Dogs naturally dig for shelter, entertainment, anxiety relief, and more. But owners rightfully get frustrated when canine excavators tunnel under fences, destroy lawns, and track mud inside. Rather than scold after the fact, it’s best to understand what motivates this innate behavior in our four-legged friends. With patience and prevention-focused training, destructive digging habits in dogs can be successfully managed.
Why Do Dogs Dig?
To curb digging, you must first know why dogs do it. Main motivations include:
Natural Instinct to Burrow
Dogs inherited digging abilities from wolf ancestors who dug dens for sheltering young and burying food. The instinct remains strong today.
Boredom, Stress, or Anxiety Relief
Dogs left alone for long periods without stimulation sometimes dig to pass the time or relieve anxiety, much like nail biting in humans.
Seeking Comfort and Entertainment
Dogs dig holes to lounge in when it’s hot out for comfort. Digging also provides mental and physical exercise.
Some dogs find that destructive digging gets scolding, and negative attention is better than none.
Territorial Protection of Property
Dogs may patrol property borders by digging or placing alarm barks near drilled holes, warning intruders away.
Hiding or Unearthing Treasures
Female dogs may dig holes to stash and bury their young. Dogs also dig to uncover hoarded bones, lost toys, or wild critters underground.
In warmer climates, dogs dig pits to lay in the cool earth. Wet dirt on paws and coats also helps regulate temperature.
The key to fixing digging problems is determining the primary motivation and then using training and management to redirect or prevent undesirable excavating.
Common Problems Caused by Dog Digging Behaviors
Frustration with dogs digging usually stems from destruction and safety hazards like:
Torn Up Lawns and Gardens
Dogs adore soft garden soil when digging pits and tunnels. Pawing plants quickly destroy a well-groomed landscape.
Escaping Under Fences
Sneaky dogs dig and tunnel under fences encircling yards, allowing escape and harm’s way, like getting hit by cars.
Muddy Messes and Dirt Tracked Indoors
Dirt flung everywhere during frenzied digging requires cleanup. Muddy paws also track dirt inside the home.
Dangerous Digging Near Foundations
Underground utilities and building foundations can collapse if a dog’s burrowing severely undermines the surrounding soil’s integrity.
Spreading Dirt Near Patios or Porches
Loaded flowerbeds provide an irresistible digging temptation for dogs, who spray dirt everywhere.
Repeatedly replanting flowers or filling in tunnels takes time and money. Patience with persistent diggers wears thin.
With better awareness of triggers, prevention, and training, dog owners can curb undesirable digging into more appropriate outlets.
Common Triggers That Lead to Problem Digging in Dogs
Owners must know what motivates digging to reduce frequent dog excavations through management:
Being Left Alone for Long Periods
Dogs dig the most when unsupervised in backyards out of boredom and stress. They need daily interaction.
Insufficient Physical and Mental Exercise
Pent-up energy and boredom prompt digging. Ensure dogs get adequate walks, playtime, and interactive puzzle toys daily.
Too Much Free Time in Yards Unsupervised
The more chances a dog has to dig uninterrupted, the more the behavior becomes a habit. Limit yard access to humans.
High Prey Drive Triggered by Smells and Sounds
Catching a whiff or hearing a rodent under the ground instantly triggers frantic digging.
Changes in Environment or Schedule
Shift work, travel, or introducing punishment like spraying citrus oil in yards stresses some dogs into digging.
Manage digging by minimizing access to tempting areas when unwatched. Meeting a dog’s needs for exercise and mental stimulation also reduces undesirable excavating behaviors.
Effective Training Techniques to Stop Dog Digging
Use 100% positive reinforcement to curb and redirect digging urges:
Ensure the dog gets plenty of exercise and playtime
A tired dog digs less! Ensure they get sufficient walks, runs, play sessions, and interactive toys daily to burn mental and physical energy.
Use Puzzle Toys When Your Dog Will Be Left Alone
Occupied dogs dig less. Rotating puzzle toys stuffed with yummy treats prevents boredom when you must leave dogs unsupervised for short periods.
Regularly Change Up Enrichment Activities
Vary walks around new locations, rotate novel toys, and swap out chew bones to prevent boredom from predictability. Make alone timeless dull.
Practice Obedience Commands and New Tricks
Spend 15 minutes daily training your dog using positive reinforcement. Learning and mental stimulation tire them out.
Confine Your Dog When You’re Away
Use crates, small rooms, or fenced kennel runs when you leave so your dog can’t access areas vulnerable to digging damage.
Provide a Designated Digging Pit
Allow your dog to dig in a sandbox or special dirt/straw pile. Bury toys and treats there. It satisfies the innate desire without destruction.
Distract and Redirect
Interrupt any illicit digging by calling your dog away, then engage them in a game with a squeaky toy instead. Redirect, don’t punish after the fact.
Prevention through exercise, confinement away from temptations, and redirecting to approved digging spots work best to modify undesirable excavating behaviors in dogs.
Breed Digging Tendencies
Certain breeds are predisposed to more enthusiastic digging based on their breed history. Dogs bred to hunt and burrow include:
Terriers like Schnauzers, Cairns, Yorkshire Terriers, and Scotties were bred to dig tunnels and hunt rodents. Don’t leave unsupervised in yards!
Earth Dogs like Dachshunds have powerful front paws and small muscular bodies ideal for underground tunneling during hunts.
Northern Breeds like Huskies and Malamutes dig beds and trenches in warm climates to keep cool.
Sporting Dogs like Spaniels dig when chasing intriguing scents picked up by their keen noses. They can’t resist uncovering the source.
Herding Dogs like Collies sometimes dig alongside fences as they instinctively patrol territorial borders.
Hounds adore sniffing and digging up burrowed animals based on faint smells. Once on a scent, they are dedicated follow-through diggers.
Know your dog’s breed tendencies! Provide plenty of activities that satisfy their instincts without destruction.
Effective Solutions for Specific Dog Digging Problems
Target training and management strategies to what, when, and where your unique dog digs.
Flower Beds and Garden Digging
Use fencing to block access. Bury chicken wire a few inches below the dirt. Try sensor-activated water spray deterrents along bed edges. Provide a digging box on the opposite side of your yard.
Escaping Under Fences
Some pro diggers tunnel out surprisingly fast! Prevent this by burying or lining fence bottoms with chicken wire, cinder blocks, pavers, or concrete. Weighing down loose edges also deters pawing under.
Random Holes Dug in Lawns
Restrict access to damaged areas using temporary fencing. Keep sod well-watered and healthy because dogs prefer digging in the parched ground. Motion-activated sprinklers teach most pooches to avoid. Spreading chicken wire just under grass also curbs digging with uncomfortable foot pokes.
Incessant Digging in One Spot
Ensure it’s not a yellow jacket that aggravates your dog! Douse holes with water until damp and pack tightly with dirt or rocks to make resuming digging there less rewarding.
Digging Due to Separation Anxiety
Use calming techniques like treating pups with a long-lasting chew toy or leaving recently worn clothing with your scent. Excessive alone time and insufficient exercise amplify separation stress that manifests in digging.
Digging has different motivations requiring customized management. With diligence, most dogs can be trained to curb undesirable digging into approved outlets only.
What Not to Do When Trying to Stop Dog Digging
Some common mistakes when trying to stop dog digging include:
Punishing After the Fact
Dogs don’t connect punishment with something they did hours or even minutes ago. This also risks making them dig due to anxiety.
Getting Angry and Yelling
Like punishment after the fact, anger doesn’t address the underlying cause. It can encourage attention-seeking dogs to keep digging. Stay calm; dogs sense frustration.
Taking Away All Outlets
Eliminating any digging intensifies the urge for active breeds. Provide acceptable, designated digging spots to satisfy natural instincts.
Expecting Immediate Change
Habits form over months or years. Curbing digging takes just as long with consistent prevention and training daily. Have realistic expectations that progress will occur gradually.
Lacking Exercise, Play, and Enrichment
The primary digging prevention is to ensure your dog’s needs are fully met each day. Tired pups dig less. Rotate novel toys and chew to prevent boredom.
Avoid methods that inadvertently encourage more dog digging. Stay positive. Management and lifestyle adjustments resolve to dig long-term.
Preventing Destructive Digging in High-Risk Dogs
Certain canines require extra vigilance to avoid harmful excavation habits. For digging prone pups:
Maximize Daily Exercise
Digging burns energy but also stems from excess energy needing an outlet. Make sure high-risk dogs get at least 60 minutes of vigorous exercise daily.
Provide Interactive Toys
Food puzzle toys and chews like frozen Kongs with treats keep dogs happily occupied for hours, not thinking about digging escape routes under your fence!
Use Tethers and Tie-Outs When Unwatched
Stake high-risk dogs in shady areas via tethers when you must leave them unattended in your yard for short periods if needed.
Ensure Fence Security
Check for openings or weaknesses anywhere in your fence line that provide irresistible pre-dug access. Make all fencing totally secure underneath, and use coyote rollers along the top to discourage climbers. Bury chicken wire along the base edges.
Enroll in Obedience Training
Impulse control training teaches dogs to substitute an alternative positive behavior rather than mindlessly reacting. Practicing commands like “Leave it!” helps override instincts.
Placing temporary booties or humane paw covers on dogs when they go out stops extra tempting tactile sensations of dirt underfoot that trigger digging.
Summary on Resolving Dog Digging Issues
Digging is a natural but often undesirable dog behavior requiring patience and training to resolve. Prevention through sufficient daily exercise and mental enrichment is essential. Management like confinement when unsupervised limits rehearsing negative habits. Providing approved digging outlets helps satisfy innate instincts in appropriate ways. Over time, most dogs can be taught to curb undesirable digging and channel their energy into permissible, rewarding activities instead.