How to Get a Dog to Stop Digging

Big dog with dirt on her nose from digging

Why dogs dig

Digging is a natural canine behavior. Many dogs do it. Dogs dig for many reasons: Some simply enjoy digging; some are looking for a cool spot if it’s hot out; some like to bury things to save for later. If your dog is left out in the yard alone for hours, she may be digging holes out of boredom. She may also dig under fencing in order to find an escape route. Some dogs “dig” inside the house in an attempt to create a bed. If your dog scrapes the floor with her paw and circles around, put an old blanket or a square of carpet in that spot to make a bed.

Stop dog digging behavior

Since digging is an enjoyable activity for dogs, it’s tough to get them to stop. With that said, you can train your dog to dig in an acceptable spot. Here’s how to do it: Pick a place in your yard where a wooden dirt box or sandbox, or a child-size pool, can be set up — preferably in a location where your dog already has a tendency to dig. For a 50-pound dog, the dirt box should be at least 12 inches deep.

After you fill the box with dirt or sand, moisten the soil and hide some toys in it. Provide a variety of treasures for your dog to dig up: new toys, her favorite toys and long-lasting things to chew. Then, encourage your dog to dig in the box. Watch your dog for a while. If you see her digging anywhere else in the yard, take her back to her designated digging zone. If you’re someone who enjoys playing in the dirt, you might try actually digging with her. In some cases, you may be what your dog would like to play with most in the sandbox!

To minimize digging behavior, make sure your dog’s physical and social needs are met. In hot weather, dogs must have shade and clean, cool water to drink. Some dogs enjoy a child-size pool filled with water to splash around in. Remember, too, that dogs will dig out of boredom, so make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise and interaction with you on a daily basis.

Other tips to keep dogs from digging holes in your yard

If your dog likes to play with other dogs, try to ensure that she gets the chance to do that. Besides keeping her occupied for a time, playing with other dogs will use up some of her excess energy. For dogs who persistently dig even when their needs are being met and they are getting plenty of exercise and social interaction, the best strategy may be to just keep them indoors when unsupervised. In general, however, when dogs have enough exercise, they are more relaxed and more likely to happily lie around instead of digging in your garden. 

How to get the behavior you want from your dog