Using Training to Stop Dog Digging

Digging is a natural instinct for your dog. It relieves stress and reduces pent up energy. So, to stop a digging dog, you must teach him an alternative behavior.

Exercise to Release Energy

Most often, the reason digging starts is that the dog is left in his yard for long periods of time without proper exercise. Dogs do not self-exercise in your yard. He should be getting two to four 40 minute sessions with you each day, of which 20 minutes should be full-blown running, like chase or fetch.

Alternative Exercise

While you are gone, your dog needs an alternative behavior to prevent the digging. Try these suggestions to tire out your pup while you're away:

  • 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.
  • If there is an area of your yard where you don't mind digging, create a digging pit. Half-bury bones and toys in this area to make it more special.

Limit Yard Freedom

If your dog is getting the proper amount of exercise, he doesn't need your whole yard while you are gone. Set up a small area of the yard with food, water and shade. He can only have access to the yard when you are there to monitor the digging. Until he earns the full yard through the proper behaviors, he shouldn't have it.

Teaching Proper Yard Behavior

In order to teach your dog that digging is not allowed, you have to monitor him in the yard to catch him in the act. Punishing after the fact is ineffective, as the dog will associate the punishment with what he is doing immediately prior to the punishment.

Hang out in the yard with your dog. Clip a light leash to his collar. When he goes to dig, call out a command, such as "stop." If he turns and looks at you, reward with praise and a game. If he ignores you, do not speak to him. Grab the leash and take him to his timeout spot such as a crate, quiet room or his small pen in the yard.

If he doesn't try to dig in front of you, reward him periodically with attention, games and bones. Now, watch him from the house where he can't see you. If he starts to dig, yell your command very loudly and angrily from the house. If he doesn't stop, go out to get him and put him in timeout. If you do this at random for a few days, he will begin to think you are always looking.

Teamed with proper exercise and limited freedom, your dog will learn that digging is not acceptable and find another way to occupy his time.