Why your dog digs and how to stop it

Whether they’ve just started, or have been a digger since day one, there are various reasons why your dog’s digging and ways to address this...

Is your dog digging and you’re unsure why? We’ve dug into the reasons dogs dig and suggest some ways you can get them to stop.

Dogs dig for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, those reasons are rarely to help you plant your new veggie garden! If holes in your garden isn’t what you’re looking for in your landscaping, or you’re worried about why your dog might be digging, here are some possible explanations for your dog's behaviour.

Once you understand why your dog might be digging excessively, you can take the appropriate steps to help them – and your property.

1. They’re hunting for prey

While we’re much more likely to think of cats as hunters, dogs’ ancestors were hunters too, and it’s an instinct that hasn’t fully escaped our domestic companions. So, they may be digging to try and get to an animal they can smell below ground.

If you think this may the reason for your dog’s digging, you’ll need to try and identify where in your garden the creature might be hiding and relocate it. Beware of laying traps or bait, as domestic animals (including your pet) may get trapped or eat the poison.

2. They’re digging to escape

If you’ve noticed your dog digging along the fence line, they may be looking for an escape route. This could be because there’s something more exciting on the other side of the fence, or they’re not happy in their current backyard.

If you think this may be the reason for your dog digging, you can make modifications to your fence to make it harder for your dog to dig underneath. Steps could include digging the fence in deeper, adding chicken wire to the bottom of the fence, or adding another type of barrier between where your dog can dig and the bottom edge of the fence.

Your dog could also be digging to escape the elements, for example, the heat if there’s a lack of shade, or the cold, wind, or rain. If you think your dog may be digging to give themselves some shelter, look at ways you can provide this for them. This could include erecting a suitable kennel or allowing them to come inside out of the elements.

3. They’re digging because it’s fun

In some cases, your dog may be digging for the sheer joy of it. Certain dog breeds, like terriers, were bred for digging, so it’s a natural instinct for them. With other dogs, it might be a way to get rid of extra energy or to cure boredom because there’s nothing else to do or anyone to play with.

To address digging caused due to boredom or pent-up energy, spending extra time with them, playing games or learning tricks is a great place to start. You could also try and provide puzzles or toys that occupy your dog’s mind so they’re less likely to try and entertain themselves by digging a hole.

Of course, if you’re happy for your dog to dig, but just don’t want them to dig up your garden willy-nilly, you could look at building them a digging pit. Think of it as a sand pit for your dog. Once it’s installed take the time to teach your dog that the pit where digging is appropriate and even encouraged (treats can work well).

4. They’re digging because they’re stressed

Stress or anxiety is another reason why your dog may be digging. If you’ve just moved to a new house, or you’ve gone back to the office after a long time at home, and digging is a new behaviour of your dog, it could be they’re suffering from separation anxiety and using digging as a way to relieve stress.

If you think anxiety may be the cause, it’s worth having a chat with your vet about possible treatments or talk to a professional dog trainer who can provide some strategies on how to address your pet’s anxiety.