To dig or not to dig?

Dog Digging A Hole in the Yard
Image source Bing Images

Digging is an instinctual habit of dogs but an undesirable trait according to dog owners.

It appears that people are more concerned about the appearance of their lawns than the psychological development of their dogs. After all, it’s expensive to produce a well-manicured lawn and the destruction caused by digging dogs frustrates pet owners.

According to Shore, Riley, & Douglas (2006), one of the reasons dog owners turn their dogs over to animal shelters is digging. So clearly, dogs and their owners must work together through this issue.

There are several reasons a dog resorts to digging. First, it’s hardwired into their DNA to dig.

In fact, breeders bred some dogs because of their digging abilities. According to Cesar Millan, the desire to dig is “especially strong in terrier breeds.”

Second, it gives them an outlet for their energy. When a dog doesn’t have an outlet, they become bored and naturally gravitate toward their digging instinct.

Third, they dig to ward off intruders like moles and other ground-dwelling animals. According to Yvette Van Veen in the Toronto Star, “Dogs notice these uninvited guests- often well before owners. [When they do], they usually start to dig.”

Fourth, they dig to provide themselves a place to cool off during the summer. The cool earth provides a nice place to cool off in warmer months. I’ve also observed that in colder months, dogs will cuddle together in a previously dug hole to keep warm.

Digging is part of who your dog is. Asking your dog to stop digging is like asking him to change his nature. Why? So you can have a pristine lawn. Your dog doesn’t understand why your lawn is so important, after all, it’s his bathroom. Not that he doesn’t appreciate a clean yard to frolic in or the fact that you have it cut regularly, he just doesn’t value the yard the same way you do.

Is it really necessary to stop the behavior? If the answer is yes, here are some things you can do to curb your dog’s desire to dig.

Primarily, exercise is key. Dogs need about 30 minutes of exercise 6 to 7 days a week. Take your dog on walks, jogs, or runs. Take your dog swimming. Find an activity that you and your dog can enjoy together and let her exercise to her heart’s content.

Second, never allow your dog to be alone in your yard. If it is important to stop the digging behavior, you must absolutely keep a watchful eye on your dog for signs of digging. When you first observe it, that’s when you must quickly redirect your dog to some other acceptable activity.

Another option available to you is one of compromise. It’s understandable that you don’t want your yard to be “ruined” after you paid handsomely for it. Couldn’t you designate an area of your yard as a digging-zone? It is almost like providing a sandbox for your children. In fact, you might be interested in doing some research on dogscaping, a relatively new way at sculpting your yard with your dog’s needs in mind.


Cesar’s Way. (2014 December 8). Common dog behaviors. Retrieved on June 10, 2015 from

Millan, C. (2015 April 23). Stop dog from digging. Retrieved on June 10, 2015 from

Shore, E. R., Riley, M. L., & Douglas, D. K. (2006). Pet owner behaviors and attachment to yard versus house dogs. Anthrozoos19(4), 325-334.

Yvette Van Veen Special to the Star Yvette Van Veen is an animal behaviour consultant. Write her at, a. (n.d). Backyard digging has many roots. Toronto Star (Canada).


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