Are you stressed out because your dog digs holes all over the place in your yard? Does he tear up your beautiful flower gardens and destroy your vegetables with his digging habit? Are you concerned that you or a family member or friend might twist an ankle or worse by falling into a dog hole on your property? We can help you decrease your dog digging-related stress by giving you tips for teaching your dog not to dig up your yard.
Understand Why Dogs Dig
Before you can change your dog’s digging habit, you must first understand why dogs dig in the first place. There are actually several reasons that dogs dig, including:
- To combat boredom. Sometimes dogs dig because they don’t have anything else to do. It occupies their minds and passes the time until someone gives them something to do, like a play session or a walk.
- To try and escape. Dogs may be looking for a way to escape a confined area when they dig. This can be especially true of intact male dogs, who might wish to escape and search for female dogs. Dogs that are bored might also be looking for a way to escape.
- To cool down. On hot days, digging into the soil can be a way to create a cool hole in which the dog rest.
- To keep warm. On hot or stormy days, digging a hole can provide a warmer spot or one that is more protected from the elements.
- To bury things. Some dogs have a heightened drive to bury things, probably related to their evolution. Wild dogs sometimes hide pieces of carcasses from other predators by burying them, so they can come back and retrieve and eat them at a later time. Pet dogs don’t need to hide their food, of course, but this instinct might still drive them to bury toys, treats, or other things.
If you can determine why your dog digs, you might be able to solve the problem pretty quickly. Take a look at the sections below for more information on each one.
What to Do If Your Dog Is Bored
If you think your dog is digging because he’s bored, add more interactive playtime and walks and into his day, and consider introducing puzzle toys that he can focus on. These types of toys can provide mental stimulation to your dog while you are away or unable to play with him.
What to Do If Your Dog Is Trying to Escape
If your dog appears to be digging in an attempt to escape your backyard, the first step is to have him neutered (or have your female dog spayed). If your dog is attempting to escape but is not intact, consider some of the techniques that combat boredom, which are listed above.
What to Do If Your Dog Is Digging for Climate Control
When your dog is outside for any length of time, it is crucial that there is shelter available for him to use. A doghouse that can protect your dog from sun, rain, snow, and other elements is essential if your dog stays outside for more than a short time. If the weather is extremely hot or cold, your dog should not be left outside.
You must always leave a source of clean, cool, fresh water for your dog when he is outside alone. Keep in mind that the water might freeze in cold temperatures or get dirty or spilled at any time, so you’ll need to check it frequently.
What to Do If Your Dog Is Digging to Bury Things
If your dog seems to be digging because he likes to bury things or simply because he seems to enjoy it, there might be very little you can do to stop the behavior. Instead, consider creating a small area in which your dog is allowed to dig and training him to restrict his habit to that spot.
You can make a small raised box, for instance, and fill it with dirt. Then teach your dog to dig there. The way to do this is to show him the area and praise him when you see him paw at it a little bit. If you see him dig in unauthorized areas, immediately redirect him to the proper spot and praise him when he digs there.
Remember, dogs learn best when positive reinforcement is used for training. So the idea is to always praise for right behavior and avoid as much as possible punishing for wrong behavior. As much as you can, ignore it when your dog digs in the wrong spot. The only thing you should do is take him to the proper area, get him to dig there, and show him that he’s doing the right thing with praise and treats. Over time, your dog will learn that it is more rewarding for him to dig where you want him to than it is to dig in other spots.
To make the authorized area even more enticing for your dog to dig in, you can bury toys there. As your dog finds them while he’s digging, he will automatically be rewarded for digging in that area with a new toy. That’s excellent positive reinforcement!