If your lawn or garden is regularly being sacrificed to your dog or puppy’s paws, you may be throwing your hands up in frustration. 

Aside from the holes in the ground and a subsequent lack of foliage, dog or puppy digging is one of the more difficult behaviors to fix. A thorough understanding of why dogs dig is in order before trying to break the habit.

Keep reading as your friends at Blue Valley Animal Hospital elaborate on this common dog behavioral problem. 

Why Do Dogs Dig?

Digging is a very natural and instinctive behavior for dogs. In the wild, many of these behaviors are not only normal, but advantageous. Several common reasons for digging are: 

  • To bury or hide an object (food, toy) that they want to save for later
  • To search for items they have hidden in the past
  • To search for rodents or other prey, possibly as part of a breed specific drive
  • Boredom induced stress
  • Anxiety, as in trying to escape the yard

What Can You Do About Your Dog Or Puppy Digging?

Though digging may be normal, most owners tend to object when their lawns and gardens take a beating. Here are some tips to help you curb this unwanted behavior. 

Supervise. Do your best to supervise your dog when he’s in the yard for a period of time until you can help get the digging under control. When he starts to dig, use a novel distraction – clap your hands or use a shaker can (be sure the noise is distracting your dog, but not scaring him). 

Once you’ve interrupted his train of thought and the digging, redirect him to something fun like a game of fetch or a game of go-find-it. Throw some tasty treats on the ground that he’ll have to use his eyes and nose to find. Exercise, mental stimulation, and distraction can curb the urge to dig. 

Contain. Sometimes it is very difficult to contain very natural behavior. In this situation, you might consider containing an area where your dog is allowed to dig.

Create a “safe” digging area, and contain it with natural landscape, or low fences from a home improvement store. Make the area very appealing with the substrate that your dog prefers, sand for example. Hide some enticing items just under the surface at first, where they will be easy to find. Favorite toys are a good bet. 

You’ll still need to supervise out in the yard. Call your dog over and encourage him to dig in his digging spot. Whenever he tries to dig in the other part of the yard, distract and call him over to the preferred spot. Using praise and reward should make it very clear to him that good things happen when he digs only where you want him to. 

Keep him working. Some dogs and puppies, especially certain working breeds that like to dig may need a few things to keep their paws busy. Food puzzle toys will allow him to knock the toys around to obtain his food.

Your dog may not use his paws in a digging motion, but the physical and mental exercise will give him an outlet for excess energy. Just make sure a digging problem doesn’t turn into a weight problem by measuring total calories for the day. 

What Works 

Some dogs may always need supervision in order to prevent digging. If these tips don’t work, or you suspect that your dog may be suffering from stress related digging, please call us to schedule an appointment. Separation anxiety may be the root cause of a dog or puppy digging, and it rarely gets better on its own.

Trying to scare your dog when he digs or using punishment may ultimately make the situation worse, as he will learn to sneak around you and dig in the yard when you are not there to supervise. You may need the assistance of your veterinarian or a behavioral specialist in these cases. 

If you have other questions about your dog’s health or what to do about your dog or puppy digging, please give us a call.