Understanding and Managing Your Dog’s Digging Behavior: A Guide for Frustrated Dog Owners

One of the most common calls we get at Alaska Dog Works is from dog owners frustrated with their dogs digging in their yard. 

If you are a dog owner who is constantly battling with the frustration of finding unsightly holes in your backyard, you are not alone. Digging is a natural behavior for dogs, and while it can be exasperating, understanding the reasons behind this behavior and learning how to manage it can help you and your furry friend live together harmoniously. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the roots of your dog’s digging tendencies and provide you with practical tips and strategies to address and manage this common issue.

Understanding Your Dog’s Digging Behavior

Before we jump into solutions, it’s important to understand why dogs dig in the first place. There are several reasons why dogs engage in this behavior, and recognizing the underlying cause can help you address the issue effectively.

1. Instinctual Behavior:

Dogs are descendants of wolves, and digging is an inherent part of their natural behavior. Wild canines dig to create dens, find prey, or hide food. This instinctual behavior is deeply ingrained in domestic dogs, and some breeds are more predisposed to digging than others.

2. Boredom and Excess Energy:

Dogs that are under-stimulated or have excess energy may resort to digging as a way to entertain themselves. If your dog is left alone for extended periods without adequate mental and physical stimulation, they may turn to digging as a form of activity.

3. Comfort-Seeking Behavior:

On hot days, dogs may dig to create a cool spot to lie in. Similarly, in cold weather, they may dig to find warmth by burrowing into the ground.

4. Anxiety and Stress:

Dogs may dig as a coping mechanism for anxiety or stress. Common triggers include separation anxiety, fear of loud noises, or changes in their environment.

Effective Strategies to Manage Your Dog’s Digging

Now that we have a better understanding of the reasons behind your dog’s digging behavior, let’s explore some practical strategies to address and manage this issue.

1. Provide Sufficient Exercise and Mental Stimulation:

One of the most effective ways to curb your dog’s digging tendencies is to ensure they receive ample physical exercise and mental stimulation. Regular walks, interactive play sessions, and puzzle toys can help channel your dog’s energy in a positive direction, reducing the likelihood of them resorting to digging out of boredom or excess energy.

2. Create a Designated Digging Area:

Consider setting aside a specific area in your yard where your dog is allowed to dig. This can be a sandbox or a designated patch of soil. Encourage your dog to dig in this area by burying toys or treats and praising them when they use the designated spot. By providing an outlet for their natural digging instincts, you can minimize the damage to the rest of your yard.

3. Increase Environmental Enrichment:

Introduce environmental enrichment activities to keep your dog mentally engaged. This can include providing interactive toys, food puzzles, and rotating their toys regularly to prevent boredom. Mental stimulation can help alleviate anxiety and prevent your dog from seeking out destructive behaviors like digging.

4. Address Underlying Anxiety or Stress:

If your dog’s digging is driven by anxiety or stress, it’s crucial to address the root cause. This may involve creating a safe space for your dog to retreat to, using calming aids such as pheromone diffusers, or seeking guidance from a professional dog behaviorist to

assist in identifying and addressing your dog’s anxiety triggers.

5. Supervise and Distract:

When spending time with your dog in the yard, supervise their behavior and redirect their attention if they begin to dig. Engage them in interactive play or training exercises to redirect their focus and discourage digging.

6. Provide Adequate Shelter and Comfort:

Ensure that your dog has access to shelter and comfortable resting areas, especially during extreme weather conditions. By meeting their basic needs, you can reduce the likelihood of them digging for comfort.

7. Consistent Training and Positive Reinforcement:

Implement consistent training to discourage digging behavior. When catching your dog in the act of digging in an undesirable location, firmly say “no” and redirect their attention to a more appropriate activity. Conversely, when they dig in the designated area, offer praise and rewards to reinforce the desired behavior.

8. Seek Professional Guidance:

If your dog’s digging behavior persists despite your best efforts, consider seeking guidance from a certified dog trainer or behaviorist. A professional can assess your dog’s specific needs and develop a tailored behavior modification plan to address the digging behavior effectively.

Preventative Measures to Protect Your Yard

While addressing the root causes of your dog’s digging behavior is essential, taking preventative measures can also help protect your yard from further damage.

1. Reinforce Fencing and Barriers:

Ensure that your yard is securely fenced to prevent your dog from escaping and to limit their access to areas where digging may cause damage. Burying chicken wire at the base of the fence can deter digging along the perimeter.

2. Use Deterrents:

Consider using natural deterrents, such as citrus peels, cayenne pepper, or commercial pet-safe repellents, in areas where your dog is prone to dig. These scents and tastes can discourage digging behavior by making the area less appealing to your dog.

3. Landscape Modifications:

Make modifications to your landscaping to minimize the appeal of digging. Use large rocks, paving stones, or mulch in areas where your dog tends to dig to create deterrent barriers. Additionally, consider planting dense shrubs or creating designated pathways to discourage digging in specific areas.

4. Provide Adequate Supervision:

When your dog is outside, provide active supervision to intervene if they begin to dig inappropriately. By catching the behavior early and redirecting their attention, you can help reinforce the desired behavior.


Dealing with a dog that compulsively digs can be a source of frustration for many pet owners, but it’s important to approach the issue with patience, understanding, and positive reinforcement. By addressing the underlying reasons for your dog’s digging behavior and implementing proactive strategies, you can effectively manage and minimize this common issue. Remember that each dog is unique, and the effectiveness of management techniques may vary based on individual personalities and circumstances. Be patient, consistent, and proactive in addressing your dog’s digging behavior, and don’t hesitate to seek professional guidance if needed. With dedication and the right approach, you can create a harmonious environment for both you and your beloved canine companion.


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