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How to Stop Dogs from Digging Because Your Yard Looks Like a Whack-a-Mole Game

If your yard is starting to look like a prairie dog colony, chances are you’ve got a digger on your hands. Dogs like to dig—it’s in their DNA. Since this doesn’t bode well for our lawns. So, how to stop dogs from digging? The first thing you’ve got to do is identify, as best you can, the motivations behind your pup’s behavior. Once you know why she loves burrowing away, you can choose a solution tailored to her behavior. 

How to Stop Dogs from Digging

Since prevention works best if you can pinpoint why your dog seems to love scooping up your recently planted black-eyed Susans, and we can’t read dog’s minds….yet, you might need to try a few of these methods and watch your dog’s response. It may take some trial and error.

1. Install a Dig-Proof the Fence

Dogs who dig at the baseline of fences in order to escape will be thwarted by a dig-proofing kit. The Dig Defense Animal Barrier was named the Best Fence for Dogs That Dig in 2022 by Bob Vila, so you know it’s on to something. It basically extends your fence much deeper into the ground, preventing pups from tunneling under the fence.

2. Layer on Plastic Netting

Terri Rockovich, co-founder of Jinx dog food, says plastic netting keeps her dogs out of holes they’ve already dug. Tenax plastic poultry fencing is safe for dogs and won’t harm their paw pads if they do try to dig. Place it over holes in the yard (after filling them in with top soil) and secure with stainless steel pins. Your dog won’t be able to make any progress, so she may need somewhere else to expel that energy. (Dog park, anyone?)

3. Place Cones Around Your Lawn

Rockovich says she has also turned to cones, which her dogs prefer peeing on to scooping around. Try sticking a plastic cone in or near a hole to divert attention. 

4. Sprinkle Animal Repellent

If your dog is clawing into the burrows of small critters, it’s time to get the critters out. Moles, groundhogs, shrews and gophers are all common burrow animals. Sprinkling your yard with Bonide Repels-All Animal Repellent (which is safe for humans and pets) can help keep tons of pesky species out of your yard. It’s biodegradable and doesn’t hurt animals (it just causes a mild irritation in their nasal passages).

5. Spray Dog Repellent

Dogs who are addicted to digging or routinely dig in the same spot might break the habit if you use Zone Protects No Holes! It’s a non-toxic spray that smells bad to dogs (and raccoons, oddly enough). It’s rain-proof and won’t kill your grass or flowerbeds.

6. Try a Halo Collar

Halo Collar is a GPS collar developed by world-renowned dog behaviorist Cesar Milan and tech expert Ken Erhman. Yes, it tracks your dog’s whereabouts, but it also provides a wireless perimeter for dogs and keeps them within boundaries using customizable alerts. It’s not a shock collar! It vibrates or uses static feedback to let your dog know where she can and can’t go. This could be especially useful for dogs who gravitate to gardens or fence lines. 

7. Create Digging Spot

Sometimes, a dog’s gotta dig. Providing a designated spot is a great way to let your pup do his thing in a healthy way. The Humane Society recommends choosing a section of the yard and teaching your dog it is OK to have it by burying toys and rewarding them for using it. Line the perimeter with rocks or a small wooden fence so your dog stays inside his area. Combining kid-safe sand and dirt gives your pup something soft to dig into.

8. Buy an Indoor Digging Mat

Ever seen a dog try to burrow into the couch? Place the iDig Digging Toy in front of them instead. It comes with three unique flaps you can arrange to challenge your dog’s mind and scooping skills. Toss toys or treats inside as an incentive. A hard shell and plastic base should hold up for most diggers, large or small.

But Why Do Dogs Dig Holes in the Yard?

Honestly, pinpointing the root of your dog’s desire to dig will tell you a lot about what’s going on with your pet. There are many reasons your dog may be obsessed with this pasttime. The most common are they’re hunting, they’re burrowing or they’re bored. And remember: Digging is an instinct canines get from their wolf ancestors.

In fact, many breeds are hard-wired to dig up vermin and rodents. Some, like Rat Terriers, chased rodents off farms while others, like Glen Of Imaal Terriers, were tasked with scooping up badgers. These breeds often do that today—even when we ask them not to. Even if a dog gets a whiff of an animal to chase, they may not give up until they’ve dug the animal out completely.

The American Kennel Club says wolves used to burrow into the dirt on hot days to cool down—or cold days to warm up. If you notice your dog creating a wide, shallow hole and rolling or laying in it, it could be this instinct kicking in. Try providing your pup with a cooling dog bed or dog house to keep their body temperature regulated.

Your dog may be bored! Clawing away at the ground (or your favorite couch!) could be an expression of anxiety or simply an entertaining way to pass the time. If you know your dog suffers from anxious feelings or separation anxiety, treat that before you try to cover holes or spray deterrent. Dogs who need extra mental stimulation or playtime may stop destructive digging once they feel calm and well-exercised.

Some dogs enjoy hiding their treats or favorite toys from everyone—including themselves. So, they’ll make a hidey hole and return when they want their treat again. This is when a designated area will come in handy.

What Breeds of Dog Like to Dig?

While any dog can happily take to this canine pastime, there are a few breeds prone to this habit. (You can find a ton of them in Ireland.)

  • Cairn Terriers, Bedlington Terriers and Miniature Schnauzers were all bred to sniff out (and chase out) rodents and small vermin.
  • Dachshunds, like Glen of Imaal Terriers, are known for their badger hunting skills and will happily dig into a burrow to flush the critter out.
  • Beagles and Bloodhounds will follow their noses anywhere, which can include holes in the ground they’ve dug to follow the scent.
  • Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes are often caught burrowing into shady patches of dirt to cool down. Chow Chows have also been known to use this tactic to chill out.
  • Jack Russell Terriers and Rat Terriers are smaller breeds who excel at fox and rat hunting, respectively. They may also do it to burn energy.

Be patient with your dog as you train them! Again, this is an instinct we’re asking them to control.