Why Is My Dog Digging Holes?

Is your dog digging holes in your yard? Are you wondering why dogs dig holes? Well, the interesting thing about doggie digging is that digging is a natural dog behavior. In fact some breeds like the Jack Russell Terrier were bred to dig. Loving dog owners like you love your pup unconditionally, but it is fair to not want a hole in your garden. Fortunately, it is possible to prevent your dog from digging. If you are experiencing this destructive behavior by your four legged fur baby and want to know, “Why is my dog digging holes in my yard?!” then please read on.

Yellow Labrador Retriever puppy sitting in a hold they just dug in the yard
Digging is a natural behavior for dogs. It provides physical exercise and exploration. Your dog will stop digging if you are able to provide these elsewhere.

In this article you will learn why dogs dig, and how to stop this unwanted, but natural behavior of your dog.

Table of Contents

Why is your dog digging holes and eating dirt?

You might be interested to know that there may be several different reasons why dogs dig holes. To solve your dog’s destructive behavior problem, you will need to investigate what may be prompting your dog to dig because the cause will determine the proper solution.

Dachshund dog digging under the fence
If your dog is digging near the fence, it’s a sure sign your dog is trying to escape. Photo by Tony Alter

Here are most common reasons why dogs dig:

  • Boredom. This is the most common reason why household dogs dig. You are likely to see that your dog is enjoying the process and that they are doing it for no apparent reason.
  • To hunt. A dog can literally try to dig a prey burrowing animal, such as a rat and mole out of your yard. They instinctively dig holes in an empty location. This behavior is very common for hunting breeds.
  • To bury food. If there is any food left over, it must be preserved and hidden. This is done by burying it. In this case, you will notice that your dog is trying to cover a treat in the hole.
  • To escape. In this case you are likely to see your dog digging around the perimeter of your yard. Areas to watch are under the fence or near the gates. We aren’t going to focus on digging to escape in this article because digging is not your dog’s main problem in this specific case. If you solve your dogs urge to escape, the digging will also disappear.
  • To cool off. In this case you are likely to see that your dog sleeps in the pit afterwards. To solve this, try to provide an appropriate place to cool off. Create a shaded area, provide a small garden pool or bowl of water, buy a dog house, or keep your dog inside during the hottest times of the day.

How do you get a dog to stop digging holes in the yard?

Now that you know why dogs dig, you are ready to stop this destructive behavior. What’s below mainly applies to a dog digging for fun, exploration, and hunting. Some of the tips may also apply to other causes.

1. Understand that digging is a natural behavior of a dog

Unlike certain behavior problems, digging is completely normal for dogs. Instead of trying to train your dog not to dig, you should try to focus their energy on something else. By this we mean:

  1. Provide a location where digging is allowed
  2. Provide alternate activities that replace your dog’s desire to dig
  3. Do both

We will talk about this below, but hopefully you now understand that digging provides your dog with physical exercise and exploration. Can you provide these two some other way? You sure can.

2. Walk your dog to stop digging

Walking is a necessity for your dog, and it’s a myth that dogs who have a yard do not need to go for a walk. Walking provides exercise, time with you, socialization with other dogs, and most importantly, walking also provides your dog with a chance to explore..

dog digging sea shore during a walk
A great solution to your dog’s digging problem is taking them for walks. You can also let your dog dig in appropriate places when walking. Photo by: Jose Martinez

How often should you walk your dog? There is no golden rule other than “the more, the better”, so here’s a challenge for you to try:

Initially, walk your dog at least 30 minutes every day for 10 days. We can guarantee that after those ten days or sooner, you will not recognize your dog. The digging may not go away completely, but it will definitely be reduced. You may also notice other misbehaviors such as constant barking and increased howling will diminish too. After that, you” realize that walking works. Continue to do it every day or at least three to five days per week.

You can try other activities, too. You can mix it up with playing fetch, biking, swimming, agility training and others. The most important thing is to find something that you will enjoy yourself too. It’s not that hard when there are many ways to keep a dog active.

3. Create a treasure hunt in the yard

If your dog is digging due to their hunting instinct and/or boredom, a great way to redirect this energy is to create a treasure hunt in your yard. Here’s how to do it.

Take one of your dog’s meals and instead of simply putting it in their bowl, divide it in 3 or more portions and hide them around your garden for your dog to discover.

The first time you do this, you’ll probably have to hide the food in easy to find locations. You’ll also want to place one of the portions in your dog’s bowl so they understand that it counts as a meal. Later on you can make it harder by hiding the food under and behind certain objects. The trick is to make it harder over time for your dog to find them. The mental stimulation and physical exertion through play will do wonders for your dog.

NOTE: If your garden is inhabited by small animals that dogs prey upon (rats, mice, rabbits, groundhogs etc.), you should get rid of these because if your dog sees their natural prey disappear in a burrow, there’s nothing you can do to stop them from digging in after them. It’s instinctive.

4. Make the holes inaccessible

Next step is to make the area where your dog loves to dig either inaccessible or undesirable.

You can fill the hole with rocks or water, install chicken wire around it, or even put a motion activated dog deterrent which is intended for outdoor use.

Motion activated deterrents work well to stop dogs from digging because they are consistent and work independently. The best thing is that your dog receives negative feedback when they go near their favorite digging spot that it won’t connect that feedback with you. This keeps your relationship with your dog healthy.

This is only an additional aid to keep your dog from digging. You still need to do most of what’s mentioned above because if you don’t, your dog will likely find a new spot to dig in.

5. Create a digging pit

As we mentioned, digging is a natural behavior in your dog. This means if they really must dig, create a spot in the backyard where your dog is allowed to dig .

Do digging in garden
Dogs enjoy digging a lot. One solution is to give your dog this pleasure, but in an appropriate location. Photo by Stephanie Sicore
  1. Make the undesirable digging locations inaccessible as mentioned above.
  2. Locate a spot where the dirt is soft and where it’s okay for your dog to dig.
  3. Teach your dog to respond to basic obedience commands, such as sit, stay, and come.
  4. Whenever your dog digs in an undesirable area, interrupt this behavior by directing them towards the digging pit.
  5. Command your dog to “Come”. Praise them for complying and lead them to the digging pit.
  6. Show your dog a treat such as a favorite toy or even a dog treat. Cover it with dirt in the pit.
  7. If your dog responds by digging it up, praise them lavishly.

Note: There may be other techniques to train your dog to dig in a desirable location instead of the undesirable one. The above methods may work in most cases, but other methods may be needed. This is especially true if your dog responds to things other than food.

Do not punish your dog for digging

Last but not least, never punish your dog for digging in your garden. While frustrating, please do not take it out on your dog. Not only is it cruel, but it also will not prevent your dog from digging. In addition, punishment may have negative effects. For example, if your dog digs holes to escape from the yard, beating them will only increase their desire to escape. In case of boredom, punishment will make a dog anxious, but not less bored. We strongly believe that negative corrective action is never the solution as your dog will get confused and may become afraid of you. For example, if you hit them with your hand, they will fear your hand.

The most effective way to stop your dog from destructive digging is to provide your dog with regular activity. Keep your dog happy and exercised, and they won’t need to dig in your flower beds for entertainment. If however, you still have problems, consult your veterinarian, a professional dog trainer, or animal behaviorist.

You now understand the answer to your question “why is my dog digging holes?”. You know the causes and solutions you are on your way to help your dog to be healthier and happier. This will go a long way towards a happy life for you and your dog. And keeping your Pet Happy is what we all want.

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