Unearthed Solutions: Redirecting Your Dog's Desire to Dig

It’s an old story: you come home to a yard that looks like a minor earthquake hit it, thanks to your best buddy, your dog. It’s a wonderful tableau of chaos – the random holes, the generous sprinkling of dirt – and any dog owner need only take one look at that sight to feel their last nerve being frayed. But that scene also describes the starting point for a path toward understanding it, even perhaps for redirecting this natural dog behaviour into something less destructive. Here’s your roadmap for dealing with your dog’s constant digging with patience, understanding and good strategy.

Why Digging Becomes A Dog's Pastime

Finding the source of your dog’s digging fetish is the first step to preventing her from turning your Eden into a moonscape. There are a variety of possible culprits:

Boredom and Exercise Deficit

Like humans, dogs need a place to put their energy as well. Without enough physical and mental stimulation, your yard can become a canine adventure park – and digging is just one way to explore.

Ancestral Whispers

It’s also possible that your dog’s evidence of an extensive digging history echoes the two-sided evolutionary call that drove their wild ancestors to dig for temporary shelters or dens, which would provide a measure of physical security and keep the ground slightly warmer on cold nights.

The Thrill of the Hunt

Your yard might seem like an invented playground and each dig an inconclusive attempt at capturing an invisible, slippery prey for a dog with a high prey drive.


A spirit of adventure or mere curiosity about a world beyond the fence seems to drive some dogs to dig their way out or over.

A Quest for Comfort

A burrow is a little heap of soil where an animal can be cool in summer and warm in winter, at the same time a bed and a house, a night and a day.

Paving the Path to a Dig-Free Yard

To deal with your dog’s subterranean excavations requires a combination of understanding, distraction and landscape management.

Foster an Alternative Digging Haven

The best way to manage digging is to give your dog a specific place to dig in your yard and make it pleasant and easy to do so. Leave an area with loose soil or sand and bury some treats or toys so he finds out about the space.

Amplify Activity and Engagement

Raise your dog’s level of physical and mental exertion so there’s no time or energy left to engage in landscaping. Walks, interactive toys and training sessions can help you keep your pets’ bodies and minds fully engaged.

Celebrate the Non-Diggers

Reinforce calm non-digging behaviours with rewards and praise. If your dog digs, praise her for ignoring the instinct.

Reinvent the Environment

Keep your herb garden and other favourite spaces protected through physical barriers or deep-rooted vegetation that deters digging.

Experiment with Deterrents

Diggers could be repelled with natural repellents such as vinegar or citronella, or with ultrasonic devices.

Tactical Supervision

If your dog is digging for some reason, watch for any telltale signs that he might dig again. Be ready at a moment’s notice to interrupt your dog, coaxing him away from digging to some other acceptable activity or to the designated digging area in the garden.

Seek Professional Wisdom

Compulsive diggers might need to consult a dog behaviourist or trainer, who can give them advice on how to put an end to the habit for good.

Bringing it All Together

The journey from a Swiss-cheese-like yard back to green lawn nirvana involves a bit of enlightenment, training and environmental management. Understanding your dog’s many potential reasons for digging is key to redirecting this deep-seated instinct to more positive outlets. Over time, with the right techniques in place and a little patience, it is possible to escape the digging tyranny and, hopefully, live to thrive with your own landscaper, furry or otherwise.

Digging Deeper into the Concept of 'Escape'

The need to escape, whether because of boredom or an inborn prey drive, or simply a need for a restful retreat can be expressed in a singular way – digging. Understanding these needs is central to a lasting solution, the potential frustration become a pathway to bonding, and understanding. Escape is just one piece of the overall story we can tell about our relationship with our dogs – a relationship based on empathy, flexibility and, above all, love.

May 30, 2024
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