What to Do If Your Dog Can't Stop Digging, According to a Dog Behavior Expert

While digging is a natural part of dog behavior, it can get annoying quickly, especially when you need your dog to stop digging in dirty or dangerous places. And if you've tried to get your dog to stop digging, you know it's not easy. While our little furry friends are adorable, excessive digging can cause issues for both pups and their parents alike (raise your hand if your dog has ever dug up your backyard or created a mess from digging through the garbage!)

To help understand more about this very common canine trait and how we can prevent them from going overboard with it, POPSUGAR spoke with a pet expert to gain some very valuable insight.

Why do dogs dig?

Cathy Madson, certified dog trainer and behaviorist at Preventive Vet, explained that dogs may dig for all different kinds of reasons. "Dogs dig to create a nice and cool place to settle in and relax, to file their own nails, to escape an enclosure, out of boredom, or because they smell something interesting that they want to investigate," Madson said. Not to mention, specific dog breeds, such as dachshunds and terriers, were actually bred to dig for small creatures, including rats or rabbits, that burrow deep beneath soft surfaces. "It can be a very fun and rewarding activity for dogs and is a natural canine instinct," Madson added.

Can digging be due to emotional or psychological stress?

Madson added that although dogs may sometimes like to dig for fun, digging can also be a sign that your pet is stressed. "If your dog is digging to try and escape their yard or is digging out of boredom, they need more enrichment in their environment and might need more exercise as well," Madson said. Madson also advised that if your canine is digging constantly and persistently, it may be a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder or another anxiety. Although rare, this behavior should be brought to a vet or certified canine behavior consultant's attention to help remedy the issue.

How much digging is too much?

Even though digging is considered usual canine behavior, when does it become worrisome? As it turns out, it depends on their breed mix and how much they like the actual act of digging. "It's too much digging if they dig despite hurting their paws or nails, or if they can't seem to stop digging," Madson advised. "This can be a sign of an underlying anxiety issue.

How can you prevent a dog from digging?

Thankfully, there are a few easy tips you can follow if you notice that your dog has been getting too busy digging. For instance, Madson suggested that you should make sure your dog is not only getting enough physical activity but is also exercising their brain as well. "Providing lots of enrichment activities and puzzles can help a dog practice acceptable behavior instead of resorting to digging to burn their excess energy," Madson said. Because digging is a natural canine behavior, another good idea is to designate a specific "dog digging area" where your dog can have free rein to get digging. "Some dog owners block off a special area for their dog in the yard," Madson said. "You can also fill a small swimming pool with dog-safe sand or dirt and bury special treats and toys for your dog to find." Doing so may save certain parts of your backyard — such as your flower bed or vegetable garden — from getting torn up.