How to Stop a Dog from Digging

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Dogs dig for many reasons including:
  • Inherent behavior for hiding food and other reasons.
  • Because they are bored.
  • It feels physically good to them.
  • To find moisture or a cooler area.
In this wikiHow we will look at some of the ways you can keep your dog from digging.


  1. Enroll yourself and your dog in a basic training class. Basic training teaches your dog to:
    • See you as an Alpha of your dog. Humans are humans, not dogs. You are not the leader of their pack. That is an outdated notion from the late 80s/early 90s that modern trainers worked very hard to dismantle and dismiss, which, unfortunately, has recently resurfaced. They have a leader in their pack and it is one of the other dogs. You are more like an Alpha to your dog.
    • Obey basic commands such as "Stop!", "Sit!", etc.
  2. Take away the boredom. Dogs often dig because they are bored. Your dog may be bored if he stares at fences for a long time, whines, or engages in playful or hyperactive behavior, including digging holes. To stop your dog being bored:
    • Entertain him with toys and play time.
    • Exercise your dog vigorously with walks or runs.
  3. Construct a sandbox. A sandbox is an area of your yard where it is OK for the dog to dig.
    • Fence the sandbox and fill it with freshly tilled earth.
    • Bury treats and smelly things in the sandbox to encourage your dogs use.
  4. Create discouragement. Your dog will only respond to the hole he has just dug if you punish him yourself (see Tips). So you must find ways to "punish your dog for the act of digging while you are not around.
    • Place a sprinkler on a hose in the area the dog digs. While in the act of digging, turn on the sprinkler.
    • Bury a small balloon in the dogs hole and cover it with a layer of dirt. The unpleasant surprise when the dog pops the balloon will take away some of the dogs digging pleasure.
    • Bury chicken wire just under the surface of the dirt. The wire on the dogs feet will feel bad to him. This usually works best near the fence (see Tips, below).
    • Try putting cayenne pepper in his holes. Some dogs like the flavor of hot pepper, so dont waste too much on this tip.
    • Some dogs hate the smell of their own feces. Putting some of your dogs own feces in the hole will make it less pleasurable for him. However, there are many dogs who eat their poop and will gladly see this as you burying their favorite treat. It depends on the dog.
  5. Remove temptation
    • Dogs enjoy digging in freshly tilled earth. If you are working in your garden, remove fresh dirt from your dogs reach with a fence or covering.
    • Go out and dig up any bones or other things your dog has buried. Do not let the dog see you do this. Fill the hole back in.
    • Keep your garden clean.
      • Remove attractive smells.
      • Deal with any rodent or other small mammal problem.
    • If you do gardening, do not let your dog see you till or dig in the earth, as this would simply be positive reinforcement.


  • Punishing dogs directly is usually considered ineffective. In her seminal book No Bad Dogs[1] Barbara Woodhouse explains why. At best, punishing your dog for digging holes by yelling, slapping, or hitting him will only keep him from digging that hole while you are around.
  • Buy and read good books on dog training and behavior. Forget the television stars and go for the real trainers whose books have stood the test of time. Two good books to consider are:
  • If you use the dog feces method, use your dogs own feces; the waste from another dog will not work.
  • Prevent escapes by folding 3 feet wide chicken wire fence and attaching it to the fence along the ground (with 2 feet of the fencing on the ground). The grass will grow into it and (hopefully) prevent an escapee.
  • Cement also works well to fill holes near the fence (pour in dry, then add water to cement-filled hole, do not allow dog in yard while it is hardening).
  • Wire electric fence (hooked to an electric fence box, purchased at a farm store) can be added to most kind of dog fence, approximately 7 inches from the ground, to prevent dogs from going near the fence to dig. They only have to touch it once.


  • Some breeds actually enjoy digging (it has nothing to do with obedience or boredom). Research breed characteristics before buying a dog. If you cannot tolerate digging in an otherwise happy dog, do not buy that kind of dog. Some primitive-type breeds who love to dig for the joy of digging include Australian Cattle Dogs and the Portuguese Podengo Medio (new to America). Also, most terriers love digging and should be allowed to do so, as long as they cannot escape.
  • Many dogs fail to use only the sandbox (in the sandbox method).

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Sources and Citations

  1. No Bad Dogs by Barbara Woodhouse ISBN 0671541854

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