Ask Steve: Digging

Why Your Dog Digs and How to Stop It

Whether your yard is the best in the neighborhood or you simply laid sod and called it good to go, it’s likely that you don’t want holes everywhere. But if you have a dog, it’s likely that you have caught them digging more than once. Digging seems like a bad habit that may seem impossible to break. But it is actually a natural, healthy activity that dogs do to keep active and entertained. Dogs do dog things. 

While it is in your dog’s instincts to dig and bury items, there are things you can do to train them not to dig excessively. Steve Lankfer can give you all the guidance you need to become your dog’s leader and train them in an effective and natural way. Be sure to subscribe to Speak Dog!™ to get dog training guidance from canine language instructor, Steve Lankfer. 

In this blog, we are going to talk about some of the things you can do to stop your dog from excessive digging, but the first step is to understand why they are digging. Read on to learn more and start training your dog today!

Why Dogs Dig

Dogs love to be outside, especially when their owner is playing with them. However, most owners do not have the time to head outside and play with their dog(s) for hours on end. This leads to the animals being left outside on their own to play and entertain themselves. For some dogs, entertaining themselves may be barking at passersby or at dogs on the other side of the fence. For others, it may be playing by themselves or their dog sibling (if you have multiple dogs). For other dogs, digging may be the way of choice to keep themselves occupied. 

Digging may be something your dog does often, especially if the breed you own was bred to dig prey out of its home. Digging is fun for dogs and can keep them occupied and busy for hours. While entertainment is one of the biggest reasons your dog digs, there are many other reasons they may be digging up your backyard. 

Some reasons your dog may be digging include:


  • Burying Something: Dogs have a natural instinct to bury their toys or bones in order to hide them. While this is cute in theory, it is not as adorable when they are tearing up your backyard to do it. If you allow your dog to bring their bones or toys outside, they may try to hide them by digging holes. 
  • Cooling Down: Another reason why your dog may be digging a hole in your yard is in an attempt to find a cool spot. When the weather is hot, it can be difficult for your dog to find a cool place outside to cool off. Digging exposes cooler earth that can help your dog cool down and feel better in the hot weather. 
  • Trying to Escape: If you notice that your dog has been digging near the fence, they may be digging in an attempt to escape. While your dog may not actually want to escape, there may be some reasons they are trying to. If they see another animal, are scared, or have separation anxiety, they may feel that escaping is the right answer. 


While there are many reasons why dogs dig, there are also many things you can do to stop them from doing so. Learn professional guidance from Steve Lankfer to stop digging and subscribe to Speak Dog!™ today!

Methods to Stop Your Dog From Digging

There are many ways that you can stop your dog from digging, but ultimately the best way is catch them on their way to unwanted behavior and use a corrective tone followed by immediate praise. This will require consistent tone and timing repetitively for a period of time. So in the mean time, try to only let your dog outside when you are able to be out there and supervise them. If this is hard for you because you are so busy, then find time to stand outside and watch them, whether it is while drinking your morning coffee, while on a conference call, or in the evening instead of watching TV. However, there are some other interactive things you can do to help reduce the amount of digging your dog does. 

Keep Them Entertained

Dogs need to be mentally and physically stimulated. Keeping them entertained is a great way to keep your dog from digging. They need playtime and regular exercise to keep them from becoming bored and finding their own methods of occupying themselves, like digging. When dogs do not get enough exercise and playtime, they will become more mischievous, and will be more likely to cause problems. There are many simple ways to ensure your dog gets enough exercise. These include:

  • Taking your pup for walks
  • Playing fetch
  • Taking your pup to the dog park
  • Working on their training sessions
  • Playing tug-of-war

Do something active with your dog every day. All dogs need physical activity, even a quick walk in the morning and after work allows them to get out, stretch their legs, and use up some of their energy. When your dog is well-exercised, they will be less bored, stressed, anxious, and mischievous, which means they will dig less!

Don’t Allow Toys Outside

If you find your dog digging in order to bury a bone-type toy (toys designed to be chewed), then limit the toys they have outside. Unless you are out there playing with your pup and their chew-toy, you will want to keep such toys inside or provided in your presence. This will take away the one thing making them want to dig. Especially if they have buried a chew-toy before, you will want to make sure they do not bring it outside again. This may seem like a punishment, but it is the process of their focusing on alternative behavior and will keep your dog from digging up your yard. 

Digging Deterrents

Adding digging deterrents to your yard is an easy and effective way to stop your dog from digging. If you have noticed that your dog digs in certain areas, you will want to add these deterrents in those spaces. There are several deterrents you can use to stop your dog from digging. Fencing off the areas that they dig in is a great way to keep them from digging in the same spots. You can also add large rocks along the edge of the fence to make sure your dog stops digging in an attempt to escape.  

Some other digging deterrents you can use include:

  • Burying large flat rocks in spots your dog digs.
  • Burying plastic chicken wire or netting under the ground surface. Metal chicken wire will hurt your dog’s paws when they dig. 
  • Bushes with thorns, such as rose bushes, can help create a border along fences.
  • Sprinkling cayenne, vinegar, or citrus peels in areas your dog digs may help them stay away from these areas. 

These deterrents are all meant to make digging less pleasant for your pup. While they will not hurt your dog or harm them, they can make your dog want to avoid digging, especially in these spots. But remember, adding deterrents should be thought of as secondary (and temporary) to connecting with your dog on their level through tone, timing and consistency as you correct, instruct and praise.

Invest In a Sandbox

If your dog simply loves digging no matter what you do, give them a designated spot to dig. Adding a sandbox to your yard can help give them a spot to dig without tearing up your yard. You will need to train them to use the sandbox for digging rather than your yard. So, be sure to keep an eye on your pup while they are outside on their own. If they start digging in a spot that is off limits, speak with a correction tone followed by immediate praise for their obedience, and direct them to their sandbox to show them that they are allowed to dig there. You can do this by digging in the sand yourself or burying some treats or toys in the sand for them to find. Make sure you keep an eye on them to ensure they are staying in their designated digging spot. 

Invest In a Pool

If your dog is digging in order to cool down, help them cool down in a different way. Even though it is hot out, your dog will still want to spend time outside. Getting them a kiddy pool will give them a place to cool down and prevent them from digging in order to achieve this. During the hot summer months, keep a pool filled in your backyard that they can lay in and cool off in. 

Ultimately, your dog is likely digging because they are bored and under-stimulated. The best way to keep your dog from digging is to give them plenty of exercise, play with them, and make sure they are not bored. This is the love and care your dog really needs to help prevent digging. 

For more great dog training tips from Steve Lankfer, be sure to subscribe to Speak Dog!™

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