Why do Labradors dig holes in your yard? This pesky problem can have a number of causes.
Some dogs dig because they’re bored or anxious, but others may do it for a practical purpose, such as to hide food or to cool off in the dirt.
Finding out why your Labrador is digging holes outside is the first step to stopping the behavior entirely.
Why Do Labradors Dig Holes?
There are a number of reasons to explain why your Lab might be digging holes in your yard.
Labs that are bored, or that don’t get enough exercise may dig holes for some mental and physical stimulation. Plus, if you’re busy with something else, they may know that digging is a great way to get some attention from you!
Digging is one of many destructive behaviors that is also commonly seen in Labradors that are feeling anxious, such as those with separation anxiety.
Some Labradors dig for more practical purposes. If they’re left alone in your yard too often in hot summer months, they may dig to reach the cooler dirt. Or, to try and get out of your yard altogether, and under the fence.
Their motives could be food based. They might enjoy digging holes because you grow vegetables outside and they’re looking for some food!
Or, perhaps you gave them a pretty large treat earlier, and they’re digging to store it somewhere to snack on later.
A final common reason for Labrador digging is that they learnt the habit as a puppy.
How Do I Know Which One Applies?
Sometimes, it will immediately be clear to you which of the above reasons is causing your problem behavior.
But, for some people, it’s a little harder. Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to narrow down the possibilities.
A little later on, we will look at how you can fulfil your Labrador’s needs, to eliminate reasons like boredom, loneliness, hunger, and pent up energy.
So, let’s continue to find out the best ways to stop this behavior.
Can I Train My Labrador Not to Dig?
The best way to stop a Labrador from digging is to remove the option altogether. This may mean you restrict the parts of your yard that your dog is allowed in.
Make sure you are always supervising your dog when they are outside. You can distract them with toys or games if they seem like they are going to start digging – for instance, sniffing at the ground or circling.
Reward any playing outside that doesn’t involve digging. This could be playing with a toy, just running around, or even lying and relaxing in the sun.
Show your dog that this is a great thing for them to do, by giving them a little treat.
If you can prevent this behavior from puppyhood, it’s less likely that digging will become a habit for your older dog.
Should I Punish My Dog for Digging?
You should never punish your dog for digging holes.
Many studies have looked at various training techniques on dogs and found that high levels of punishment have an adverse impact on dog behavior.
In fact, one study suggested that punishment caused an increase in undesirable behaviors.
If you punish your dog for digging, there’s a chance that the unwanted behavior will just get worse rather than stopping.
Positive methods are always best when training your dog.
Fulfilling Your Labrador’s Needs
Making sure that you are fulfilling your Lab’s needs can be a great way to reduce the amount of holes they dig.
Firstly, make sure they have plenty of entertainment and enough exercise. You can invest in a few new toys, or simply play some new games with your Lab through the day!
If they have plenty of exercise and things to do, they will be less likely to dig out of boredom or as a result of pent up energy.
Your Lab may also be digging as a way to get some attention from you if they know it makes you jump up and chase after them! Labs are very social dogs, so make sure you’re spending enough time with them every day.
Make sure that your Lab isn’t left outside without any shelter from the weather. If your Lab is too cold or too hot, they may try to make their old shelter by digging holes.
Or, they may simply try to escape your yard if they’re left outside on their own for too long.
And finally, make sure you aren’t giving them too much – or too little – to eat. Give them too much and they may try to bury it for later, but give them too little and they may start digging to see if there is anything edible in your taste vegetable patches.
Don’t Let It Become a Habit
Make sure that you don’t let your puppy develop a habit of digging. It’s much harder to solve the issue if your Labrador is used to digging holes in your yard.
Older Labs may dig holes in your garden because the behavior was allowed when they were a puppy.
If your puppy starts to dig holes, you may need to restrict their access to the garden when toilet training them.
Owners that don’t let the habit develop when their Lab is a puppy and that keep their Labrador’s needs fulfilled are less likely to experience problems to do with digging.
Does My Labrador Enjoy Digging?
Why do Labradors dig holes in the yard? Well, digging is likely a lot of fun for your Labrador! It gives them something to do, some exercise, and sometimes they might come across tasty snacks in the dirt.
If your Labrador loves to dig but you don’t want to ruin your pristine yard, there’s a simple solution!
Take your Labrador somewhere where digging is a less destructive behavior, or create a designated digging area for them.
You may live close to a beach where your Lab can dig to its heart’s content in the sand.
Or, you can invest in a sandbox. Fill this with sand or dirt and encourage your Lab to dig in it.
You may want to hide a few toys to make the experience more fun for them!
Why Do Labradors Dig Holes? A Summary
There are a number of reasons why your Labrador might be digging holes in your yard.
Make sure you are meeting all of your Labrador’s needs to minimise the risk of this behavior, and don’t let them make a habit of it as a puppy.
Have you found any methods that have been good at stopping your Lab from digging in your yard?
References and Resources
- Flannigan, G. (et al), ‘Risk Factors and Behaviors Associated with Separation Anxiety in Dogs’, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (2001)
- Hiby, E. (et al), ‘Dog Training Methods: Their Use, Effectiveness and Interaction with Behavior and Welfare’, Psychology (2004)
- Rooney, N. & Cowan, S. ‘Training Methods and Owner-Dog Interactions: Links with Dog Behaviour and Learning Ability’, Applied Animal Behavior Science (2011)
- Blackwell, E. (et al), ‘The Relationship between Training Methods and the Occurrence of Behavior Problems, as Reported by Owners, in a Population of Domestic Dogs’, Journal of Veterinary Behaviors (2008)
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website