If your dog is digging in the backyard, this can be a hard habit to break if you don’t understand the cause and some simple but effective cures.  Dogs digging in the yard is one of the most common behavior problems, but as with all dog training, consistency, repetition and patience are part of the solution.

So why do dogs dig in the yard to begin with?  The most common reason is boredom.  Dogs are intelligent creatures and they are pack animals.  If you stick your dog out in the back yard, your dog does not get any intellectual stimulation, he will also have barrier frustration because he can hear and smell things beyond the fence but he can’t investigate them, and he’s lonely.  Dogs need to be part of your family, they are pack animals.  Try to imagine how you would feel if you were isolated all the time with nothing to do.

Dogs will also dig in the back yard to cool off or warm up.  In the summertime, the ground is often cooler than the air so your dog will dig a hole to cool down. The same goes for winter, the ground is generally warmer than the air, so the dog digs a hole to be warm.  This would not be an issue  if the dog were not just stuck in the back yard, the holes would not need to be dug.

Dogs will also dig holes in the backyard to bury their treasures such as bones or toys.  All of this digging is one way dogs manage their energy.  Although it is destructive, it is a way for them to get exercise and get rid of pent up energy.  Yet another reason to walk your dog every day. If you give your dog the opportunity to manage his energy constructively rather than destructively both of you will be much happier.  Start doing activities with your dog such as obedience training, playing fetch, all of this helps with boredom and managing energy.

One way to make digging holes in your backyard less rewarding for your dog is to place stones, not big rocks,  in the holes and cover the stones, up.  When the dog tries to dig, he will encounter the stones and stop digging.  Another trick, although somewhat less attractive, is to place your dog’s waste into the hole.  They won’t dig where they can smell dog poop.

Do not bury chicken wire or screening in the hole.  This can cause lots of damage to your dog’s paws and nails.  Also they can chew the wire or screening and end up with intestinal damage.

Another trick, any my personal favorite,  is to put a sandbox in the back yard that is just for the dog.  Place the dog’s toys and other favorite items in the sandbox and let thim bury those things in the sandbox.  Praise for the digging and burying in the sandbox.  The dog will soon realize it’s ok to dig there and not in the yard.  I like this one because it manages the behavior, it is totally non-aversive and everyone ends up happy!

Again, always set your dog up to be successful.  Give your dog what he needs and he will give you back years of wonderful companionship and love.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children.  And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

Jim Burwell