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How to Keep Dogs from Digging

By Stacy Painter
published: April 20, 2022 - updated: May 9, 2022 • 3 min. read
brown dog digging outside

If you’ve got a dog that tends to dig, it’s possible that your yard is beginning to look like a minefield. How do you stop a dog from digging? In order to choose the best plan of action, let’s start at the root of the problem by first looking at the reasons why dogs dig.

Why do dogs dig?

Digging is a common behavior among canines and there are a number of different reasons they may be inclined to start pawing at the ground. By understanding your dog’s motivation to dig, you’ll be better equipped to help stop the behavior.

  • Boredom or instinct: A dog left in the yard for long periods of time with no other outlets for their excess energy may turn to digging as a pastime. 
  • Trying to escape: If your dog’s digging only happens at the fence or gate, it’s a sign that he’s trying to get out.
  • Cooling down: Dogs left outside on a hot day may dig at the dirt to expose the cooler ground beneath, then proceed to lie in their hole. This cooler dirt is appealing to your dog because it can help them beat the heat.
  • Chasing prey: Gophers, moles, or rats may have your dog excitedly digging at the ground amidst the thrill of the hunt. Terriers and other prey-driven dog breeds may be especially inclined to dig.

Solutions to stop dog digging

black spotted dog digging outside in grass

Now that you (probably) know why your dog is digging, here are some ways to prevent and stop the behavior.

Get plenty of exercise

For dogs that tend to seek their own forms of entertainment, the first step to preventing this unwanted behavior is to make sure your dog’s needs are being met with regards to exercise, social interaction and mental stimulation. Take your dog on a long walk, play fetch, teach him a new trick or practice the ones he already knows; there are many different ways to relieve your dog’s energy. Without the excess, pent-up energy, your dog would likely rather relax than dig.

Distract him or redirect his digging

Try redirecting your dog’s digging behavior with other things to keep them occupied, such as tennis balls, rope toys, or puzzle toys. Or, consider putting a dog sandbox in your yard as an appropriate outlet where he can do his digging.

Make digging undesirable

Even with sufficient exercise, some dogs still want to dig simply because they can. Stopping the digging may come down to placing barriers or deterrents that make your dog think twice about digging. Here are a number of options to try individually or in combination:

  • Partially bury large, flat rocks in popular digging spots
  • Bury chicken wire or netting at the bottom of the fence; make sure the sharp metal parts are facing outward or use plastic chicken wire
  • Use natural scents like citrus peels, cayenne pepper, or vinegar, which may be enough to make your dog decide not to dig
  • Install motion-activated sprinklers 
  • Place rose bushes or other thorny shrubs along the fence border

Help them stay cool

Make sure your dog has access to a shady retreat and plenty of cool, fresh water. On days when even the shade provides little relief from the heat, bring your pup inside and set up a fan or portable air conditioner. There are also many great products to help keep your dog cool on a hot day.

Exterminate pests

Use safe, humane methods to rid or prevent pests, or contact an exterminator. Never use poison or bait; something that is toxic to wildlife will also be toxic and dangerous to your pet.

Stacy Painter profile
By Stacy Painter

Stacy has always been an animal lover and has worked in the pet industry and pet insurance specifically for over a decade. As a writer since early childhood, content writing for Healthy Paws pet insurance was a natural career path to combine her two passions. She currently lives in Florida with her boyfriend and Taiwanese rescue dog, Kaya.

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