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Why is My Dog Digging Holes All of A Sudden?

why do dogs dig holes

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Help! How can I Stop my Dog from Digging up my Yard?

Digging holes is a natural trait for dogs, with over eighty percent of dog owners in the USA reporting that their dog likes to dig.

However, when you’ve invested time and money into making your garden a thing of beauty, it isn’t easy to sit back and let the holes deepen, and the mounds of the earth build up!

Understanding the reasons as to why your dog is digging up your yard helps us figure out how to prevent further damage to your yard.

Why Do Dogs Like to Dig Holes?

Dog digging a hole

Its common knowledge dogs have an amazing sense of smell, but did you also know that dogs have an excellent hearing?

They can hear things that humans have no idea are around. This includes creatures and bugs that live underground.

When your dog digs, it’s likely they are trying to catch something they have heard of smelt burrowing in the earth.

Dogs may dig a hole to create a shelter. When dogs feel hot, they may attempt to dig a hole to rest in and escaping the summer heat.

They may also dig into sheltering from other weather events, such as rain or a thunderstorm.

Sometimes, if they lack specific minerals and vitamins from their diet, they may dig to find and eat certain soil types.

Some breeds of hunting dogs may also instinctively dig for prey.

It is also widespread for dogs to dig holes to stash food items they would like to eat at a later date.

Successful strategies to stop your dog digging

Depending on the reason above, you need to take different approaches to get your dog to stop digging holes in your yard.

How to stop a dog from digging holes in your yard
  • Choose a suitable location in your yard, away from fences and foundations, and designate this as their specific digging area. You could also dig a large hole for them to play in. When they play in your chosen area, heap lots of praise on them and give them treats. Put some of their favorite toys into the hole and bury a selection of treats in the hole to encourage them to dig and play in this specific area.  
  • Create a comfortable sleeping area in your yard for your dog. Put their regular bed in this spot during the day or get another bed for outdoor use only. Throw a pillow or blanket into it, which has the scent of their indoor bed on it.
  • Don’t leave your dog alone in your yard for long periods of time. Play with them regularly, and ensure they have a wide selection of interactive toys and objects to keep them entertained.
  • When you are gardening, such as planting out flowers and seeds, don’t let your dog see you. If possible, have them taken out for a walk, or at the least keep them in the house. If they see you digging your yard, it’s likely they will copy your behavior.
  • Make sure they have access to freshwater and shelter in your yard. This is especially important during periods of extremely warm or cold weather.
  • Bury chicken wire or wire mesh under the top layer of dirt in the areas where your dog likes to dig. Plants will still be able to grow through it, but it will stop your dog from being able to dig any more than an inch or two below the surface. You can also put large rocks over the area they like to dig in, to stop them from going back to the same spot.

Dangerous and unhelpful advice to avoid

There are lots of ideas out there about how to stop your dog from digging up your yard, but some of them are not only unhelpful; they are downright dangerous to your dog!

Never use a toxic chemical spray on any area of your yard to deter your dog from digging.

Any product that is harmful to plants and animals is going to hurt your pooch too.

Natural remedies such as citrus oil and black or white pepper can be safely used, but they often have to reapply to be effective.

Dogs love to receive attention from their owners, and even punishment from digging is a form of attention.

This is especially true if you don’t have that many opportunities to spend time with your dog.

Ignore this behavior, and instead implement the advice given above to resolve the issue.

As your dog may be digging to get away from something they are frightened of, identify what these may be, and come up with a resolution to the problem.

This may involve talking to your neighbors or bringing your dog inside during certain times of the day.

As digging can be a natural behavior for many dogs, it can be detrimental to your pooch’s health and well-being to force your dog to stop doing it immediately.

Make sure you take your time when following the steps above, and give the right level of support throughout the process to your pooch to ensure a successful outcome.

Recommended reading:

Why Do Dogs Dig Holes and Lay in Them?

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I stop my dog from digging holes?

It’s no surprise that dogs love to dig holes, but what can you do to make them stop? Well, most of the time, dogs do this because they find it fun, interesting and it helps them uncover new scents and bugs, or to stash their favorite toys. 

The best way to prevent this is to ensure that your dog has lots of other stimulating and fun things to do, instead of digging. This means giving them lots of playtime, toys to use, and plenty of exercise to wear them out.

With lots of mental and physical stimulation, they may feel less interested in digging up your back garden!

In addition, you will want to discourage them from digging in certain areas, by coaxing them out of that behavior.

Distract them with treats or puzzle toys, or give them a designated area where they are allowed to dig, such as a sandpit! You can also use digging deterrents such as certain scents that will offend their nose, or place thorny shrubs in the areas they love to dig. 

What breed of dog likes to dig holes?

Since dogs became domesticated, humans have been using selective breeding to encourage certain traits and characteristics, to create breeds that have a purpose.

For instance, you now have Shepherd dogs, made to work with livestock, and working dogs that are bred to help police, armed forces and are trained as therapy or bomb detection dogs.

Other breeds have traits that make them perfect for hunting or retrieving, whereas some are better at chasing down and finding prey. 

In this sense, some dogs are naturally more inclined to dig holes as they were bred for a specific purpose. This means that they have evolved with certain natural traits and instincts that you cannot get rid of.

For instance, terrier dogs are also known as ‘earthdogs’ as they would be used to chase, follow and catch small prey that would tunnel into the earth. Being larger than most of this prey, these dogs would learn to dig their way under, and find a way in. 

In this sense, the most common dog breeds that love to dig holes will be Jack Russell Terriers, Dachshunds, Cairn Terriers, Airedale Terriers, Beagles, and Miniature Schnauzers. These breeds were used to tunnel and find small prey such as rodents or rabbits, and bring them to their owners. 

In addition, you may also find that breeds such as Siberian Huskies and Alaksan Malamutes also like to dig, but this is for a whole other reason.

These dogs would typically dig as a means of keeping themselves warm and to provide a cozy shelter from the cold, freezing temperatures in which they originated. 

As such, this behavior has been passed on through generations of breeding, and your Husky or Alaskan Malamute may still like to dig itself a hole to sit in and cool off in. 

Does vinegar stop dogs from digging?

Vinegar can be a natural deterrent to stop dogs from digging. This will not harm the dog in any way, but the smell may become offensive to them, and repel them. You can use vinegar to do this by spraying it in the area they love to dig, but citrus fruit peels, cayenne pepper and chilli pepper also work a charm! 

Do dogs grow out of digging?

You may be wondering if the digging is going to last a lifetime. Whilst some dogs do eventually grow out of the digging phase, it is not usually the case. Most dogs will find it enjoyable and exciting to dig, and will keep doing it unless they are told otherwise. 

This is why it is important to set ground rules, and train your dog out of certain behaviors before they start to stick. Use deterrents and positive reinforcement to coax your dog out of digging holes in your garden or they may do it forever! 

Do mothballs stop dogs from digging?

Mothballs can be used as an effective deterrent to stop your dog from digging in certain places. However, they can be toxic to dogs, and should not be left unattended or in a place where your dog could access them or possibly eat and swallow them.

This is why we recommend using a more natural remedy such as vinegar or citrus peels as this will not do any damage to your dog if accidentally ingested, and should just make them avoid the area altogether!