How to Stop or Keep a Dog from Digging



  • HEAT

FEAR / ESCAPING: Digging holes to escape. A dog that is frightened, for whatever reason may need to escape from its living environment. You could have received a new dog from another owner. It needs time to settle in but, if it gets scared or lonely in its new environment, it may try to escape. A thunderstorm may induce fear into the dog. It may dig holes to escape under fences. It may end up causing more harm to itself on the outside and bring the law down on the owner. Bring it inside if you feel the storm is particularly bad. Prevention is better than the cure for this one. In any case make sure it cannot dig down or around the fences. Dog obedience classes will work well for the dog and the owner. There are electric fences on the market, which give out a small voltage shock to the animal that can be put near the place where it escapes. These can be purchased from the local stock feed business. Or there are underground electric containment systems, which consist of a collar that zaps the dog if the animal breaches its boundaries. The most important thing is to find out what is causing the fear in the dog and get your local dog trainer to desensitise it. Your local vet and dog trainer are always there to help you so don't hesitate to ask for advice.

BOREDOM:When you leave your dog home for hours at a time, it can be destructive to relieve its boredom. A Dog can go through many unwanted behaviours to occupy its time. One of which is where it will dig for something to do, depending on the breed, of course. If you have two dogs they tend to keep themselves company, which can reduce the amount of holes that are dug, but more often this can lead to disaster on a hot day when it digs to cool off, especially Rottweilers. The damage can be huge! If you place a box of toys in the yard when you leave home, the dog can retrieve toys out of the box when it gets bored. Place items in the box that it enjoys playing with but it is very important that these toys are removed from the animal when the owner gets home. These toys that are in the toy box are used as a reward for it to play with when the owner leaves the house. If the toys are in the dog's company all the time then it will get tired of playing with these particular toys and start practising destructive behaviour. Dog obedience lessons are great ways to solve this problem, and if you have time before you leave the house, try to set aside 20 minutes to play, walk, or train your dog. The animal does not try to dig holes just to annoy the owner. It will do it through boredom or the other reasons. Try to examine the behaviour and use my ideas to the best of your ability. Remember the more you put in the more you will gain. Also what works for my dog may not work for your dog because of the differences in personality. Try to find the best solution for your animal, and remember that preventive measures put in place to stop it from playing or digging in the area that you don't want it to, will be better than trying to change it's behavioural pattern.

Try fencing off the area where it digs.

Allow it a section of the garden where it can dig holes like a sandpit.

The electric fence units from a stock feeder can be a temporary fence which can deter it from going to that area where it digs.

Analysing your dog's behaviour for digging holes:

Is it sterilised?
Does your dog get left alone for long periods.. over 6 hrs at a time?
Do you train your dog in obedience?
Do you walk your dog?
Does your dog have plenty of shade?
Do flies or other insects annoy your dog?

These can be some of the questions you need to ask yourself when combating this problem.

HEAT: If you only have a little shade in your yard, a dog may dig a hole in the summer months to lie in, these holes are more than likely in the shade of the house or under a tree. Different breeds like Bull mastiffs and Rottweilers dig holes a lot to keep cool in the summer months because the sand below the surface in the shade is a cool spot to lie.
When it lies in the bushes or digs a hole under the tree and exposes the roots, it does not understand it is destroying the great plants in your garden, it is just trying to get cool.
So, when you scold a dog for destroying your garden the animal may not understand what it has done wrong. Again, prevention is better than the cure and if you were able to stop it from lying or digging in the nice spots of the garden with a fence or boundary, great! The electric fence units to keep it out of the garden can work wonders if they are erected properly (so it can't jump the tape). Battery operated electric fence units with thick tape are available from local stock feeders. It is hard to have a nice garden when you have dogs.

I have found that making a small but tidy pool hidden down the back of the yard, using a cheap tarp as the lining, can keep the dog cool in summer and when it gets hot it will go and lie in the shallow waters to cool off. If you did not want to go to these extremes then, you will need to have some sort of shade for it in the hot weather.
In the wild the dog will lie under a group of rocks or a tree to get out of the heat. When it is in the full sun it can be devastating for the animal and also cruel to withhold shade from it. If you do build a pool for your dog it needs to be kept clean and the water needs to be changed regularly. The old water can be used to put back on the plants.
An insulated dog kennel may be a temporary shade house for the dog in the heat, but if you do not assist it in cooling off in the hot weather then you can expect the animal to get cool in some way, like digging holes.

BURYING BONES: Raw bones are great for a dog, if you give your dog too many bones or it is not hungry, then it will bury the bones in the yard. If the bones are too hard or not fresh then it may also bury the bones, so when you buy bones from the Butcher make sure they are fresh and make sure that the certain dog breed can chew through the bones. You would not give a marrow bone to a Chihuahua and expect it to eat it. See the feeding section on how many times a week to feed bones and the dangers of cooked bones for dogs. If it is a hot day it is a good idea to individually freeze large bones, leave the bones to thaw for about 10 minutes then feed them to the dog. This will slow the bacterial growth in the hot weather and they tend to enjoy them more.
It can also be refreshing.

AGGREVATION FROM INSECTS. We have a dog at home (Bull-Terrier), that loves to DIG at insects, slaters, bees, flies and any other bug that catches his attention.
What can I say, "Small things amuse small minds". He does not seem to learn his lesson when he is stung by a bee, it makes him more determined.

What do you do?

Well if no-one is home.....Nothing really, if you want your dog to have a free run in the yard. Even a dog tied up it is not safe from a bee.


I guess you would hope your dog is not allergic. If you are home, you can remove it away from that particular stimulant that amuses the dog and play another game with it that involves yourself. You may throw a ball or a stick, go for a walk or other things to occupy its mind. It is obviously bored and is looking for something to do. If it is not causing any damage to itself or the yard then the behaviour is acceptable.
But, there is always a chance it may bite the wrong insect one day and get sick or die.
So remove all objects where insects may hide, especially the ones it has easy access to. Do not allow it access to sheds or other insect spots.
In other words remove the insects (if possible), remove the trees that attract the bees or keep it away from dangerous areas.

EXCITEMENT: Dogs get stressed out as well as humans and their stress can be for many different reasons. Drugs are sometimes used to help with this problem but are usually used as a last resort, your local vet would be the best one to talk to about stress and anxiety problems with your dog.

BREED: There are thousands of different breeds of dogs (if you include cross breeds) and all of them have different problems. You will be able to find out what these problems are by ringing the breeder of the type of dog you have. You will have to discuss with the breeder the problems your dog has and see if they can relate the problem to that breed. The breeder will have the best way of knowing why it has this problem and how to fix it. Be careful though and make sure to ring two or three breeders of your dog type if you are not satisfied with your result. Some breeders can be dishonest and withhold information to keep the breed's glamour. I know of a dog that was dominant aggressive. The owner called four different breeders before one finally admitted the breed had a problem, but this was after the owner was attacked by his 75-kilo male dog. I was able to restore this family's trust in the dog after we found out from that breeder the problems inherited in this breed. If your dog is a cross breed try to define the main breed of dog by identifying the personality of the dog. This can be done by asking your local dog trainer, then call the breeders for that certain breed and get information on their problems and how to solve them.

Place dog's toys around for the bored dog. Some of the toys you could make for the dog could be something like a rope with a stick tied to it hanging from a tree. If you leave toys with the dog to play with while you go out, then these toys must be only given to it when you leave and picked up when you get home.

If you are a little skeptical about these ideas and believe that you shouldn't have to go to some of these extremes to solve the problem your dog has then I suggest you read the "Ethics of Owning a Dog" section. Some owners can get away with very little training with the dog because they have a natural ability to train dogs without them knowing they are doing so. Farmers seem to have this ability a lot. These solutions don't always work for every dog and owner and that's why I must stipulate the importance of the owner being able to evaluate their own dog and choose the best method they found that works.

Dogs that dig holes can be a complex problem and does not get solved overnight, so if you use some of these methods stick to them if you want results. Results will come in faster or slower depending on a list of factors, some of which are, how much effort you put in, the age, sex, breed and intelligence of your animal. If you do not get any satisfaction from these ways and you have consulted your local dog trainer for help and still no response then I suggest talking to your vet about alternative methods. Remember it may not be just digging out of boredom it could be another reason.

Trouble Shooting: Filling in the holes: Try refilling the holes with junk, dogs can quickly lose interest and pretty much stop digging. Fill the hole with whatever is at hand, dead leaves, sticks, rocks or even dog feces. Fill to the top covering it with dirt. It finds the buried items, gets discouraged and often quits digging.

A sandpit: Try to remember that digging is natural for dogs. So, if there is any place where your dog may be allowed to dig, you should encourage it (and only in that place). Designate an area where it can dig. Build a sand pit for it. Place the pit in an area that is cool in summer and warm in winter. Encourage it to dig in the pit, praise it. Repeat until it willingly digs all by itself, watch it and when it starts to dig in any other place quickly go and take your dog to its sandpit. Show the dog that it should dig only in its sandpit.
To deter boredom, place several toys in the toy box before you leave for work.

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