Bella whines and scratches at the back door; she needs to go out right this second! Her energy is high, and she is excited to play. The backyard is her amusement park, her playground. You let her out, and within minutes she’s throwing dirt and sod into the air behind her as she digs a hole in your yard. Exasperated, you join her in the backyard to throw the ball for her to distract her. Ultimately, you’d like to trust your dog to be left alone. This frustrating scenario has you asking how to stop a dog from digging holes in the yard.
Thankfully, the solutions are as simple as the question — understanding why your dog digs is the first step.
Uncovering the Why
In the following sections, we will break down how to stop a dog from digging up the yard by the reason they’re doing this behavior. If you aren’t sure of the “why” yet, read the entire article and see if your dog fits into one of those categories. If not, we will give you advice on that too.
Digging is a lot of fun! Kids in sandboxes do it and so do dogs. When a dog paws at the dirt, the dirt comes up to interact with them. At least, that’s what the dog thinks is happening. If your dog plays with the dirt, not just in it, they could be bored and looking for something to do. Dogs who use digging in the yard as entertainment do so for the following reasons:
- They saw you gardening recently and thought it looked like fun!
- Their environment lacks enrichment and toys for them to play with.
- They are left outside alone too long.
- They’re a hyper little puppy with energy to burn, and digging is a lot of work!
- Instincts of their breed is to dig, like terriers.
- They’re an active breed who needs a job, or they’ll become destructive.
Does any of this sound like your pup? Wondering how to stop a dog from digging in the yard if they’re bored? The key is to keep them enriched, entertained, and employed. That is, give them a job to do! You can accomplish this in a few different ways.
What to Do
- Give your dog a job. Teach them a trick or command to keep their minds sharp and occupied. A dog can learn a new command in just 5 minutes a day if you keep at it.
- Take your pooch on proper walks. The longer the walk and the more interesting the path, the better! This ticks multiple boxes: spending time with their person, exercise, and outside stimulation.
- Give your dog interactive toys to play with in the yard (as long as they aren’t a puppy, in which case they need to be supervised at all times with toys) and rotate them out, so your pup doesn’t get bored.
- Fill a Kong-type toy with treats and toss that into the yard with your dog. Treat toys keep them occupied and entertained.
Some breeds are diggers because they were bred to weed out vermin.
This includes: all types of terriers, some sporting and hunting breeds like huskies and beagles, and even dachshunds are expert diggers. Critters in your yard will entice your pup, and their hunting instinct will kick into gear. The best way to deter this type of digging is to keep the critters away.
- Focus on specific parts of your yard and not the perimeter.
- Critters tend to burrow around the bases of trees and shrubs.
- When you notice a pattern, that’s where you need to put up your defenses.
What to Do
Humane removal and prevention is ideal, especially since your dog plays in the yard. The objective is to deter critters from burrowing in your yard, not to kill them. Put barriers around the areas where the uninvited guests seem to be making themselves at home.
Safety and Comfort
Some dogs will dig to create shelter for themselves from heat or cold. Making a little bed of dirt is cooling and refreshing during the summer and burrowing during colder months gives them warmth.
If your dog is left outside too long in inclimate weather, they might dig to:
- Find cooler ground near a building’s foundation, under a tree, or by a water source.
- Create shelter for themselves if you don’t provide outdoor shelter.
- Lay in the hole.
What to Do
If your dog is digging to seek comfort, the best thing you can do as their owner is to bring them inside more often. Never leave your dog outside if the temperatures are too hot or too cold. You don’t want to spend more than a few minutes outdoors when it’s freezing or during the hottest days of the summer — and neither does your dog. Also, make sure they have access to fresh, clean water outdoors in an untippable bowl.
Your pup is outside in the backyard for an indeterminate amount of time when you look out the window to check on them. They’re beginning to dig up a patch of grass on your lawn, leaving a tiny crater.
What to do? You scurry outside, giving your dog commands like ‘STOP!’ or ‘LEAVE IT!’ so your little four-legged bestie comes up to you, wagging their tail. Finally! Their person is outside too! Goal achieved! Your dog wants to play with you more than anything else. When you rush outside to correct their behavior, your dog learns that digging = attention. Even discipline is attention in a dog’s mind. You are still rewarding the undesirable behavior with attention no matter what.
What to Do
Start by ignoring the attention-seeking behavior and only praise and acknowledge good behavior. Give your dog more positive attention with extra playtime and more/longer walks. If your pooch is digging because they want to spend more time with you, give them the attention they seek in different forms to deter the digging.
You give your dog a lovely home, and how do they repay you? By digging an escape route. Don’t take it personally; some dogs love running free and are curious about what lies beyond their enclosed world. If your pup is digging along a fence, they are likely trying to escape. Is there something in your yard that they are trying to get away from? Is there something beyond your yard they want to get to by any means necessary?
What to Do
- Place a material like chain-link fencing on the ground. Anchor it to the base of the fence, making it uncomfortable for your dog to walk next to.
- Bury chicken wire or some other weatherproof material at the base of the fence and ensure no exposed sharp edges.
- Place large rocks or bricks, partially buried, along the fence line.
- Invisible fencing should be a last resort.
What Not to Do
Regardless of the reason your pup is digging, do not punish them for it. They aren’t being bad; they are doing what instinct tells them to do. Punishing your dog will only lead to more digging if they are doing it for attention or if the digging is a response to stress or anxiety.
Ending your dog’s digging habit may take some time, but once you deduce why your pup is digging, you can figure out how to stop a dog from digging in the yard.
If Your Dog Continues to Dig
So you placed a barrier around your fence, gave them toys, a doghouse, and spent more time with your pup outdoors, but they still cannot resist the urge to dig? It’s time to give them a sandbox.
It doesn’t have to be a sandbox, but we recommend making a safe spot in your yard where your dog is permitted to dig to their heart’s content without getting in trouble. Add some loose soil or sand in the permitted digging spot and even hide toys for them to find. This is called enrichment, and your dog will love it if they are a tried and true digger.
If your pup starts digging outside of the designated zone, tell them “no dig” and then place them within the digging zone. Give your pooch praise when they use the sandbox so that they know it’s the right behavior. If they are struggling with wanting to use their digging spots, simply place something in the way as a deterrent until they get used to using only their new sandbox.
… And if That Doesn’t Help
You’ve tried everything we listed above, and nothing is working. It’s time to seek outside help from a trainer.
Many trainers will do private sessions at your home or offer lessons over video chat. Your dog wants to be good and make you happy. Don’t give up! Together, you and the trainer can determine how to stop your dog from digging holes.