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What are Digging Holes?

Owning a dog who enjoys digging in the dirt and putting holes in the yard can be quite a nuisance, especially if one enjoys having a nicely manicured lawn. Dog owners may notice that their back or front yard is beginning to look more crater-like in nature, with mounds of dirt next to the formed holes. It is important to understand that dogs do have instincts to dig, and different breeds have a tendency to dig more than others. This is partially due to the fact that the early ancestors of dogs, such as wolves and foxes, dig dens to in which to sleep and raise their pups. This is why dogs tend to dig and rest in a hole of dirt, as it can resemble a den with a comfortable temperature. Even in the home, some dogs like to dig at their bedding or blankets, circle around, and then lay down in a comfortable position.

There are several different reasons why dogs dig holes in the yard. Most of the reasons are instinctual or behavioral, and not necessarily a cause for alarm. Typically, the advice of a behavioral therapist or specific training can stop the yard digging, and there are some other ways to keep your dog from digging so much. Reasons why dogs dig holes in the yard include:

  • Anxiety
  • Boredom
  • Searching for prey
  • To bury objects
  • Natural instincts

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Why Digging Holes Occurs in Dogs

There are several different reasons why digging holes can occur. Typically, if your dog is digging holes, it is nothing serious to be concerned about health-wise.  Some of the reasons are:


If your dog lives in a stressful home environment or has anxiety due to a variety of factors such as if he was a rescue dog that had a difficult experience with prior owners, he may be anxious quite often. Many dogs, especially rescues, have a variety of challenges even if they are in a good home.  


Dogs left alone for long periods of time become bored. With no human interaction or other stimulation, the boredom can often cause them to find something to do to pass the time. Digging is one of the actions bored dogs may do to stimulate their senses.

Searching for Prey

If you have a dog that has a hunting instinct, they may dig up dirt in the yard to search for prey. Moles live under the ground as well as other little creatures your dog may be hunting for.

To Bury Things

Some dogs carry instincts in which they must bury their bones, treats, or toys. This is a way of “protecting” their much-treasured item, and if they want it for later, they will dig up the spot where they buried it and fetch it out.

Natural Instincts

There are several dog breeds that have the innate desire to dig. Perhaps this is from their long-lost ancestor who found solace in finding a cool place to sleep or for a den to protect their young. Either way, intense digging may occur because your dog is exhibiting what he feels he needs to do in order to get comfortable or provide a comfortable place for her young (if she is a mom).

What to do if your Dog is Digging Holes

If your dog’s digging is causing distress and damaging your yard, you may want to make an appointment with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be the one professional you can talk to before finding treatment and answers to his behavior.

Once you arrive at your veterinarian’s office, he may begin by having you explain, in detail, your dog’s habit. He may ask many questions about his digging, how often it occurs, how long he is outside, and any other questions he feels will help him in helping your dog.

Aside from suspecting any medical issues, your veterinarian may want to focus on your dog’s behavior at first. Once he hears you explain his symptoms and answer his questions, he may choose to take a few tests to rule out any health problems. He may take blood work, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis. This will give him some basic data to begin with.

If your dog has a behavioral issue that is causing him to dig, such as anxiety, he may recommend a behavioral therapist to come to your house and help you ease his stress and help him remain calm. He may also prescribe a medication to help with his anxiety if he feels it is severe. For other reasons, he may still recommend a training program or behavioral therapist, or give you a list of suggestions you can try at home to discourage him from digging so much.

Prevention of Digging Holes

There are some things you can do at home to prevent your dog from digging. Supervising your dog when he goes outside will help deter him from digging.  At the moment you see your dog starting to dig, blow a whistle, clap your hands, or use a verbal command to make him stop. Then, redirect him by playing with him or running with him in the yard. Disrupting his digging and changing his thought process can help train him to stop digging. 

You may also purchase a few toys that may distract him from digging. Keeping his mind active in other ways may help. Taking long walks may also help alleviate this problem.

Some dog owners have found it helpful to allow their dog to dig in certain areas of the yard by keeping their dog contained within certain boundaries. However, if you want the behavior to stop, this may not be an option for you.

The key to preventing this behavior is very strict monitoring, which takes diligence and time. Although it is not always feasible to go outside with your dog every single time he goes outside, this is the only way to stop the behavior. If you have exhausted all of your resources (and energy), you can contact a behavioral therapist and perhaps they can come to your home and give you even more advice or help train your dog. Your veterinarian can recommend an effective behavioral therapist if you feel one is necessary.

Cost of Digging Holes

Behavioral therapists for dogs can cost anywhere between $500 or upwards, depending on the amount of time you need their services. For dogs that are stubborn and have a true love of digging, your therapist may need to spend more time with him.