Spring is in the air! Snow is melted, trees are waking from their slumber, and Spring flowers are peeking through the soil. The soft ground is just right for gardening. Your dog agrees and he can't wait to dig up that soft, fresh earth! Will your dog make like an excavator and destroy your beautiful yard and garden before Summer? Not if you follow these tips on how to stop a dog from digging!

How to stop a dog from digging
How To Stop a Dog From Digging in the Yard

Understand Why Dogs Dig To Learn How To Stop A Dog From Digging

Before we get into how to stop your dog from digging, let's talk about WHY dogs like to dig in the dirt so much. 

Reasons Why Dogs Like To Dig In The Dirt

🐾 The main reason why dogs dig in the ground is that it's a natural, instinctive dog behavior.  Digging dates back to dogs wolf ancestral days when wolves needed to dig for hunting purposes. Wolves often had to dig to seek out small prey for food. They would bury leftover food or bones from their hunt, hiding it from other predators, so they could return for another meal later.  This behavior has carried through to today's domestic dogs. Some domestic dog breeds are more prone to digging than others.

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How To Stop A Dog From Digging. Icy enjoying her Dig Pit. 

🐾 Digging is intentionally part of some domestic dog breeds genetic makeup. Certain dogs were bred by humans specifically to dig out vermin, keeping farms and other dwellings free of pests that might destroy crops, and other property.  Terriers, for example, are champion diggers.  The name Terrier comes from the word Terra, meaning earth so it's no surprise they were born to dig! 

This intentional breeding strengthened the natural digging instinct of certain dog breeds, for a specifically to benefit humans.  To stop this type of dog from digging requires a lot more effort, because their digging instinct is so strong.

🐾 Even for dogs not bred for the purpose of eliminating pests from the property, the smell and sound of mice, rats, gophers, moles and other small critters will often excite almost any breed of dog, small or large, compelling the dog to dig in garden beds to capture the critter.  That's why so many stuffed dog toys are made in the form of furry little critters!

🐾 Some dogs will dig a wide, shallow hole simply to get relief from the heat on a hot day.  My Siberian Husky, Icy, does that a lot.  I finally bought her a Cool Mat to lie on for those hot Summer days. She loves it!

🐾 Dogs often dig holes to bury a favorite toy or chew stick, hiding it somewhere safe where they can come back for it later.  

🐾 Some dogs dig out of sheer boredom and loneliness. They just need more mental or physical stimulation!  Such stimulation should be provided before a dog's digging becomes an ingrained habit.

🐾 Some dogs have issues with anxiety and digging offers some relief. I had a foster dog, a Chihuahua named Buttercup, who suffered from severe anxiety. Not only did she dig holes in my yard to hide in, she "dug" indoors as well. She tried to dig out of her crate, she dug into the blanket I gave her, and even dug into the carpet!  For Buttercup, the digging was a byproduct of her anxiety, so she needed to first be treated for her anxiety, rather than a digging problem.

🐾 Dogs dig to escape a yard or kennel. There can be a lot of reasons for this; boredom, fear, or they just want to escape to look for their family members if they've gone out and left the dog alone in the yard.

🐾 Many dogs dig simply because it's fun and it feels sooo good!

How To Stop My Dog From Digging

Now that you know this type of behavior is natural and can be very strong in certain breeds, lets talk about how you can get your dog to stop digging. If not stop the digging completely, at lease reduce how much your dog digs and where he digs.  

Remember that your dog is not being "bad" or misbehaving when he digs holes in the yard, he is just following his natural instinct and being a dog! Dogs do not deserve to be yelled at or punished in any way for digging mulch or digging in the flower beds. It's a natural behavior, but it is a behavior that can be redirected and curtailed with a little effort and thought on your part.


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How To Stop A Dog From Digging Up Your Yard. Icy relaxing in the yard

I am no stranger to my dog digging up the yard, my Siberian Husky Icy loves to dig!  She can dig a tunnel faster than you can say "Wanna treat?"  When she was almost a year old her digging became a real issue. She dug holes everywhere, our yard looked like a minefield!  I read articles and talked to trainers and other dog owners about it and they had a lot of advice on how to stop my dog's digging. Some of their home remedies for how to stop a dog from digging were:

Natural Deterrents To Stop A Dog From Digging 

🐕 Bitter sprays. Bitter spray is a great natural deterrent for chewing, and can also deter dogs from digging in a certain area or digging up plants or other objects. I've used bitter spray both indoors and outside to keep my dogs away from plants, shrubs and other things I want them to stay away from.  If your dog is digging in a relatively small area, you can spray that area with bitter spray. You may need to do it frequently at first, especially outdoors, since the scent and taste of it fades out. Eventually, your dog probably won't want to dig, or even hang out, in that area.  If the area is large however, read on...

🐕 Bury your dog's poop in places she is targeting for digging. It should make it unpleasant for your dog to dig where her poop is!  Honestly, this didn't work so well for me. It didn't prevent my dog from digging, it actually just made a big, stinky mess!  

🐕 Bury large rocks where your dog habitually digs. This didn't work well for us either, Icy started digging up the rocks & playing with them. Sometimes she even brought the dirty rocks into the house! Not cool Icy, not cool. LOL!

🐕 If your dog likes to dig holes and bury stuff, try this. When your dog is done playing with a toy, chew stick, shoe, or other item she likes to bury, rather than let her get to the point where she needs to hide it in the dirt, take it away yourself. Distract your dog momentarily, remove the item and put it away until next time. 

You don't want to upset your dog or make her feel she's being punished by having something taken away from her. Distract your dog, then discreetly take the item away, keeping it out of sight.  Remember to give it back at your next outdoor playtime!

🐕 If your dog is digging up the yard in order to get to small critters underground like mice or moles, you can have them humanely removed. Please don't kill these tiny critters! They deserve our compassion and respect.  Instead, consider having a pest control company humanely remove them from your yard and relocate them elsewhere. If you can remove the temptation, it may help curtail your dog's digging.


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How To Stop A Dog From Digging Under A Fence

🐕 If your dog is digging under the fence in your yard and escaping, that is very dangerous and needs to be stopped immediately.  We never leave our dogs in the yard unattended, it can be disastrous.  Not only will your dog look for inappropriate ways to relieve his boredom and loneliness, but someone can easily steal your dog from the yard when no-one is watching.  Pet theft has been increasing rapidly. More than 2 million pets are stolen every year in the U.S. !  If at all possible, please don't leave your dog alone in the yard.

🐕 If at times there is no way for you to keep your dog inside and he must be in the yard, try placing wire mesh at the bottom of the fence. Bury wire mesh several inches into the dirt along the bottom perimeter of the fence.  If you are installing new fencing, bury the fence a foot deep and place wire mesh and rocks at the bottom. 

I tried most of these dog digging remedies, but they didn't stop my determined dog's digging. Rather than give up in frustration, I decided to look for a way Icy could satisfy her need to dig without turning my yard into a mine field. 

After some research and thought, I finally found a way to let my dog dig to her heart's content without destroying our yard! It was about where I let her dig.  

By luring Icy to a DIY Dig Pit made just for her, I created a space where my dog was not only allowed to dig, but ultimately preferred to dig! This turned out to be the most effective method for me to get my dog to stop digging up the yard.

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How did I do that? By giving my precious pooch a designated patch of earth she could call her very own.  I looked around the yard for a good place to make a Dig Pit for Icy.  I decided that the area behind my husband's shed was the perfect spot.  My dog could dig to her heart's content behind the shed, out of site.  Once I had chosen the perfect spot for Icy's Dig Pit, here's what I did:

🔨 I blocked off a 6' x 4' area for my DIY Dig Pit behind the shed. 

🔨 I loosened up the dirt to make it nice and inviting. Dogs seem to love freshly dug up dirt, which is probably why they love to dig up our flowers moments after we've planted them!

🔨 Now I  needed to let her know there was an exciting place to dig, just for her.  I took 2 or 3 of her favorite chew sticks and placed them into the ground, with about 2 inches sticking out of the dirt so she could easily find them.

🔨 I brought her over to the Dig Pit and showed her the first chew stick. It was so exciting for her, she had found buried treasure!  She found and scarfed down all the chew sticks in minutes. 

🔨 Over the next couple of days I continued to bury treats, rubber toys, and chew sticks in her Dig Pit once or twice a day.  She quickly learned that good stuff awaited her in the magical Dig Pit! She couldn't wait to get out there and see what treasures awaited her discovery. 

Before long, her preferred spot to dig became the Dig Pit, and soon after she never bothered to dig anywhere else in the yard. Why would she want to dig anywhere else when there was always something more exciting waiting for her in the Dig Pit?

I continued with the Dig Pit concept when we moved to two different houses. It was always so exciting for Icy to see what each new Dig Pit had in store for her.  Seeing Icy bound out the back door excitedly to explore what's waiting for her in the Dig Pit never gets old! She's happy, I'm happy.

Now you've got a great list of possible solutions to stop your dog from digging! Give it a try and see what works for you and your dog.

Leave us a comment and let us know what you think about these ideas. We LOVE hearing from you! 

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M Dawson said...

Gosh, this must be a nightmare for pat parents that will try their patience. I confess it would drive me crazy. We had a rabbit that used to dig and they are FAST!!

I really like your compromise of having a special place to dig. You are allowing her to do something she loves and saving the rest of your garden!

Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them said...

It can get out of control and ruin your whole yard! Giving Icy a place to dig safely and without any negative consequences was the best solution for us.

Lola The Rescued Cat said...

This is really interesting! Our doggie cousin doesn't dig in the yard, and now we're curious why! MOL Great post with great tips.

Beth said...

What a wonderful solution, both you and Icy must love it!

LaylasWoof said...

Fantastic post and just learned from it also although Layla is not a digger only of the bed LOL. I now understand so much more, thanks

Britt K said...

We took a similar approach. There is an area of the yard that we have deemed 'the dig spot'. If the dogs try to dig anywhere else, we correct them then bring them over to the dig spot. It has worked really well in our effort to save the rest of the yard!

Sweet Purrfections said...

We were lucky in that our dogs didn't dig, but I've had friends that had dogs that would dig under the fence. I like your idea of giving your dog a special place to dig.

LaylasWoof said...

Layla is not a digger phew although she does dig in the dog park a bit but it is more pawing the lawn before she lies down, BUT she loves with her nose trying to hide her bowl of food and my floor is a slimy mess after each meal, LOL. Great post

Tail Wag Wisdom said...

Excellent idea to build a digging pit and then bury items to entice Icy. Henry digs simply because it's fun. I have a property right now that has a lot of open space, so he has a few spots that he enjoys digging and I don't mind it either. However, I'm going to remember your trick to lure your dog to a digging pit by burying fun things they like. I may need that some day. Great article! I'm sharing with all my dog parents.

FiveSibesMom said...

Cathy, these are all wonderful tips! And being Husky mommas, we know how they love to dig! I love the idea of their own space. I did that with my FiveSibes, and it really does help. I also love all the positive reinforcement training tips you have here! Love it. Pinning & sharing! Hugs to Icy! xo

Anonymous said...

I can understand why digging must frustrate dog parents, it would drive me crazy! I am glad there are positive solutions people can take to tackle digging. It may be fun for the dog but Oooh my garden!!!!

Marjorie and Toulouse

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