Why do dogs dig?
There are many reasons dogs dig. Discovering the reasons may lead to being able to prevent or control the digging. The first thing to look at is what was your dog bred for. If your dog is a terrier, then digging is part of his DNA. This is not an answer in itself, but it does give you a head start on finding a solution. That being said, your dog doesn’t have to be part of a group bred for digging to become a digging expert. Any dog can readily learn this behavior.
Dogs frequently dig because they are not getting enough exercise or they are bored. Or they may dig because they are simply looking for some activity, and since they can’t turn on the tv for entertainment, why not use those claws for something fun to do.
If you have rodents that have burrowed in your yard, the dog may be going after these. These types of animals can be in anyone’s yard and are a joy to a dog that loves to chase.
The digging dog may be trying to make a comfortable and cool (or warm) bed for themselves. Depending on the weather and what is provided for them to lay down on, who can blame them?
Your dog could be digging to get out of the yard. The grass is always greener, so they say. Perhaps he is anxious due to separation anxiety, or just spends too much time seeing the same four fences.
Understanding why he is digging helps to determine the best way to curb or eliminate the behavior.
What to do?
Too much energy!
If you aren’t helping your dog expel all his energy on a daily basis, he may be taking things into his own paws. In a yard, there are only so many constructive things for a dog to do if there are no play equipment or safe digging spots. Possibly spend more time with him on more frequent walks or runs. Getting out of the same backyard he always sees and getting to investigate more of the world can help use his energy with his mind as well as his body.
Maybe tossing a ball for fetch for a little longer during the day would use up some of this energy. We take our dogs to the tennis courts, which are completely fenced in, close the gates and throw tennis balls for them to chase. Fifteen minutes of this does more to relieve their energy than a half hour walk.
Swimming is another activity that many dogs love. Just make sure it’s a safe place to swim, and you can help your dog if he gets in over his head. If you don’t find that you have time to exercise your dog enough for his activity level, consider a dog walker or finding a reputable doggy daycare where he can spend a good part of his day playing with other dogs. Even a day or so a week could make a big difference in his boredom levels.
I know how busy our lives are, with jobs and families and yard work. There are plenty of times our dogs don’t get the exercise they need. That is where you introduce things like a bully stick, or dental chews. New toys, balls, squeaky toys are also good for redirecting your dog. There are a variety of puzzle games out there for dogs where they have to problem solve to get a treat, or treat dispensing toys.
Rats! (or moles, chipmunks and squirrels)
If your dog loves to chase animals, whether he catches them or not, and starts to dig for them once they go underground, you may need to get rid of the rodents. You can use live traps and take them from your property to somewhere they won’t be a nuisance to anyone else (state parks, wooded areas that are not highly inhabited). Or you can fence them out, or call an exterminator.
Hey baby, its cold outside
If it is very cold out, your dog could be trying to keep warm. Make sure he has an insulated dog house, access to the warming sun, or blankets to burrow under. Keep him out of cold breezes and if he is still not warm enough, explore doggy jackets or bring him inside a heated house.
If your dog may be too warm and is digging to try to cool off, make sure he has access to shade. Provide a shallow wading pool, or a fan. A raised dog bed that allows air circulation could help. Or best yet, keep your dog inside with air conditioning on hot humid days.
Let’s go OUT!
Have you ever gotten so bored with your room, you needed to rearrange the furniture, or just take a break and go get a coffee? Your dog probably gets tired of looking at the same yard every day too. If he is digging to get out, you could put large stones around the fence, or bury pieces of plastic chicken wire under the fence to make it more uncomfortable to dig there.
Being alone sometimes creates anxiety that comes when you leave him, and that anxiety can make a dog dig. He either is digging out of frustration or in trying to get to you, the center of his life.
Those prized tomato plants were your dog’s favorite place to dig? Put a fence around any areas you want your dog to keep out of. And maybe provide a sand box or an area of the yard he is allowed to dig in. This takes some training, and rewarding when he digs in the right places, but it can be worth it to save the rest of the yard.
You can also use a motion detection sprinkler system to deter your dog from digging, but be prepared for the dog that loves the sprinklers! I have one and he would just have the time of his life right there in the areas I don’t want him!
Any advice I can give you without knowing your dog and his motivations is just ideas that have helped others. Sometimes you just have to try a few different things to find what works. Leave a comment below. I’ll help in any way I can.