How to Stop Dog Digging Caused by Separation Anxiety

Owners wonder how to stop dog digging caused by separation anxiety. To do so, you have to treat the separation anxiety first. Digging is a natural way for dogs to release pent up stress and energy. Thus, the way to stop your dogs from digging holes is to find other ways for them to relieve their stress and release their energy.

Creative Feeding

Dogs with separation anxiety are most stressed right when you leave. To reduce the symptoms associated with that, you must make your departure fun for your dog. He should get treats that he only gets when you are leaving. Then, you leaving becomes exciting instead of scary. Instead of feeding your dog out of his food bowl, try some of these strategies:

  • Toss your dog's meal out in the yard while he is watching so he can spend the morning searching for his food.
  • Put your dog's meal in a Buster Cube or other such treat ball that spits out food as he rolls it. Teach him how to use it first so he sees the food coming out.
  • Stuff wet food, cream cheese, peanut butter or treats in a Kong or hollow marrow bone and freeze it. Give your dog a couple as you leave.
  • Allow your dog to watch as you hide piles of kibble around the yard and then release him to look for them.

Stop the Digging

To specifically address digging, you must monitor your dog in the yard when you are home. Punishing after the fact doesn't help. He doesn't remember what he did. Spend some time in the yard with your dog. If he digs, tell him "stop" or "no dig." If he looks up at you, give him a treat and praise. If not, remove him from the yard to a timeout spot like a crate or bathroom. Practice this.

Find a window where you can see your dog and wait for him to do it. Yell your command at him in a booming voice from the house, teaching him that you could be watching at any time, even when he can't see you.

Fill his favorite holes with rocks, then a layer of his stool, cover with dirt and sprinkle with cayenne pepper. This will discourage him from his favorite spots.

Separation Anxiety

In addition, work on reducing the separation anxiety when you leave. No matter how much digging training you do, if your dog is too stressed to think when you leave, the training won't be as effective. The first step is reducing excitement around hellos and good-byes. Don't make a big production when you arrive or leave.

Start to desensitize your dog to your leaving routine. When does your dog first start to get stressed? When you pick up your purse? Put on your shoes? Then, that's where you need to start. Pick up your keys several times a day and then don't leave. Go in and out of the house frequently and so on. Move at your dog's pace. Don't move to the next step until he is ready.

Reducing the symptoms of separation anxiety can take time, but by working on both the behavior problem and the anxiety, you have the best chance for success.