Why Does My Dog Dig Holes?

How many dog parents let Fido out to play, only to find a romping dirt monster showing back up at the door? Some dogs are so obsessed with digging that they have to be pulled out of the hole. 

The American Kennel Club blames it on wolf ancestors. It’s just a ‘dog’ thing to do, like wanting to run. 

Terriers and Dachshunds in particular have then been bred to dig for gophers and other tunneling vermin. For dogs who bury bones and toys, the yard is their safe deposit box. Dogs with heavy coats like to dig so they can sit and relax in the cool dirt, or dogs simply enjoy playing in it. 

Is your dog digging a hole big enough to lay in? Especially in the South during the summer, dogs will dig into the cool earth for a place to nap. Or they prefer the dirt because the grass is irritating to their soft bellies. Perhaps you can set up a place to sit with him. 

Then there is the aberrant behavior – those who are nervous-diggers, or who try to escape under the fence. If your yard is beginning to look like Oak Island, it’s time to curb your buddy’s obsession and find other activities for him. Your dog could use more companionship, more exercise and more mental stimulation.

Dog trainers recommended teaching your pet early in life that digging the lawn is not acceptable. Can you ‘train out’ instinct? Well, maybe you can at least curb it and provide other outlets for this energy. 

The AKC says don’t chastise him for digging – you want him to still love his backyard. But replace his behavior with other things he can do, like training with him on an obstacle course, or playing dog Frisbee. 

For your instinctually-digging Dachshund type, make a sand pit. Bury toys and bones there for him to find. Dig with him to encourage this game. If you really do have a rodent problem, the safest pest deterrent would be to add some strong-smelling plants such as thyme, rosemary or basil to your garden.

For your under-fence digger, line the base of the fence with large rocks or railroad ties, so he can’t get underneath it. 

Is your dog obsessed with one area of the yard and now you have a big hole? Welcome to your next lawn project. You could install a pond, fountain, patio or rock garden – anything solid that he would not be able to tear away. It’s important to break his habit in a pleasant and non-confrontational way..  

In an age when everyone is suddenly interested in ‘grounding’ to achieve emotional balance, dogs may have been quite the expert for thousands of years. Dirt makes them happy. Help your dog to experience it in fun but less destructive ways.

Heron’s Crossing provides end-of-life care for pets in the Metro Atlanta area. In-home appointments with compassionate vets are available. If you’d prefer a home-like setting away from your home, our Decatur office is also available by appointment.