Digging is a normal behavior for dogs, but it is often seen as a problem for the owners. If the dog is a Terrier, understand that most Terriers were originally bred for vermin control, and were used to hunt and kill vermin that are below ground. This group of dogs gets their name from the word Latin terra, meaning earth. They like to dig. Terriers are generally energetic and will find something to do if you don't provide an acceptable alternative.
If your dog is digging under the fence to escape the yard go to the Escaping & Roaming page.
Why do dogs dig?
It's hot outside!
Dogs dig to get to the cooler earth below the surface so they will have a cool place to lie during the heat of the day to get some relief from the heat.
To bury things they want to keep safe for latter!
Bones, toys, treats, etc...
Small animals have been there.
They smell ground squirrels, gophers, and/or moles below ground.
The ground has recently been tilled or turned.
A leaking sprinkler making the ground damp will enhance the scents coming from that area and may encourage digging.
They hear squirrels, gophers, moles, etc... below ground.
It is fun, and something entertaining to do.
They are after insects.
To escape the yard and find someplace more interesting or seek out a companion! Go to the "Escaping & Roaming" page.
Lack of Exercise!
Dogs that are full of energy need to release it somehow.
Isolated in the backyard away from the family, digging may be one of the few times he gets attention. You yell at them, or in their world, you are at least talking to them.
Learned from You!
The dog was in the yard while you were gardening and you expressed enjoyment when they started to dig next to you. You positively reinforced the behavior, thus encouraging it.
The dog was curious about what you buried when you were digging in the yard.
What can you do?
If they are burying things
Provide and teach them to use a designated place to bury their stuff! The Dog Vinci Code by John Rogerson (pages 220-221)
Kids pool filled with sand
If they are bored
If they are full of energy
Provide them more exercise. Walk, play, and train with your dog more.
Give them new toys and rotate the toys they have access too everyday.
Give them food/treat interactive toys to focus and drain their energy.
If they are seeking attention
Be sure not to give them any attention for digging, and only call back into the house when they are not digging or doing something you don't like for two-minutes so they do not make an association that the digging or other inappropriate behavior (e.g. barking, chewing sprinklers, etc...) is what got your attention.
Spend more time with your dog and find ways to enrich their life. If they have learned to monopolize all your time and to never spend time alone, you will need to start setting some boundaries and teaching them to spend time alone.
Bury a vinyl coated mesh fencing material a few inches below ground at the base of the fence. Be sure it has no sharp edges that would injury your dog.
Motion Activated Sprinkler
Use a motion-activated sprinkler to deter your dog from going to an area you do not wish them digging. When they approach a designated area, the motion activated sprinkler repels them with a short but startling burst of water. The sudden noise, movement and spray scares animals away, teaching them to avoid the area in future. Adjust the detection pattern to only activate when your dog enters an area you do not wish them dig.
If The Yard Has Gophers Or Moles
Place sonic spikes in the yard to encourage gophers and moles to go elsewhere.
To Protect Your Garden
Install vinyl coated fencing around garden and raised planter beds.
Break the boredom. Take your dog out in the world daily and give him a chance to explore.
Dig Defence is a patented drive-in ground fence panel that extends the protection of any fence or enclosed area. These welded strong 4 gauge steel rods are proudly MADE IN USA and completely galvanized to create a long term (if not permanent) solution. Dig Defence is quickly becoming known as the most cost effective drive-in fencing system on the market. It’s “easy to install” design improves and surpasses all former solutions by eliminating all labor cost associated with digging or trenching. The strong steel drive-in units solve multiple problems simultaneously to save time and money.
Is your dog a part of your family? Or a fixture in the backyard? If your dog is segregated to the backyard, you may need to rethink your relationship with your dog. One of the worst punishments you can inflict on a person or dog is solitary confinement. Most dogs are social animals, and when left in isolation they will seek out social contact with other dogs or people. A dog needs: social interaction, exercise, mental stimulation, food, water, and companionship. Since most people can’t spend all their time with their dogs, it is important to leave behind a tired dog that is ready to rest while you are away. Exercise your dog before going, and be sure to leave them lots of safe toys to help break the boredom. A large yard is no substitute for walking or exercising your dog.
Some believe that dogs are meant to live outside. This is true for a for a livestock guarding dog like an Akbash that lives with and protects sheep from predators. But these breeds for generations have been acclimated to the climates that they are asked to live and work. Humans have used artificial selection to develop every domestic breed of dogs we have today, and many of these dogs were never developed to live in the climates that we have placed them in. It’s highly unlikely that given a choice a dog would seek out and choose your yard. This can be verified with a simple test, “the gates test” as proposed by Bill Bennett to judge a country. His is a simple test that we can also apply to dogs. Simply stated; which direction do people or dogs run when there are gates? Do they strive to get in, or risk life and limb to get out?
 America The Last Best Hope by William J. Bennett
Make your dog's life more interesting!
Give your dog more exercise.
Get out and take a walk together.
Give your dog more attention.
Spend quality time together.
For more ideas to entertain your dog go to the "Enriching Your Dog's Life" page.