How to Stop a Dog From Digging

Does your yard look like a bombed-out war zone? It can be frustrating to have a dog that’s always digging up your yard. Luckily, there are a lot of things you can do to help reduce, redirect, or eliminate your dog’s digging. Here are some of our top tips for how to stop a dog from digging.

Figure Out Why Your Dog Is Digging

Dogs dig for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Boredom
  • Anxiety
  • Instinct
  • Lack of exercise
  • Trying to escape
  • Hunting underground pests
  • Too much time left alone
  • No good shady area in the yard to stay cool

Figuring out your dog’s main reasons for digging can help you find the best solution. For example, if you have a terrier, you’ll be hard-pressed to stop their instinct to dig in search of prey. Instead, you should provide them one area of the yard where it’s acceptable for them to dig and discourage them from digging elsewhere.

Many dogs don’t get enough exercise or are left outside without any toys, so more frequent walks and more toys may help prevent digging. Other dogs might be digging to escape the yard because of separation anxiety, so treating the anxiety will be the best way to minimize the digging behavior.

Ultimately, you’ll be more successful in stopping your dog’s digging if your address the root cause of the behavior.

Give Your Dog More Exercise

Some people think that they don’t need to walk their dog if they have a yard for the dog to run around in. Your dog may be digging to burn off excess energy. The simplest solution to stop digging may be to start walking your dog more often. All dogs should get at least one or two walks per day, even if you have a yard.

If walking your dog isn’t an option, at least spend more time playing with them in the yard. Play a long game of fetch with your dog before you leave them alone in the yard, for example.

As the saying goes, “A tired dog is a good dog.”

Provide Your Dog with Better Things to Do in the Yard

Does your dog get to take any toys outside in the yard with them? Maybe your dog has had the same old ball and chew toy out there forever. If your dog is digging, they may be bored.

Your dog should always have access to several toys. For best results, rotate the toys at least once a week to help prevent boredom. Treat balls and interactive toys are a great way to keep your dog interested in something other than digging. Chew toys can also help keep your dog interested in something other than redecorating your yard.

Eliminate Pests

If your dog digs in a path layout or a central area of your yard rather than the edges, you might have a gopher or other digging pest that your dog is trying to catch. You may need to contact a professional about the safest way to eliminate pests, because any method that involves poison could poison your dog, too.

Give Your Dog a Place to Dig

It may be nearly impossible to get your dog to stop digging entirely, especially if you have a terrier since they were bred specifically for the task. However, it is quite possible to teach your dog to dig in only one area of your yard.

You can either purchase a sandbox or just designate one spot of your yard as the digging spot. Encourage your dog to dig in that area by burying toys or treats and praising your dog for digging there. If you catch your dog digging elsewhere, say, “No dig!” Then, lead them to the place where they are allowed to dig.

Discourage Unwanted Digging

This shouldn’t be your only method for stopping your dog’s digging, but there are ways to discourage unwanted digging that work well in conjunction with the other methods.

The best thing to do it to slightly bury something that would be unpleasant for your dog’s feet if they tried to dig at it, such as plastic chicken mesh, chain link, or large rocks.

Sure, your yard may look ugly for a while as your dog learns that it’s no longer fun to dig up their favorite places. However, once they learn, you may be able to remove these features, especially if you put in the work to figure out why your dog is digging and address that issue specifically.

Bury Your Fence

If your dog is an escape artist, you may need to bury the whole length of your fence. For best results, you should bury your fence at least 1-2 feet underground to help prevent your dog from being able to dig under it.

Of course, if you bury the existing fence, you’ll lose that height off the top, so you may need to replace the entire fence. Some dog breeds were bred to roam large fields all day with livestock and can be difficult to contain in an urban backyard. If you have a dog who likes to wander, make sure your fence is at least 6 feet tall and buried at least 2 feet underground.

Better yet, take your pup to a doggie daycare if you work long days. Or, you can crate train them and keep them inside for their safety.

Address Anxiety

Some dogs who dig are trying to escape due to severe separation anxiety. If your dog is also prone to howling, barking, or destroying things when left alone, talk to a trainer about how to manage potential separation anxiety.

If your dog is that upset about being left alone, little we’ve suggested here will keep them in the yard. Some dogs with extreme separation anxiety benefit from medication, so a trip to the vet could be in order.

Make Sure Your Dog Has Plenty of Shade and Water

Does your dog like to lie in their hole one they’re done digging in it? The hole may help keep them cool. Make sure your dog always has access to shade and water when they are outside. Most dogs will choose a shady doghouse over a hole in the ground to keep cool on a hot summer day.

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