Question:

My dog has started digging holes in my back yard. How do I stop my dog from digging before he destroys the entire lawn?

The Trainer Answers:

First, examine why your dog is digging. Where is he digging? When does it occur?

Dogs dig for a variety of reasons: to dig out under the fence and escape the yard; to catch burrowing rodents or something else buried underground; to bury objects, such as bones; to create a cool place to lie down in warm weather; to burn off excess energy; as a social activity; and because it’s fun!

Digging is a natural behavior for dogs, so it is not unusual for your dog to decide to take up digging as a new hobby.

Once you have figured out WHY your dog is digging, you can better address the issue. For example, if your dog is digging to escape the yard, it might mean he needs more physical exercise and mental stimulation. Dogs that consistently look for ways to escape are often bored in their back yards. Take your dog for more adventures around the neighborhood so he can explore with you instead of without you. Give him more activities to engage in while he is in the backyard, such as eating his meals from interactive toys, playing fetch, or games like hide-and- seek.

Some dogs will start digging as a social activity – they want to join in the activities of someone else. Has your dog been outdoors with you when you were planting or gardening? If so, he might think he is helping out by digging up the flowers you just planted. He’s not being a bad dog. He’s simply trying to participate in an activity you initiated. If this is the case, you might want to do all of your gardening when your dog can’t see you.

In many cases, dogs are digging because they have energy to burn, and they enjoy it! If this is the case, you can greatly reduce the digging for most dogs by providing other outlets for their energy. Longer walks, more play time, additional training time, and other activities to wear your dog out will give him less energy to devote to digging.

However, my favorite option for a dog who loves to dig – or is simply bored – is to provide him with a digging pit of his own. Set aside a spot that your dog is allowed to dig. Take him there, start to dig yourself, and encourage him to join in. Or partially bury toys or bones for him to dig up. If you see him digging in an inappropriate spot, redirect his attention to his new digging pit. He will love having a place to dig and you can save the rest of your yard: a win-win situation!