Certain breeds of dogs like Terriers and Dachshunds were bred specifically for their ability to dig out wild animals such as badgers, foxes, and otters. Their digging instinct gives these breeds a strong desire to dig holes, no matter whether it’s your yard or the neighbors flower bed.
Dogs dig for a variety of reasons other than instinct. Some dogs will dig holes simply because they’re bored. If a dog is left out alone in the yard for any length of time, it may decide to dig holes just for something to do. If you’re going to leave your dog unattended in the yard for a lengthy time, be sure there are chew toys or other playthings to keep it busy and take its mind off digging holes.
Some dogs dig holes under fences because it’s a means of escape. Your dog may want to get out of a fenced yard because it knows there are more interesting things to do on the other side of the fence.
If a female dog has not been spayed, or a male dog not neutered, the urge to mate with another dog can be so strong that a dog will dig as many holes under a fence as needed until it can escape the yard and achieve its goal.
One shouldn’t forget that dogs are inveterate savers. They will bury bones or treats to save for what we would refer to as “a rainy day”, figuring that if no food is available they’ll always have the bones they’ve buried when they need them.
The secret to stopping a dog from digging holes where it’s not supposed to, is to first understand the cause for the behavior, then manipulate the dog into a more acceptable behavior.
There are some things you can do to prevent your dog from digging holes:
Give your dog a place where it’s allowed to dig, and then using praise and treats, train it to dig only in the spot you’ve chosen and nowhere else. If there’s a place with loose dirt around your yard it will make it easier for the dog to dig without exerting a huge amount of energy.
Stop your dog from digging in any place you feel is inappropriate. If verbal commands or dog treats do not stop the dog from digging holes in unacceptable places, try putting a small amount of pepper or diluted ammonia on the inappropriate area you want to be “off-limits.” There are also commercial products you can use that have cute names like “Keep Off”, “No-Dig”, or “Get Off My Garden”. These products create a scent that is disgusting to a dog and interferes with its sense of smell.
If you suspect that boredom is triggering the digging, give your dog more enjoyable forms of exercise to do like playing fetch or going on a long walk. This will help release some of the dog’s excess energy and make it forget that there are holes to dig.
When a dog is digging holes, remember it’s just a natural part of its inbred instincts and you can change the unwanted behavior at any time by being consistent and firm in your training.