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Is your yard starting to look more like the moon than a lush, green garden?
Well, if your furry friend loves to put his paws into the ground, then you’re likely wondering “how to stop a dog from digging holes?”.
Yep, those craters are super annoying. But what’s even worse is that we don’t understand why dogs do that!
Well, as always, there are a number of possible reasons. In this article we’ll go over the most common ones. Plus, you’ll get 9 tips to stop your dog from digging holes asap.
Since your dog might love digging for different reasons, it’s best to try out different solutions as well.
But what I can tell you right from the get go is that more mental and physical stimulation almost always help!
Now, let’s dive in!
Why Is My Dog Digging Holes?
Maybe once upon a time, your yard was a beautiful place. Until your dog started digging holes everywhere, that is!
Now when you go to sit outside, all you see are the craters your dog has decided to decorate your yard with!
There are ways to stop your dog from digging up your yard. But as usual, the first step to solving the problem is figuring out why it’s happening in the first place.
So why exactly does your dog keep digging holes?
If your dog is prone to digging, it might just be a trait of the breed. Terriers, for example, tend to be big on digging. This is because they were bred for hunting animals that burrow underground.
Some hound breeds, like Beagles, will also have a tendency to dig. Beagles were bred to have a keen nose, and to go after whatever prey they’re focused on relentlessly. This can lead to digging.
So if you find that your dog is a big digger, consider what breed they are. For many breeds, digging would have been considered a positive trait, depending on what they were bred to do.
While today you might consider digging an unwanted, destructive behavior, a lot of breeds like Terriers were designed specifically to have an urge to dig.
Boredom is the root cause for many behavioral problems in dogs.
If your dog doesn’t get enough stimulation during the day, he may resort to other ways of getting rid of his excess energy.
Digging requires both physical and brain work for your dog. First, your dog has to use his nose to sniff out something he wants to dig up. That’s the mental part of digging.
Then, your dog has to use his body and muscles to do the actual digging. That’s where the physical satisfaction comes in.
If you notice your dog is digging up your yard, it might be a good idea to consider what he’s doing during the day.
Is he getting enough exercise? Are you playing enough brain games with him? Remember that mental stimulation is just as important as physical stimulation when it comes to your dog.
If you’re not sure if boredom could be the reason for your dog’s digging behavior, check out these articles next:
- Is my dog bored? 7 symptoms of dog boredom
- My dog is bored, what can I do?
- 21 fun things to do with your dog at home
Also make sure to get my free guide for a calm dog. This will teach you the 3 essential steps for a calm and relaxed dog in general.
Dogs respond well to positive reinforcement. There’s a reason why, in dog training circles, there’s been such a strong tendency to lean more towards positive reinforcement than to negative reinforcement or punishment-focused methods.
However, dogs can find positive reinforcement in behaviors that you might not like. Dogs find a lot of satisfaction in digging. This is especially true if your dog digs for stress relief or to fight boredom. The digging will in fact relieve your dog’s stress, by giving him a task and using up his excess energy.
This makes digging a self-rewarding practice.
If your dog is digging because he finds it self-rewarding, then it’s important to keep an eye on your dog while he’s out in the yard. This usually happens when your dog is bored. So once you’ve managed to entertain your dog more, chances are, he won’t do it for self-rewarding reasons either.
Here’s something to consider: what is your reaction when you catch your dog digging out in the yard? Do you yell at him? Do you come up to him to get him away from the hole he’s digging?
Much like digging out of boredom, attention seeking is a really common reason why dogs have behavioral problems.
Dogs are a lot like children in this way. If you have kids, or even if you know other people who have kids, you’ve probably seen or heard children doing things they’re not supposed to just so they can get attention.
This is true for your dog too.
If your dog isn’t getting what he feels is enough attention from you, he’ll try getting it in other ways. And at this point, even negative attention is good attention!
All your dog wants is for you to notice him, and he thinks that if digging is what gets you to notice him, then digging is what he’ll do…
This goes back to a lot of breed-specific traits. But even dogs who haven’t been bred specifically for hunting will likely have an instinctive prey drive to go after rodents.
Baloo isn’t a Terrier, in fact he’s a Mini Poodle who probably has only been bred to be a cute lap dog. But he also loves chasing rodents, birds and other small critter…
A dog’s ancestor, the wolf, has a high prey drive. As carnivores, this prey drive is what they use to survive. And even though humans have spent thousands of years breeding dogs into what they are today, many still retain this instinct.
Think about what you and your dog experience when you go for a walk. When you and your pup see a squirrel, what does your dog do?
Even a well-trained dog who knows not to chase will perk his ears and take notice of the squirrel.
If your dog’s prey drive is strong and unchecked, and a rabbit runs out of your yard, your dog might instinctively try to chase after it. If that means digging a hole in your yard to try and get that little rodent, then so be it!
Or maybe he’s just smelling a mole underground and desperately tries getting at it.
Trying to Make a Cool Bed
If your dog tends to dig more when it’s hot out, you might be confused. Wouldn’t digging just make him more hot?
In reality, your dog might be digging so that he can cool himself down!
The earth in your yard is cooler a few inches under the top layer, where the sun can’t hit it. Your dog instinctively knows this, and might try and dig a little hole when it’s hot out so he has a cool place to lie down.
He’s probably trying to do it next to a tree. Not only does the tree provide shade, by there’s usually water in the earth near the trunk and the roots which makes it even cooler.
If your dog is digging in your yard, think about when he’s doing it. Is he digging in the hot summer months, and then simply lying down in the hole he’s made?
If that’s the case, and he doesn’t usually dig on cooler days or in the winter, then he’s probably just trying to dig himself a little place to cool down.
Trying to Escape
If your dog gets anxious or scared, then he might start digging up your yard as a way to escape.
If your dog is digging close to the fence, then this might be the reason. Does your dog start digging after a loud noise that might have startled him? Or does he try to dig his way free only when he’s alone in the yard?
Some dogs don’t handle being by themselves very well, and might try and escape your yard when they’re out there alone. Other dogs startle easily, and might need to work on their confidence.
Is your dog spayed or neutered? If your pup isn’t fixed, he might be trying to escape the yard and find a mate.
It Has Become a Habit
What might start out as a reaction to something else could become a bad habit for your dog.
A lot like biting your nails, once something becomes a habit for your dog, it can be hard to stop. If your dog digs out of stress, his stress relief might eventually transform into a habit.
While habits are hard to break, don’t worry—it’s not impossible. With work and patience, you and your dog can find some better, healthier habits for your pup.
How to Stop a Dog from Digging Holes
Okay, by now you should have a rough idea why your dog is digging up your yard.
Now let’s look at the actual question of this blog post: how to stop a dog from digging holes.
1. Provide Enough Mental and Physical Stimulation
If your dog is digging out of boredom, that’s a sign he’s not doing enough during the day. But since most behavioral issues come from your dog being bored, more mental and physical stimulation is almost always a good idea.
In case you’re not sure how much your dog needs, make sure to get my 3-step process for a calm dog. In this guide I outline the exact process that helped me get hyper Baloo to finally calm down:
You can up his physical activity by taking him for more or longer walks and jogs. Even a few rounds of fetch or a game of tug can help your dog get rid of pent up energy.
Make sure you’re also focusing on your dog’s mental energy! There are lots of fun games you can play with your dog to exercise his mind.
If you’re too busy to play brain games with your pup and just need something to keep him busy for a while, there are other options. Taking a Kong toy and filling it with treats is a good way to get your dog’s mind working.
Another option is replacing one of your daily walks with mental stimulation, as this is much more demanding for your dog.
Mental stimulation can also be a wonderful training tool if used correctly. Check out Braintrainingfordogs to learn how to train your dog to be the best dog he can be by using mental stimulation! Or have a look at Dogpackr’s review first to see if it’s a fit for you and your dog!
2. Don’t Leave Him Unsupervised
If your dog struggles being out in the yard by himself, you might need to supervise him while he’s outside. This way, if he starts digging you can redirect him right away.
Supervising him while he goes outside might seem like a pain more than anything else.
It is, however, a really great way to start desensitization training. At the beginning, you might need to spend more time with him. As his anxiety or fear lessens, you can start leaving him by himself for longer periods of time.
3. Sprinkle Dog Deterrent on the Digging Spots
If you know your dog tends to dig up certain parts of the yard, using a deterrent might help.
A spice like cayenne pepper is safe for your dog to sniff, but it will irritate his nose. The same is true for vinegar, or strong-smelling citrus. And I’ve also heard people having success with Scram dog.
While this doesn’t get down to the root of the problem, it can be a useful way to have him avoid certain parts of the yard.
4. Put His Poo into the Holes
This sounds weird, but putting your dog’s poo in the holes he’s digging up could help stop him from digging!
Your dog won’t like the smell or having his own poo on him, which will help deter him from digging.
Keep in mind that this won’t work with every dog. And it will only keep your dog from digging in certain areas. If your dog is really set on digging your yard, he’ll find other poo-free areas to dig up.
That said, this method can definitely help you keep your dog from digging up certain areas of the yard while you work on the source of the problem.
5. Get Rid of Rodents
If your dog’s prey instincts are a little too strong, and he’s digging up your yard to get at the rabbits, squirrels and moles, it’s time to get rid of those pesky rodents. Try to avoid using anything involving poison, since your dog might get into it.
Instead, try these tips for getting rid of rodents in your yard.
6. Bury a Small Balloon
If your dog focuses on one area where he digs, you can try burying a small balloon to help deter him.
When he digs and pops the balloon, this will startle him. It will create a negative association with digging, and will hopefully stop him from wanting to continue.
7. Provide a Designated Digging Area
Some dogs, like Terriers, just need to dig!
If this is the case with your dog, you might never be able to stop him from having this natural instinct. In that case, what you can do is contain where your dog is digging.
A sandbox is a really great place for your dog to dig. Your dog will get the satisfaction of digging, and it’s easy to move the sand back into place for your dog to dig up again.
8. Train Your Dog to Only Dig in the Digging Area
To teach your dog to only dig in his sandbox or another designated digging area, you can use a combination of the tips above.
Set up your dog’s sandbox, and reward him when he digs in it. You can set up deterrents around the rest of the yard where he digs to keep him from digging where you don’t want him to.
Plus, hide treats in the sandbox. Since your pup will only find treats in the sandbox, he’ll soon only be interested to dig there.
9. Help Your Dog Cool Down
If your dog is digging holes so he can make a cool place for himself to lie down in to escape the heat, you need to give him other options.
Make sure your dog has lots of shade, and always leave a bowl of fresh water out for him. Even a damp towel that he can lie down on can help. Or, consider getting a kiddie pool and filling it up on hot days for him to relax in.
How to Stop a Dog from Digging…
Now that we’ve covered the general tips to stop a dog from digging holes, let’s look at a few particular digging situations. This way you can find the best method to stop your dog from digging once and for all.
How to Stop a Dog from Digging Under a Fence
There are lots of ways you can keep your dog from digging under a fence.
If he’s digging under a fence, most likely he’s trying to get out of the yard. Whether it’s to give chase to a rodent, or to try and find himself a mate, or just because he doesn’t like being alone, there are ways to deter him.
For more information on this topic, check out Dogpackr’s previous article about how to stop a dog from digging under a fence!
How to Stop a Dog from Digging Around Trees
If your dog seems focused on digging hole around the trees in your yard, there are ways to get him to stop.
First things first: make sure that your giving your dog enough physical and mental exercise. You can also use deterrents like his poo, cayenne pepper, or balloons to stop him from digging.
How to Stop a Dog from Digging Furniture
If your dog is destroying your furniture, that could be a sign of separation anxiety. It could also be a sign that your dog is bored.
The best ways to stop this behavior are:
- Make sure he isn’t bored
- Don’t leave him unsupervised
- Have him in a crate or confined space without any furniture to dig in when he’s home alone
- If he starts digging, get him off the couch and redirect his energy to his toys or a chewy.
If your dog is naturally a digger, then providing a designated area outside for your dog to dig should also help satisfy his urges.
How to Stop a Dog from Digging Up Plants
If your dog seems focused on digging up the plants in your yard, you can use some of the above deterrents. Sprinkling cayenne pepper around the areas he likes to dig should irritate his nose enough to make him stop digging.
Again, always make sure your dog is getting enough mental and physical exercise.
After all, as the old saying goes, a tired dog is a good dog!
How to Stop a Dog from Digging in a Water Bowl
It can be annoying when your dog digs in his water bowl—it makes a real mess!
There are a few reasons why he might be digging in his bowl. Being too hot is one reason. In this case, give your dog some other options to cool down!
It could also be that your dog sees something in the bowl, and is trying to get at it. If you have a reflective bowl, consider moving it somewhere where there will be fewer reflections. Or think about purchasing a non-reflective bowl to replace it.
If you’re still having trouble with your dog digging things up, consider investing in BrainTraining4Dogs. This program covers just about every behavioral issue you could dream of, so be sure to take a look!
If your dog is digging up your yard, this can be super frustrating.
Luckily, once you figure out why your dog is digging holes, you can start to work on stopping him. With patience, consistency, and the right tools, your dog will eventually learn that digging up your yard isn’t acceptable behavior.
And soon enough, you’ll be able to enjoy your hole-less yard again!
P.s.: Don’t forget to check out Braintraining4dogs if you want to take your dog training game to the next level. It offers a 60-day money back guarantee, so you have nothing to lose.
Struggling with your puppy's hyper behavior? I offer private 1:1 online coaching to help you with your puppy's behavioral problems (biting, crate training struggles, crying, barking, separation anxiety, daily schedule etc.). Schedule a free 15-minute video Zoom call to get started!
Please note that I'm not a professional dog trainer. Everything I know is from my own experience with my hyper Mini Poodle Baloo and hundreds of hours of research.