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How to Break a Dog From Digging

| Updated September 26, 2017

According to the Humane Society of the United States, dogs dig because they're looking for attention, entertainment, prey, protection or an escape. Dogs also dig to bury and relocate bones and other dog treasures. So while dogs have their reasons for digging, those reasons may quickly destroy some—or all—of a yard. Even worse, a dog that succeeds in digging her way to "freedom" could be lost forever. Once you've figured out why your dog digs, break this behavior before the animal turns your property into a mass of holes.

Prevent boredom by spending quality time with your dog—playing games, taking walks or teaching it tricks. An energetic dog that's outside with nothing to do and no human interaction may dig just to get your attention.

Buy safe toys that your dog finds interesting, and then rotate them so they always seem new. The American Animal Hospital Association suggests getting chew toys or "food puzzles" (toys that encourage a dog to find the food hidden inside).

Create a specific digging area for your dog, such as a sandbox in which you bury toys and treats.

Use the "distract and reward" method. When your dog is digging in an inappropriate place, the Humane Society recommends making a loud noise and sharply saying "No dig!" Once the animal leaves the area, reward her with praise, a treat or a toy.

Search your yard for signs of insect infestation or burrowing animals. Digging near bushes and trees may be a clue that your dog has discovered a critter jackpot. You'll then have to decide whether you should remove the "invaders," or just keep the dog away from them.

Provide your dog with proper shelter from wind and the hot sun. Dogs will sometimes lie in holes in order to keep cool. If the dog can't be indoors, get a dog house for your pet or a shallow wading pool.

Install a barrier along the base of your fence to prevent the dog from digging beneath it. The Humane Society suggests using chicken wire, large rocks or chain-link fencing.

Place the dog's own feces in the hole. Dogs don't like to sleep or play where they've eliminated. However, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says this tends to only work if the dog has one favorite digging spot.


  • If your best efforts haven't curbed the digging behavior, consult with a professional obedience trainer. Some trainers will work with your dog in your own home to resolve the issue.


  • Never physically punish a dog for digging. AAHA says physical punishment can eventually cause a dog to bite out of fear or aggression.

    Don't scold a dog "after the fact." The dog won't understand why he's in trouble.

    Make sure any pest-control product you put in your yard is dog-safe.