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Digging is something that dogs have a natural tendency to do, but just because it’s natural doesn’t mean there aren’t downsides. If your dog is digging near the fence line in your yard, they could dig under the fence and get out. If your dog is digging throughout the yard, they’re going to damage your lawn and leave holes everywhere.
The good news about a dog that won’t stop digging is that you’ve got solutions. Just like you can find lots of info on how to bathe your dog, there are tons of tips to help you stop a dog from digging. However, stopping your dog from digging starts with making sure they’re getting enough attention and stimulation throughout the day. A dog who’s bored all day may be more likely to dig and may exhibit signs of dog anxiety.
Understanding why your dog is digging is also an important part of stopping them. Your dog might need more supervision outside, you might need to spend more time with your dog, or you might want to get your dog some new toys. If you’re looking for how to stop a dog from digging, here are some things to consider.
Why Do Dogs Dig?
You may be wondering, why does my dog dig? The good news about digging is that it’s a natural behavior for dogs. A dog digging means they’re doing something that dogs have been doing throughout their evolution. In fact, some dogs are used specifically as hunting dogs because they have a tendency to dig a lot. For dog breeds such as terriers that are prone to digging, you can’t expect to completely get rid of this behavior.
While dogs may dig for natural reasons or because of their breed, there are several other reasons a dog might dig.
Entertainment or Play
Dogs get bored just like humans do, and they’ll try to find a way to put an end to that boredom. It’s not uncommon for dogs to cause mischief simply because they don’t have anything else to stimulate them, and the same can be said for digging. Your dog might be digging simply because it gives them something to do and they find it fun. Some dogs love to dig around and feel the roots in the ground.
If your dog is digging due to boredom, you should try to make sure you’re giving your dog more to do on a daily basis. Try to spend more time with your dog, especially when they’re outside in the yard. Note: it’s important to supervise your dog whenever they’re playing outside in the yard.
You can also invest in a few toys for your dog if they don’t seem to be getting enough stimulation.Your presence can help your dog dig less, especially if you toss a ball around or find some other way to play with your dog when they’re outside. Being outside with your dog also gives you a chance to watch for signs of dehydration in dogs, including your dog panting heavily.
Dogs who dig for entertainment may need more toys to keep them busy, so try picking up a chew toy or two that your dog can take out in the yard.
Certain dog breeds like to dig because they have been bred for hunting and selected for specific traights, like digging, for hundreds of years. While your dog might be digging because they’re bored, they could also be digging because they’re trying to get a burrowing animal or an insect that’s in the ground.
If your dog is trying to dig for hunting purposes, you’ll likely notice them digging in one area of the yard. Your dog may dig at the roots of trees and shrubs, and they may use a “path” layout to follow the animal or insect they’re trying to dig up.
A dog digging to hunt prey can actually be very helpful. If you do have a burrowing animal in your yard that your dog is after, you can bring someone in to use humane traps and other methods to remove the animal from your property before it causes further damage.
Comfort and Alleviating Anxiety
In some cases, a dog may dig excessively simply to feel comfortable and alleviate anxiety. Digging gives your dog something to focus on, which can help take their mind off of other stimuli that may be causing them anxiety. This behavior may be more common in anxious dog breeds or dogs with a history of anxiety.
Within the context of anxiety, digging may be further categorized as a displacement behavior or a compulsive behavior. A displacement behavior alleviates frustration or stress and some dogs dig as a displacement behavior. This behavior may occur when they're anxious, such as during a storm or when their environment undergoes changes. This behavior can turn into a compulsive behavior if left untreated in which they no longer perform the behavior just in the original context and it begins to take over their lives.
If your dog won’t stop digging as a result of anxiety or general discomfort, talk to your vet about what you can do to reduce anxiety in dogs. By making sure your dog has a safe space inside and outside the house and working to alleviate general anxiety, you can get your dog to stop digging so much.
Tips to Prevent Your Dog From Digging
A digging dog can cause a lot of damage, so it’s important to figure out why your dog is digging excessively and what you can do to stop it. If you want to prevent your dog from digging when you let them out, here are some tips you can try.
- Try giving your dog a food puzzle to reduce the amount of digging they do in the yard. Food puzzles and other food toys make for great independent activities to stimulate your pet. Additionally, you might spend some time out in the yard playing fetch or tug-of-war with your pet. Dogs may dig as a result of boredom, so it’s important to make sure your dog has enough toys and engaging activities to keep them stimulated. If your dog doesn’t have a lot of toys, buy them a few new chew toys and balls that they can play with when they go outside.
- When you let your dog outside, make sure you go outside with them. Your dog may dig as a result of anxiety that comes from you leaving them outside alone, so being with your dog can help them calm down a bit. Supervision is especially important for dogs who are prone to dog seizures.
- Getting your dog new toys isn’t enough to keep them busy; you also have to make sure you’re giving your dog enough attention and playtime. Dogs need to play to get rid of the built-up energy they have, so make sure you’re taking some time out of each day to play with your dog and relieve some of that energy.
- Try giving your dog an area to dig in the backyard. Dogs like to dig, so give your dog a spot where they can dig freely to use up some of that excess energy. Pick a spot that’s out of the way or already damaged. You can also use deterrents to keep your dog from digging in certain areas — an example of this would be making them a sand box with hidden toys for them to find.
- If your dog is getting too hot and digging holes to lie in and cool down, try to help your dog cool down when they spend time outside. Make sure your dog has a shaded area where they can lie down instead of sitting out in the sun and overheating.
What Doesn’t Work to Prevent Digging?
Just like training a dog can be tough, getting your dog to stop digging can be a difficult task. When it comes to how to get a dog to stop digging, here are some of the things that specifically don’t work.
First and foremost, avoid using any products that could harm your dog. You may be tempted to install physical barriers or use electronic fences and collars, or chemicals to keep your dog from digging in certain parts of the yard, but you don’t want to hurt your dog either. Ideally, you should talk to your vet before you make any serious changes to your yard.
Punishing your dog can make them scared of you, so focus on positive reinforcement to get your dog to stop digging. If your dog goes outside and uses the bathroom, then comes back inside without digging, give them a treat and tell them how good they are. You can still discourage your dog from digging in unwanted areas.
A dog that digs excessively can be a major problem for pet owners, especially if you’ve got a nice yard that your dog is ruining. While digging is normal behavior for dogs, there are steps you can take to reduce excess digging or digging in unwanted areas. The most important thing is making sure your dog is getting enough playtime and exercise.
If you need tips for how to stop a dog from digging, you should talk to your vet. Thanks to Dutch, connecting with a vet is easy. Give Dutch a try to find a vet in your area who can help you stop your dog from digging.
“Joy and the Digging Dog.” ANR Blogs, https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=27803.
Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Psychology Online - Maryville Online. https://online.maryville.edu/online-bachelors-degrees/psychology/.