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How to Stop a Dog Digging

5 min read

If you have a dog that's constantly digging up your flower beds it can be incredibly frustrating. Find out why your dog digs and how to stop them doing it in the wrong places with our helpful guide.

Dogs can develop the urge to dig at any time in their life: it could be a behaviour they’ve had since being a puppy, or something that comes on later in their adulthood. 

Find out more about what drives dogs to dig in order to determine how to prevent a dog digging in places you don’t want them to

The occasional scuffle in the soil isn’t a problem, but digging as a repeated behaviour – especially in your flower beds or if you are garden-proud - can be a behaviour you want to discourage

Find out more about what drives dogs to dig in order to determine how to best deal with this natural, but sometimes annoying behaviour.

Why is my dog digging holes all of a sudden?

There are many reasons as to why dogs dig; it’s crucial to try and identify the exact cause in order to find the best method of how to stop a dog digging. Knowing your pet well and spending time with them will really help when trying to redirect unwanted behaviours. 

Here are a few possible reasons why your dog’s favourite pastime is digging holes:

Some breeds of dog are biologically more inclined to dig. Terrier breeds especially were designed to dig out and kill vermin, and many retain this natural instinct.

Any time in the past when we created breeds to do a certain job, we enhanced certain natural instincts by breeding from dogs who did a certain behaviour really well – and who found it hugely rewarding. As a result, for many terriers, this digging behaviour is their very favourite thing to do – and so to stop them from doing it is unfair and can impact their quality of life. In fact, they need an outlet for that behaviour to be happy. You just have to make sure they are digging where you want them to – and not in your best flower beds!

Research dog breeds thoroughly before deciding on which dog is best for you: your family, lifestyle, and home. If you are garden proud – or not prepared to accept giving your dog a place of their own to dig, a terrier might not be your best option.

Other breeds can and do love digging too – so know your own dog! 
 

If your dog is bored or frustrated, they may start digging as a way to occupy themselves. 

All dogs need an enriching life – and it is up to you to provide that. If they are not getting enough exercise, enough social interaction, enough breed or type- specific enrichment, and a chance to use their brain and their natural instincts, they can very easily turn to self-directed behaviours – such as digging – that fulfil these hardwired needs. 

In some ways, our dog’s senses are far keener than ours – and sometimes there can be things lurking under our lawns or flower beds that we don’t know anything about. It may be that your dog has picked up on something that you haven’t, and they are determined to hunt them out – and maybe believe they’re doing you a favour! Dogs often have a natural instinct to hunt, and if your pet has detected a pest problem in your garden, they may well be digging to hunt out the pests. This kind of digging will usually be location-specific and they will be unlikely to want to dig in other places – unless you have a serious infestation! 

Animals will often dig as a way to try and find comfort or protection in their environment – and this is something often seen in dogs living in either very hot or very cold/hostile environments. This can however happen if your dog is left outside on a hot day without access to a shaded area or, alternatively, if they’re left outside in the cold without access to heat. Never leave your dog unattended outside for any length of time.

Behaviours such as digging can develop as a result of many different things. Stress and anxiety are key factors in pets developing new, often unwanted behaviours, and it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint exactly what is likely to be causing your dog to feel stressed. 

Changes in routine or environment can be unsettling for animals, so if there has been a sudden change in your dog’s life, this may be the cause. 
 

Moving house to somewhere with a garden – especially if you’ve been doing some digging and garden renovations yourself – can lead a dog to discover a joy of digging they had never had the chance to do before. Or, maybe they think they should join in with your gardening endeavours – especially if you've been turning over flowerbeds and there is some tempting loose earth to tunnel in! 

How to stop a dog digging

If your dog’s digging is becoming a nuisance – or if this is a new behaviour – it may well be time to take steps to prevent your garden from being totally ruined and to control this behaviour in a way that makes you and your dog happy.

1.    Give them their own space to dig

If you have a dog whose greatest joy is digging, giving them a place of their own to dig – that is far more rewarding than your flower beds – can be the very best solution. They still get to do the thing that makes them happy and gives them joy – and, by putting it under your control, you get to enjoy your garden in peace (and make muddy paws a thing of the past).

If you are a budding DIY’er, you can build a low raised bed close to where your dog has been tunnelling, and fill it with play sand or any medium that is safe, non-toxic and ‘diggable in’. Fill it with toys, or treats that your dog likes, and encourage them to dig there. Make it a game, be enthusiastic about it, and make digging there rewarding.

In the meantime, prevent access to the places you don’t want your dog to dig (temporary barriers_ - and make sure you accompany your dog when they go into the garden. Playing on their own is really boring for a dog so you can’t blame them for going ‘self-employed’ if you just leave them to go free range!

2. Make sure they’re receiving enough exercise

Ensure that your pet is receiving enough exercise every day according to their breed, type and individual needs. Different dog breeds require vastly difficult levels of daily activity, and it doesn’t always follow that a small dog needs less exercise!

Two or three exercise periods a day are better than one longer one as it breaks up the boredom of the day better.

Even the smallest dog should be getting at least half an hour of outdoor activity every day – with larger breeds and those designed to work all day needing upwards of two hours, including brain games and training.

They also need social contact – in other words, quality time with you.
Without this, boredom and frustration levels can rise – and, in an attempt to occupy their bodies and brains, they can turn to behaviours like digging. In these cases, it can easily become an obsessive behaviour.

3. Provide adequate mental stimulation

Dogs need as much mental stimulation as physical exercise, and if your dog is left feeling bored throughout the day, their digging may be due to a lack of mental stimulation.
Knowing how to stop a dog digging with mental stimulation is simple: spend quality time with your dog every day doing the things you both enjoy! Playing dog games, training, giving them problem-solving opportunities, and introducing enrichment toys can all help prevent behaviour issues that arise from boredom, frustration or depression. 

If you need to leave your dog alone for long periods of time, look at dog walking services or pet sitters who can provide mental stimulation and social contact while you are away.

Discover ideas for dog games that will help engage their brains.

4. Sort out the pest problem!

How to stop a dog digging that is hunting pests in your home or garden is simple: sort out the pest problem!

Find humane ways to catch or trap the problem pests (if it is a rodent issue) or hire experts to do it for you, or sort out a bug infestation. 

Always be careful when using chemicals of any kind to treat a pest problem, as they can be toxic to your dog (so make sure any professional you hire is aware of that). It might mean that your garden is off-limits to your dog for a little while.

5. Provide shelter and shade

Although dogs have come from the wild, these days they’re used to their creature comforts! Never leave your dog outside on their own unsupervised.  ,Even then, ensure they have access to shade when it’s hot, and shelter when it’s cold. Some dogs can enjoy lying in the sun so much, they don’t remember to move when they overheat or when they need a drink. Older dogs especially are less keen to get up and move if they are stiff or have aching joints. You should also make sure they can always get a drink of fresh water: source an ‘untippable’ dog bowl just to be sure.


How to stop a dog from digging under a fence

For some dogs, the urge to escape is a challenge! There are breeds who are serious Houdinis – no matter how happy they are at home – and tunnelling under a fence is often easier than working out how to get over it! 

Check your fencing regularly – and if you do leave your dog outside on their own at any time, make sure your fence is buried down into the ground. If your pet still continues to try to dig under the fence, you can try half-burying rocks along the edge of the fence. Better still, however, go with your dog when they have ‘garden time’, keep them engaged and focused on you, and give them lots of games and outlets for natural behaviour. A dedicated tunneller will nearly always, eventually, find their way out! 

If your dog loves digging, and this is part of their natural behaviour, it is unfair of you to ‘stop them from digging’. Instead, put the behaviour under your control in an appropriate place – and give them plenty of other enriching activities so that digging is less appealing than having fun with you.

 

Check out our basic dog training commands guide for more tips that can help you refrain from your dog’s digging behaviour.