Why Do Dogs Dig Holes and How to Stop Them

Dog digging a hole in a yard

Spring is a great time of year to get back outside — not only for you, but for your dog, too.  But if your dog is into digging, it can really pose a problem for your new landscaping

Your first instinct might be to get angry with your dog, and no doubt a pet who un-does all the hard work you’ve done in the yard can be frustrating.  But try to understand where your dog is coming from.  He’s not trying to irk you on purpose.

If you take a largely hands-off approach to landscaping, it may not bother you that your dog makes it his job to dig a hole in the lawn every couple of feet.  But what if this is the year you’ve finally decided to create a yard you can be proud of?  What if your spouse is tired of living in a giant half-bald patch of yellow grass and doggie craters?  Suddenly, Rover’s digging habit is at odds with the expense and effort you’re about to invest in landscaping. 

If you want to curtail the unwanted earth moving and improve your yard for pets and people, the first step is to understand why do dogs dig holes.

Why dogs dig holes

You’re certainly not the only dog lover who doesn’t understand the exact reasons why a pup will dig.  The dog’s digging behavior can be linked to its breed or biological disposition.  Digging can also be evidence of anxiety or isolation, or a dog’s desire to escape.

Dogs don’t know their hole-digging is a negative behavior, so they don’t know they’re supposed to stop.  Unless a dog’s owner seeks professional help, his property will be subject to some unsightly canine excavation.

Animal behaviorists tell us that some dogs dig out of boredom.  The dog may be lacking affection, playtime, or other attention from his owner.  He isn’t stimulated.  A dog will look for ways to relieve his anxiety, and digging holes is one way for him to attract his owner’s attention.

Other experts suggest that if a dog smells something in the ground that interests him, it will draw him to dig at the spot.  Still others say something as small as an itch in the paw will cause a dog to dig, as a way of seeking relief.  A dog could also be digging to store away some of the food his owner gives him.  Dogs are particularly attracted to mulched, fertilized or fresh dirt, which is particularly inconvenient for gardeners.

why do dogs dig holes

How to stop dogs from digging

There are several ways of clearly communicating to a dog that digging holes on the lawn is unacceptable.  One way is to place something the dog doesn’t like inside a hole.  Lure the dog away from the hole, and drop the offending object in the hole when he isn’t looking, so it’ll be there when he returns.  Some dogs don’t like their own feces. Others may have a particular object or toy they dislike.

If your dog is burying things like food or bones, you might dig up those items when he isn’t looking, so they won’t be there the next time he digs.  After a while, he may get the point that digging provides no reward and stop. 

It is also thought that many dogs will simply stop digging if they’re given enough exercise, so taking time to play with your dog might be the easiest solution.

You can also reward positive behavior – such as issuing a treat when the dog roams around the yard without digging.  Good boy!  The important thing is to be consistent

why do dogs dig holes

Experts say a dog’s behavior is best changed when an owner is consistent with training, and when other members of the household are encouraged to train the dog as well.  You can also reward positive behavior – such as issuing a treat when the dog roams around the yard without digging.  Good boy!  The important thing is to be consistent

An effective technique dog professionals employ is to spray the dog with a hose or sprinkler each time it begins digging, then offering praise when manages to roam around the lawn without digging.  The dog will come to associate digging with the negative stimuli of being sprayed with water; likewise, he’ll eventually internalize the positive attention he enjoys from not digging.

Remember, if you’ve got time for landscaping, you’ve got time to interact with your dog.  And doing one may work wonders for the other by discouraging your pet from digging holes in an otherwise beautiful lawn.

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