase them and, while you may not be happy to have your garden ruined, they are trying to do you a favor.
  • Dogs wanting to have fun: dogs dig for fun. Due to a lack of thumbs, dogs are unable to release energy by playing a musical instrument or board games like Monopoly. They need to find their fun some way and for many dogs, this will simply mean they start to dig. If this is the case, it is hard to stop digging behavior in your dog as, like humans, they will want to have fun a lot.
  • Dogs suffer behavioral problems: while there are many reasons for digging in the yard beyond behavioral issues, it is important to remember this might also be the problem. Dogs are sensitive animals and their well-being can be fragile. Like a nervous tic or other expression of anxiety, dogs may dig to relieve some of this stress.
How to Stop a Dog from Digging in the Yard - Why do dogs dig?

How to prevent a dog from digging holes

After you identify why your dog is digging holes in the garden, you will need to look at ways to curb this behavior. There are different options, but there are three ways to help get you started:

If your dog is relatively content and only digs from time to time, then it is unlikely they have a compulsion. It is likely they dig out of boredom, so you will need to ensure their need for attention and socialization is met. Provide company with your dog and engage in healthy activities. Give them lots of attention and petting, reducing anxiety and keeping them engaging in less destructive activities such as digging holes in the yard.

This second option is not one suitable for every dog, but it may help you if you want to maintain your garden. If your dog is digging a lot in the yard, they may be expressing a desire to go somewhere else. Allowing your dog to go inside more or taking them to new places outside the fence of your yard can help. This allows them to get a better idea of the world outside the yard, hopefully lessening their desire to dig. When you do bring your dog back into the garden, you should accompany them to help distract their digging instincts.

The third method of preventing your dog from digging holes is to use dog toys. Dog toys keep your pet engaged and allow them to vent the frustrations and energy which lead them to do dig in the first place. As with chewing and scratching, dog toys will help stop your dog from destructive behavior. Kong toys are particularly good because they provide an occupation for their time.

If your dog is digging because it is trying to cool down in the heat, you should ensure there are enough places for it to do so. A kennel or a awning in the shade will give them a better alternative to digging. The same goes for providing a comfortable place with blankets or dog beds in which to chill comfortably.

How to Stop a Dog from Digging in the Yard - How to prevent a dog from digging holes

Digging holes in a localized area

For some dogs, even providing lots of stimulation and distraction won't stop them from digging holes in the garden. They might be a particularly overactive dog or they are simply responding to their breed's nature. It could be your dog suffers behavioral problems of which digging is the least of their worries. If this is the case, you may be unable to stop your dog digging in your yard altogether. If this is the case, you may need to allot a certain amount of space for this purpose.

If you worry about the aesthetic of your garden, the area you choose should be somewhere out of the way. You are cohabitating with your dog, so it may be time to give each other space. However, this is much easier said than done. Find somewhere you don't mind digging up and take your dog over there. It might be best to choose somewhere your dog has previously enjoyed digging. When you have your dog's attention start scratching at the ground. Encourage them to dig at it.

When your area is selected, dig up the topsoil and do so in full view of your pet. This will make the area easier and better suited for digging. As you dig, ensure there is nothing underneath which will be hurtful to your dog such as electrical cables or roots of poisonous plants.

Once you have this area, you can bury one of their special items in there. This could be their favorite toy or even a new bone for them to chew. Make sure they see you doing this action so they know where the item is buried. If they are unable to find the item, you can bury it again with part of the object sticking out of the ground. Once your dog finds the object and digs it up, make sure to provide positive reinforcement when they succeed. Be careful if your dog tries to bury the object again somewhere else.

If your dog's digging in the yard is becoming too destructive, then you may need to keep them over in a cordoned off area. This could be a dog run or a patio area where it is impossible for your dog to dig up the ground. You will still let them run around in the garden under supervision, but as soon as they start to dig, they will be brought back to the cordoned off area. If this is repeated, they may realize the digging will not be tolerated. Once they realize this, you can slowly return them to the yard, but only if the digging stops or returns to non-problematic levels.

How to Stop a Dog from Digging in the Yard - Digging holes in a localized area

If you want to read similar articles to How to Stop a Dog from Digging in the Yard, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.

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How to Stop a Dog from Digging in the Yard