How to stop a dog from digging


This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Elise Barry BVSc (Hons) Bsc

Many dogs love to dig however if this habit becomes a problem help is on the way. Digging is a normal behaviour for many dogs. Some dogs, like Terriers and Beagles, have been bred to dig out their prey. Whilst ancestors of the domestic dog would dig out dens for shelter.

Why do dogs dig?

There are many reasons that a dog may dig:

  • Boredom
  • Play
  • Shelter
  • Anxiety/Stress
  • Instinct
  • Escape
  • Age

Once you understand why your dog is digging you can then introduce measures to prevent your backyard resembling a rabbit warren.

Instinct & Age

Some types of dogs like Terriers or Beagles were bred to be diggers. They were used to burrow out underground animals. Puppies and juvenile dogs are also known culprits. Young dogs have an abundance of energy and require lots of stimulation. They're still learning what behaviour is acceptable. Training and redirecting their behaviour towards other activities is encouraged. For example, when a dog looks like it is about to start digging throw a toy at their feet to start a new game.

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instances of boredom, play, instinctual and stress relief digging, increasing your dog's activity levels can be helpful. Investing in a dog walker or doggy day care is recommended if you cannot find the time to adequately exercise your dog. Take a look at our leads, harnesses and dog walking accessories to ensure your dog is in its' finest attire when pounding the pavement.

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Mental stimulation

Mental stimulation is another fantastic way to mentally wear out your dog and help curb its' excessive digging. This involves giving your dog an activity to do and can be particularly helpful if you're away from home a lot. KONG wobbler is the perfect distraction and can keep your dog busy for hours. Try hiding liver ballsinside the toy. The wobbler can also be filled with peanut butter or liver paste and then frozen for a prolonged reward. Puzzle feeding bowls and hiding treats around the home will also ensure your dog quickly forgets about digging.

Safe enclosure

In many cases of compulsive digging the dog is trying to escape or seek shelter. For the escape artists ensure they are mentally worn out, well exercised and that all escape routes are shut down. For dogs that are digging a den for shelter it might be a good idea to provide a safe space where they can safely dig and rest. We also stock a great range of dog bolster beds for the perfect doggy respite.

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Digging zone

Stopping dogs from digging can be difficult. Redirecting their behaviour towards other activities is encouraged however in some cases it may be necessary to provide a digging station. Designate a site in your garden where they can safely dig to their heart's content. Dogs are usually drawn to freshly turned soil or a soft substrate like sand. If a permanent spot cannot be found a children's clam shell can be used. You can keep them digging here by reinforcing the behaviour. Bury their favourite toy or rawhide treats to reward them for digging in the safe zone.

Veterinary intervention

Dogs that suffer from severe anxiety should seek veterinary attention to help control their digging. These cases will need a physical exam, behaviour assessment and treatment as necessary. Adaptil is a behaviour modifier that is designed to help dogs cope with stress. It comes as a collar or plug-in diffuser.