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How Do I Stop My Dog From Digging?

By: Jeff Noce, Voyce President

Every week, I invite Voyce blog readers to submit any questions or comments they have about health or behavioral concerns. Because of the great response, each month I address at least one question in more detail.

If you have a question or topic you’d like me to cover, please send an email to

Hi! My dog likes to dig in the back yard. Is there anything I can do to stop this bad habit?

Many dog owners can identify with the frustration of planting flowers only to have them dug right back up. Or finding divots in the lawn or a tunnel under the fence. Even though this is completely normal dog behavior, that doesn’t mean we want them “helping” us with the landscaping.

Dogs dig for a variety of reasons including boredom, anxiety, a desire to escape or prey instincts. Some breeds, like Dachshunds, have even been bred to dig. That’s why it can be such a challenge to tackle this habit. But not impossible!

Although it’s helpful to determine why your dog is digging in the first place, there are things you can do to curb this behavior even when you don’t know the cause. And it all starts with channeling his energy in more constructive ways, such as:

Exercise – Your dog may have pent up energy that he’s trying to burn off. Try taking him for a longer walk or adding an extra session of fetch each day. If he’s well socialized, visit the dog park or drop him off at doggie daycare a few days a week. 

Brain Games/Training – Dogs need mental stimulation just as much as they need physical exertion. So sign up for that nosework class or just brush up on basic training skills like sit, stay and come. For a little extra fun, hide treats around the house and encourage him to find them.

Project Toys – This is another great way to redirect your dog’s energy. Fill a Kong with his kibble and peanut butter, freeze it and then let your dog go to work getting out the goodies. A treat-dispensing toy – one that he has to roll around with his paw or nose – is a terrific option as well.

Remove Temptation – Try to determine where and when your dog is most likely to dig. Is it when you’ve just planted your garden? Then put up a fence (even if it’s just temporary) to keep him out. Does he like to dig under the gate? Place rocks and/or chicken wire where he’s digging to discourage him. Is he trying to get to gophers or other underground varmints? Well, then, it’s time to relocate them. (How you do that is entirely up to you!)

Create His Own Space – If you’ve tried everything and your dog continues to dig, why not give him a designated digging spot all his own? Cordon off a section of your yard or fill a kiddie pool with sand or dirt. Encourage him to dig there, and only there, by burying treats or toys. Whenever he digs in the appropriate area, make sure you’re generous with praise and the rewards! 

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Posted on Nov 27, 2015 by VOYCE Behavior & Training
Vets & Experts