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Why Do Dogs Dig Holes? 10 Reasons & How To Make Them Stop

Is your male or female dog suddenly digging holes in your yard? Learn the top reasons and solutions to stop them from destroying your garden. Dogs come by their love of digging holes naturally. Wild dogs store food by digging a hole and burying it. They also dig out big holes (or dens) for their puppies. Dens are also a good place to hole up in (sorry, couldn’t resist) when the weather is bad.

Annoyances

If you’re a garden-proud dog owner you may get annoyed with your dog when they go out in the year. If you take the time to walk a mile in your dog’s shoes, you’ll gain insights into their mindset about they want to dig a hole.

Top Reasons Why

Some dogs really love digging holes. Terriers, hounds, and retrievers, in particular, are known for their digging abilities. In fact, terriers were bred to dig animals out of holes. All dogs have an inbred instinct to dig, but some do seem to take it to an extreme.

Here are the top 10 reasons why your dog may be digging holes in the yard.

  1. Boredom
  2. Curiosity
  3. Escape
  4. Cooling Off
  5. Burying Treasure
  6. Attention Seeking
  7. Mimicking
  8. Instinct
  9. Denning
  10. Shelter

Boredom

Why Do Dogs Dig Holes? 10 Reasons & How To Make Them Stop

Does your dog spend a lot of time by themselves? The root of most dog behavior problems is boredom, and digging holes in your yard might be one way they keep themselves busy.

In the wild, canines are social animals who live in packs. A lot of dog behavior problems are caused by putting our pets in an unnatural situation and expecting them to be happy.

Dogs are meant to be outside, running across fields and through the woods. When we keep them locked in the house, or out in the yard for hours on end without much to do, trouble tends to follow.

If your furry friend is continually digging up the garden it’s possible they are just bored or frustrated. A dog with nothing to do will find a way to occupy himself, and digging holes keeps them occupied.

Solution: Dogs love stimulation and do get frustrated when on their own for long periods. To relieve their boredom and tension, spend a little more quality time with them when you can. Let them roam free once in a while, and let them feel the wind on their face on the car ride there.

If you’re not able to personally spend more time with your pet, then see anyone in your neighborhood who would like to, or look into hiring someone to stay with them.

Tip: Enjoy these tips on how to make the most out of your next dog park visit.

Curiosity

Dogs simply love to explore their environment and will gladly spend endless hours nosing around their environment looking for adventure. The earth contains all sorts of smells and attractions that spell great fun for a dog so they will gladly dig away to see what they can find and explore.

Solution: Give your dog something else to be curious about. A kong toy is a great way to reward your dog for sniffing things out, and can both occupy and tire them at the same time.

Tip: Keep your pooch both happy and healthy with these delicious Kong stuffing recipes.

Escape

Why Do Dogs Dig Holes? 10 Reasons & How To Make Them Stop

If you find the holes that your dog digs are close to fences or walled areas, it’s probably because your dog is looking to escape its confinement. Some dogs just don’t like being left on their own, and when they feel locked in, they look for the quickest way out.

They may also be looking to meet up with other dogs or people so they can have some company.

Solution: If your dog is only creating havoc when they are by themselves in the backyard, then simply, don’t leave them alone outside. You can also mark specific lines in your backyard that they are not meant to cross and use the hose or squirt gun to gently discourage them.

Tip: You can also learn how to train your dog with an e-collar.

Cooling Off

You may find your dog digging when the weather gets hot outside. The cool soil or sand beneath the surface can help reduce your dog’s body temperature. Should you find them contently sitting in the holes they dig, this is most likely the reason.

Solution: Remember that a dog’s body is covered with fur and that they will feel quite hot when in direct sunlight, or muggy humid conditions. If you offer them cool drinking water, along with refreshing shade and breezes, they’re likely to enjoy this more than digging holes.

Burying Treasure

Have you ever given your dog a bone, only for them to bury it immediately with a smile on their face? You might think this is peculiar, but in reality, they are just being sensible. If they feel like they have a surplus of food, they bury it to keep their living area clean.

If there are other animals or scavengers around, they might simply do it to keep their treasure safe until it’s time to truly enjoy it.

Solution: For starters, if this is a repeating pattern, assess the situation before giving them a treat. Try to make sure that they are actually hungry, that there are no other animals around, and that no exterior doors are open.

Tip: Use these training techniques to teach your dog impulse control.

Mimicking

Doggy see, Doggy do. Canines are wonderful mimics and are fully capable of imitating anything they see in their environment. This includes things people do, along with other animals. If they see you or another pet doing something that looks like fun, they might just try it themselves.

Solution: Be careful of what you may be subliminally teaching your dog. If you were gardening while they watched, and suddenly they start digging, you can probably figure out why. If the neighbor’s yard or the dog park is full of holes, you’ll know where they got their habits from. Once you figure out who they are mimicking, you can then reduce or remove these visual stimulants.

Tip: Why not teach your dog cool tricks to see what else they can mimic.

Seeking Attention

Has acting negatively towards this behavior caused your dog to dig even more holes in the garden? Sometimes a dog might simply consider your attention to be a reward no matter if your response is positive or negative.

While you can try to ignore their pleas for attention, letting them play this game may lead to the situation becoming even worse.

Solution: Be conscious of your dog’s mood before and after they dig holes and to what gets them to stop. If it’s simply because they are bored, give them something else too.

You can also stimulate their need for attention, by being more active with them at playtime so they’re too worn out to be mischievous while you’re relaxing with Netflix.

Tip: Learn the secrets to how to train a strong-willed dog.

Instinct

Dogs have an instinctual need for shelter and at times will dig in search of it. To some extent, digging a hole can seem as natural to them as barking or wagging their tails. Even when they’re not able to go outside, you may simply find them digging in their bed or on the sofa as a form of comfort.

If they look to bury something, this too could be instinctual in regards to hiding valuable items from ancestral pretty. If the item is food, it could also be a form of refrigeration, as the soil will keep it cool.

Solution: Rather than fight their instincts, you must allow a safe place to embrace them. Make them feel comfortable in knowing that what they treasure is safe. Many breeds opt to hide toys and valuables in their dog beds. If you don’t have one, maybe look into buying one. You can also set aside a small spot in your yard that is a safe place for them to do as they please.

Tip: Read this article to learn more about habituation and desensitization in dogs.

Denning

The instinct to create a den is very strong in a dog and you may find them digging to create a little home for themselves in the back garden. This is something they would be doing continually in the wild.

Solution: As long as you understand your dog’s needs, you can work on meeting them. If they feel the need to make a den, then just give the space to do so in an environment you are comfortable with. If you want them to spend a lot of time outdoors, why not build or buy them a doghouse so they have the comfort of a home away from home.

Tip: If your dog is only used to being indoors, try this step-by-step transitioning guide.

Sheltering

Part of the answer, as to why a dog will dig, may be present in their sexuality. Female dogs in particular have a natural tendency to dig a shelter for their young. If your dog is heat, or already pregnant they simply could be preparing for when their babies are born.

Solution: Try to understand what their comfort zone is, and what makes them feel relaxed. Are they digging holes in the shade away from direct sunlight? If so, see you if you make a similar space for them indoors. Are digging in the sun, to say warm, out out of the sun to stay cool? Try finding them a safe place elsewhere where they can feel the same level of comfort.

Tip: Maybe consider looking into a crate for your dog to lay comfortably.

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Is There a Cure?

Can you stop a dog from digging holes? Probably not completely. If the situation turns dire, then the best way to handle this is to give your dog a corner of the yard to dig up as they please.

When you catch them digging elsewhere, say “no” and take them to their own area. Then praise them when they dig there. You might want to sweeten the pot by burying a few treats there. If they find goodies there regularly, they’ll be more prone to dig where you want them to.

If your garden is a favored trenching location, you need to be a little sneaky. Hide where they can’t see you, and squirt them with a hose when they enter the forbidden area. Or set up a sprinkler, and turn it on. The key is to make them think the garden is doing it to him, not you.

And don’t punish them if you find holes in the garden later. Your companion lives in the present, and can’t understand that you’re upset over something they did yesterday.

How To Stop

If you are wondering how to stop your dog digging you are not alone. There are millions of pet owners around the world that are in a similar situation. If you spend any time in your garden and put some work into making it look nice it can be really frustrating to see it all dug up when you come home. The following are some of the more simple solutions that I found over the years for helping your dog to stop digging.

Regular Exercise

One of the simplest and easiest things you can do to stop your dog from digging is to simply make sure that your dog gets enough exercise. This can eliminate a whole variety of behavioral problems that your dog may be exhibiting and is one of the easiest ways to stop your dog from digging.

Negative Subtext

Apart from exercise another way to stop your dog digging is to place something in the hole that they do not like in order to discourage bad behavior. I say something your dog doesn’t like here because this can vary from dog to dog. For example, some dogs hate the smell of their own feces whereas other dogs are ok with it. Placing some of your own dog’s poop in the hole they are working on may stop them from digging. Find something your dog doesn’t like that is not going to harm them and pop it in the hole when they aren’t looking.

Pirated Treasure

One of the solutions for how to stop dogs from digging holes is to get out there and dig up any treats or bones the dog has buried. Don’t let them see you do this but when they find that they are not there when they dig in the ground the next day it can discourage them from this type of behavior in the future.

Sprinkler Solution

If you want your dog to learn how to stop digging holes you could install a sprinkler system in the areas of the garden that the dog likes to dig. When your dog approaches the forbidden area and starts to dig you can switch on the sprinkler. This method works really well when you are trying to prevent your dog from digging when you’re not there. The dog will perceive the garden itself as punishing them for his digging behavior.

Holey Ground

In so many ways the digging behavior of dogs is just a normal part of their makeup and looking for a permanent solution for how to stop your dog from digging for good is unrealistic. Dogs will dig as part of a denning instinct, out of curiously, and out of frustration and boredom to name but a few reasons. This is why it makes sense to have a specially designated part of the garden where they can dig in peace. With the proper instructions, your dog can learn what part of the garden is ok to dig in and you can then reach a compromise where you can have a nice garden and they can have all the digging activities they want.

Long Walks

One thing dogs are guaranteed to dig more than holes is attention. They love activity, especially when their best friend is beside them while doing so.

A bored dog is a dog behavior problem waiting to happen. Some dog owners make the mistake of thinking that their pets get plenty of exercise running around the yard. This isn’t true. You might see a dog pacing up and down next to the fence, but this is a nervous activity that doesn’t really burn off all that pent-up energy.

A long walk at least once a day is essential. Twice a day is even better. If you don’t have the time in your schedule, a dog walker may be the answer.

Remember that your dog craves your attention. Spend at least ten minutes every day training your dog. Make it fun for both of you. Learning new things is fun for your dog, and it stimulates his mind. Plus they love being with you.

Keeping your dog busy, and giving them a specific spot to dig up is the best way to control this problem.