How to Stop Dog Destructive Digging: Can You Dig That Dogs Need To Dig?

Provide digging opportunities for your digger.

Back in the day, dogs could focus on being dogs. If they wanted to go and dig somewhere, it was not such a big deal.

With the advances of people literally living quite upon people, the lives of our dogs have changed drastically. They spend their lives learning how to adhere to our silly human rules; those that do not end up in shelters and re-homed.

How to Stop Dog Destructive Digging: Can You Dig That Dogs Need To Dig?


Digging is an excellent natural outlet for dogs. Yet, it is frowned upon and often not tolerated at all. Who wants a moonscape of craters in their carefully and expensively landscaped backyard?

What is a dog to do? Some breeds, in particular Terriers, are bred to dig in the pursuit of prey, with Scottish and West Highland Terriers excelling. The name comes from a Latin term: earth terra. Daschunds were bred to “go to earth” after a prey animal in a den.

Owners of re-landscaped yards need to understand that these instincts just do not go away.

Dogs also dig because it feels good to lay in the cool moistness of a fresh dirt scrape. As well, plain old boredom is a huge reason for digging. I imagine for some dogs, as in my English lab Talley, digging is just plain entertaining!

How to Stop Dog Destructive Digging: Can You Dig That Dogs Need To Dig?
Talley assisting digging activities

Legalized digging

So, why not just let them dig and be happy? It makes sense to Talley!

As it turns out, we are currently making a doggy sandbox, a “legal” digging area, to satisfy all the digging needs of three Labbies.

Currently under construction, the selected shady area is between the deck and fence; it will be a handy no-mow zone. After you have removed grass roots from the specified area (best located away from prized plants) simply loosen the dirt and dig in enough sand for a consistency that will drain well, and not turn into a mud pit.

Framing the area can work very well. Much like a child’s sandbox, if you will. Hey, kids get those great sandboxes, why not our dogs?

Conveying the rules

So what keeps the dogs out of those heirloom flowers and in their own area? Good question.

To begin, do not leave them unattended in the yard. That is not a great idea anyway.

Step 1

Train response to Leave It.

Step 2

With your digger on a leash, approach the area of the canine redesign, and reinforce super generously for turning away.

Step 3

THEN lead the digging machine to the super sandpit and let them discover the amazing prize bullystick that just happens to be sticking up out of the dirt.

Step 4

Continue on in this fashion, and soon the canine landscaper should be heading to the sandbox, in anticipation of further treasures. 

Stuffed frozen kongs placed in the dirt are great. “Legal shredables”, such as a bone wrapped up in paper in a box and buried are wonderful. Anything really. Use your imagination, have fun, and give your frazzled nerves a break!

With gradual and proper training this can really work and let you enjoy a yard minus moonscapes. You may even want to investigate earth dog competition events. Just remember, dogs need to dig, can you dig it?

Related articles:
Noise Phobias in Dogs: Conquering The Evil Dishwasher Monster

Further reading:
Digging, Chewing, Chasing, Barking: Instinctive Drivers You Love or Hate?

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