A dog with their tongue out digging a hole outside in the grass

Is Your Dog Up for an Ol’-Fashioned Hole Diggin’

Your backyard is a pristine paradise for your dog. Perfectly manicured grass in which to roll. A white picket fence to keep them contained. Shade in which to doze. The only thing missing from your dog’s perspective? Holes. Lots of holes!

If you have a dog who likes to dig, you can spend a lot of time being frustrated, because it can be hard to curb this behavior. After all, digging is instinctive for most dogs, as evidenced by the fact they they’ll often lightly dig at the couch or the carpet before spinning in circles and laying down. How do you force them to stop something that, in many cases, they’re literally bred to do? (See: terriers).

The first thing you have to do is figure out why they’re digging, specifically. Even though it might be as instinctual as sniffing the ground or barking at the mailman, there’s usually a goal they’re trying to accomplish. And most of these reasons have a solution. Here are a few common reasons your dog might be turning your beautiful backyard into an abandoned parking lot.

They’re bored

Yep. So many negative dog behaviors are the results of a dog with too much energy and too much time on its hands. Some dogs tear up the couch cushions when bored. Some dogs dig. As an extension of the boredom situation, some dogs dig simply to get your attention. Ever have a toddler yelling “Mom!” or “Dad!” for no reason, and then when you answer them, they have nothing urgent to say? That’s your dog and holes. The solution to both situations is to give your dog more attention, ideally in the form of playtime or exercise. Stimulate their minds and wear out their muscles, and then you could take care of the hole, er, entire problem.

You should also provide plenty of toys or other stimulation to keep your dog’s mind out of the dirt.

They’re escape artists

Some dogs just don’t like to be contained, and if they run into an obstacle on their way to freedom, they’ll do whatever they can to go around, over or, yes, under it. If your dog is tunneling toward freedom, the key is to understand why they want out so badly. Are they lonely and looking for their best buddy? Does that cat next door keep looking at them?!?! Are they digging out because they’re afraid of something? If you can figure out what they’re digging toward or what they’re running from, you can work to eliminate that incentive. (Good luck with the cat, though.)

They want something

Your dog’s pinpoint sense of smell means that they can detect things below the surface that you can’t, and if they decide they really want it, they’ll start excavating. More often than not, this is some underground critter like a mole or vole or even a snake. If you live in an area where there are roaming cats or other critters, there’s chance that it’s lightly buried poop your dog is after. This is especially true if your dog is inclined to dig in your garden, because cats like nothing more than to take restroom breaks in loose soil. If you use compost or fertilizer in your garden, that might be the culprit. Dogs just love the sweet smells of scat and garbage.

Or maybe your diggin’ doggy is looking for something they buried in a previous excursion. If you can get to the bottom of your dog’s desire to reach the bottom, you can either provide it for them or get rid of the thing they want.

They’re too hot or too cold

Some dogs, especially cold-weather breeds like huskies or malamutes, will dig a shallow bed in the dirt on a hot day, because the earth below the surface is cool and comforting. In contrast, some dogs will dig a hole to get out of the wind on blustery days. In all cases, the solution is to get your dog out of the elements. Provide shade on hot days and warm, protected areas on cold days. Although if it’s too hot or too cold, we strongly recommend that you simply bring your dog indoors.

When it comes down to it, some dogs just like to dig. If none of the above solutions work, or if you just can’t pinpoint exactly why your dog is turning your backyard into an archeological site, you can try leaning into the problem and providing your dog not only a place to dig but incentive to dig. Square off a corner of the area, loosen the soil or put down sand, and hide toys regularly for them to find. They may decide that this is the spot for digging, and you can get back to practicing your putting in the rest of the yard.



The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.


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