How do I stop my dog from digging out of my backyard?

Some dogs just love to dig. They dig to bury things, uncover things, warm or cool themselves, have fun, and even to mark territory. Some dogs dig to cover their own feces or urine, just like cats do. For many dogs, digging is part of their instinctive nature.

Northern breeds such as huskies and malamutes dig holes to keep themselves cool in warm weather. Terriers were bred to dig tunnels and locate rabbits and rodents. A dog’s acute senses of smell and hearing may tell him there is something interesting beneath the ground. Dogs also dig, of course, to escape.

Dogs who dig holes when the weather’s cold need adequate shelter. To prevent your dog from digging for warmth, keep him indoors or provide an airtight doghouse with a door flap and plenty of dry, clean straw to burrow in (blankets become wet and cold too easily).

Dogs who dig in hot weather require plenty of shade and cool drinking water; a lawn sprinkler or small wading pool also helps them beat the heat.

If your dog digs to escape, consider his reason for doing so. Is he getting enough exercise and social attention? Don’t expect him to sit quietly and do nothing all day. Even dogs in multiple dog households become bored and lonely when left for hours to themselves. Address your dog’s mental and physical needs by walking him at least twice a day. Bring him in the house with your family or join him in the yard to socialize. Take him to a dog park to play with other dogs and people. Give him interactive toys and games such as a large ball to push around; cardboard boxes or wooden ramps on which to crawl and explore; and plenty of chew toys, especially the kind that can be stuffed with his favorite dog food.

Dogs who are not spayed or neutered may be distressed by the presence of other sexually intact dogs in the neighborhood and may dig to escape and join them. Having your dog spayed or neutered helps relieve this stress and provides other significant health and behavioral benefits as well.

If your dog truly seems to enjoy digging, give him his own place to do so. Designate a digging area that is separated from the rest of your yard by landscape timbers, paving stones, or the like. Spade up the dirt in this area to make it interesting, and bury food and toys within. If he digs elsewhere, call him hack to his area and encourage him again. He’ll quickly catch on, especially if you routinely hide treats there when he’s not looking. Never use physical punishment to teach your dog not to dig; doing so only teaches him to fear you.

Your dog’s digging is often a distress signal, telling you he is unhappy and needs your understanding and a humane solution. Understand what he is telling you, and you will have a happier dog, an easier life, and an intact lawn and garden.