Digging is a natural thing for dogs to do and isn’t always bad behavior. If you live in the country and your dog occasionally digs for grubs or to look for a mole then it probably isn’t a problem. If you live in the Chicago suburbs with a perfectly manicured lawn and your dog is digging holes everywhere then you probably aren’t too happy with the situation. Whenever I give advice about digging I like to get to know the dog and household situation first. Most dogs that have digging issues are just bored and are looking for a fun game to occupy their time. In this scenario the first thing that I suggest is to start giving the dog more exercise and structure (commonly done with obedience training). It is important to give both of these to a dog. If you give your dog plenty of exercise with no structure, you are creating a dog that has more and more stamina that never learns to practice a calm mindset. When this happens we end up with a dog that is basically an adrenaline junky that is always go go go and looking for more. Dogs like this love to dig or chase animals when left in the yard because they aren’t good at calming down.

If we establish that the dog is getting the right balance of exercise and structure and is still digging in the yard it is time to start correcting the behavior. If the dog digs in a few select places around the yard such as by gates, sheds, or trees, I have an easy fix for you. Fill the hole to within about four inches of the surface, put some of his own poop in the hole (assuming he doesn’t eat poop), and top off with soil. Most dogs avoid the smell of their own waste and will no longer dig in that spot. If your dog digs in random spots around the yard it is a harder problem to fix. I would address this issue by supervising the dog at ALL times while he is in the yard. This isn’t a fun fix but it is necessary. When he starts to dig simply go to him and correct him as you tell him “NO”. This might sound simple, and it is. Digging is not a complex behavior; dogs dig because they like it. If you stop the behavior every time the dog will soon realize he can’t get away with it and the behavior will go away. This process may take a month or so of constant outdoor supervision, but the behavior can be fixed and it is worth the work.

Matt Covey
Suburban K9
Elgin, Il