Is your dog making your yard full of craters? Before you judge him or her too harshly, you should know that it is in your dog’s nature to do so. Relatives of wild dogs dig dens to raise their pups. Your dog is not digging to be spiteful. According to the Humane Society of the United States, dogs that dig are either seeking to be entertained, looking for prey, seeking comfort or protection, trying to escape, or looking for attention. In order to stop your dog from digging, you first need to identify why they are doing it in the first place.
Looking for Entertainment
Some dogs that dig are just plain bored. If the dog is left alone for long periods of time in the yard without any human contact, they may want to entertain themselves. Dogs that have no playmates or toys may fall into this category. Puppies that are under 3 years old, or Terriers which are born diggers may naturally be inclined to digging.
If these situations describe your dog, the first thing to do is make sure they are getting enough exercise. Walking your dog twice daily may eliminate problem behaviors like digging. Try redirecting your dog’s energy when you catch him digging, by playing fetch or throwing him a Frisbee. Spending 5-10 minutes a day teaching your dog tricks may also be helpful. For times when your dog needs to be left alone in the yard, give him a food-filled puzzle toy to help him stay entertained.
Many dogs enjoy chasing small, furry creatures, even if they never manage to catch them. Your dog may be digging to try and catch chipmunks, moles and ground squirrels. Your dog may be hunting prey if you see him digging at the roots of trees, or if he focuses on one area in the yard rather than its boundaries. It may be difficult to get your dog to stop digging if he is hunting prey, because dogs find this very rewarding. In this case, focus on using safe and humane methods to fence out the little critters. It is important that you never use any toxic chemicals to try and get rid of them. If the substance will poison wildlife, it will poison your dog as well.
Wanting to Feel Safe and Protected
When it’s hot outside, dogs may dig a hole so that they can lie in the dirt where it is cooler. On the other hand, if they feel cold, if it is raining, they may be trying to escape it. Dogs may also dig to try and find water. If your dog digs holes near the foundation of large trees or buildings or a water source, they may want to feel safe. This is also likely the case if the dog lies in the holes he digs.
To help your dog feel safe and comfortable, bring him indoors more often. For the times when he needs to be kept outside, provide him with a doghouse to protect him from the wind and sun. Make sure he has plenty of fresh water at all times.
Keep in mind that even punishment is attention. This means that even when your dog is behaving badly, he is reward if he knows he will get your attention for it. To remedy this, give your dog the attention he is looking for. Try your best to ignore his digging and be sure to give him lots of praise when he does something good. Be sure that your dog is spending enough time with you. Again, long walks, games of fetch and basic training can go a long way in stopping your dog from digging.
Trying to Escape
If your dog is digging along your fence or underneath it, he or she may be trying their best to escape. Whether it is because they are trying to get to something or get away from something, escape digging is quite common. To keep your dog from getting out of your yard, there are several things you can try. The Human Society suggests placing large rocks near the fence, partially burying them. Another option is to install an electric dog fence to reinforce the fence you have. Your dog wears a special collar and if he tries to dig near the wire, he will receive a harmless static correction through the collar.
What Not to Do
No matter the reason why your dog is digging, punishing him after the fact is a mistake. Dogs can’t make the connection between something they did hours ago and why they are getting punished now. Taking your dog to the area where he has dug a hole and trying to scold, spank or punish him now just won’t work. This will simply frighten and upset him.
What If Nothing Works?
So is your pooch set on digging, no matter what? The Humane Society suggests setting aside an area where you will allow him to dig, and let him know that it is okay for him to dig there. To do this, cover the digging area with sand or loose soil. You can encourage him to dig in that area by putting toys in the soil for him to discover. It is okay to praise your dog for digging, as long as it happens within the designated digging area. Should your dog try to dig in another area, clap loudly and say “no dig.” Then take him to the digging zone where he is allowed to dig. If all else fails, a certified animal behaviorist can help you out.