Saint Bernard Digging: Here’s Why It Happens + Solutions

Having your backyard destroyed by your Saint Bernard’s digging can be frustrating. The behavior can sometimes seem uncontrollable because of the frequent occurrence.

By understanding the reasons why they dig, you can implement the right method to train them to prevent the behavior.

So what are the reasons behind Saint Bernard digging? 

Let’s look into the reasons why Saint Bernard digging occurs and what to do about it.

Here’s Why Saint Bernard digging happens

Saint Bernard digging happens due to various reasons including boredom, hunting instinct, anxiety relief, escape attempts, hiding of possessions, and attention-seeking. Digging is an instinctive habit common in all dogs, however, if not controlled it becomes a destructive behavioral problem. 

Saint Bernard digging

Do Saint Bernards Like to dig?

Saint Bernards like to dig just like any other dog as a natural habit and also due to health issues such as anxiety or boredom. 

Although digging is something that all dogs do, if left unchecked or not controlled, it can lead to the destruction around the home and also other behavioral issues.

Therefore it is important to identify the root cause of your Saint Bernard digging and implement the appropriate method to control it.

Common Reasons For Saint Bernard Digging

Saint Bernards dig due to different reasons but by understanding the specific reason why your dog digs, you can implement the appropriate method to address the behavior. 

Below are the motivations for Saint Bernard digging:


A Saint Bernard with nothing to do will find activities to keep them busy and entertain themselves. Destructive behavior such as digging is among these activities.

Saint Bernards need mental and physical stimulation to be healthy. Without these activities, they get bored and find outlets for their pent-up excess energy and need for stimulation. 

Related: Why does my Saint Bernard chew everything?

Hunting instinct

Saint Bernards were originally bred for hunting wild boars and naturally, they have a hunting instinct. 

Although today they are more companion dogs than hunting dogs, the hunting instinct exists.

They may dig in the backyard in search of burrowing like rodents, which is a thrilling and exciting activity for them. 

Anxiety relief

Saint Bernards experience anxiety which can be caused by different factors in their environment, the common causes being fear, separation, and old age. 

Fear-based anxiety comes from different factors that trigger fear in a Saint Bernard. This includes environmental triggers such as loud noises, thunderstorms, a new home, surroundings, or people or animals.

Saint Bernards are highly susceptible to separation anxiety which is anxiety caused when they are alone and separated from their owners. This means they are not able to cope or comfort themselves when alone.

This leads to behavior changes such as pacing, excessive barking, defecation and urination in the house, and destructive behavior digging.

Older Saint Bernards also experience anxiety due to cognitive dysfunction which escalates confusion and also anxiety. 

These common sources of anxiety lead to Saint Bernard digging for relief of anxiety.

Recommended reading: Why is my Saint Bernard crying?

Escape attempts

Saint Bernard digging is also a way of tunneling through a barrier such as a fence in an attempt to reach something or another dog on the other side. 

Saint Bernards in heat or unneutered male Saint Bernards also have this behavior, in search of a mate. 

Hiding of possessions

All dogs love to hide their possessions in a place where they can retrieve them. They do it because it is in their nature as an instinct to guard or hoard their treasured items such as toys or food, a survival instinct, and also due to stress or boredom.

Burying their possessions is their ideal method of doing this. It is normal as a way of hiding their stuff which they can find later. 


Saint Bernards are affectionate dogs that love and adore their owners. They thrive on human interaction and love spending time with their owners.

They can engage in behaviors that will drive your focus on them or any attention to them. Therefore Saint Bernard digging can be an attention-seeking tactic. 

Related: Why is my Saint Bernard so clingy? 7 reasons and what to do

How To Stop Saint Bernard Digging

Exercise and provide toys

Exercise your Saint Bernard to engage them in activities that will reduce boredom and engagement in unwanted behavior such as digging.

Engage in activities that are suitable for your Saint Bernard’s age, avoiding overexertion so as not to cause bone and joint injuries.

Also, provide toys for your Saint Bernard to play with to keep them entertained and engaged. 

Rotate their favorite toys to have different toys to play with so that they do not get bored with one type of toy which can lead to other undesired activities. 

Create an area for digging 

Create an area in your yard where your Saint Bernard can dig when they have the urge to do it. Train them to distinguish between their area and where they cannot dig, by use of command words.

Stress management

If stress is the underlying cause of Saint Bernard digging, minimize your Saint Bernard’s exposure to stress triggers and also remove them from these triggers.

This includes not exposing them to loud noises or strange people. Training can also help a Saint Bernard to deal with stress and anxiety.

Physical activities or exercises such as playing or walking also help to relieve stress. Anxiety-relieving medication is also an option from your veterinarian for stress management. 

Prevent escape attempts 

Prevent your Saint Bernard’s attempts to gain access to an area or escape by digging through barriers by burying rocks, bricks, or sticks along the edge of your fence. 

The rocks need to be sturdy enough so that they cannot be moved when your dog attempts to dig the area. 

You can also bury mesh wire underneath the soil along the fence. When your Saint Bernard tries to dig, they will feel the mesh wire on their nails which is uncomfortable. 

This will make them stop digging and walk away. 

Use digging deterrents 

Deterrents discourage your Saint Bernard from digging. This includes refilling the dug holes with rocks, citrus fruit peels, or your dog’s stool.

Dogs usually return to the place where they usually dig and when your Saint Bernard returns to their spot, they will find the buried deterrents. 

If your Saint Bernard smells stool in the area, they will walk away because some dogs do not like the smell of their stool. 

The smell of citruses such as orange, lemon, or grapefruit is also not pleasant and they will also walk away when they smell it. 

This will discourage your dog from digging again in that area. 

Get rid of small burrowing animals

One way you can discourage Saint Bernard digging is by getting rid of burrowing animals in your yard. This will reduce triggering your dog’s hunting instinct and digging to get the animals. 

Reach out to an expert to assist in the measures and methods of discouraging the animals from accessing your yard. 

Also, fence off the area where the burrowing animals frequently appear. 

Schedule quality time

Schedule time to spend with your Saint Bernard including time for play. Attention-seeking behavior from your Saint Bernard is a call for more time with you, as a people-oriented dog. 

This will minimize destructive behavior including digging which is an attention-seeking behavior.

Do not punish them

Do not punish your Saint Bernard for digging. Punishment such as yelling or hitting only increases your dog’s anxiety which worsens the situation. 

Your dog will still be driven to dig as a way to relieve the anxiety. 

Remember to be patient and calm when you catch your Saint Bernard digging, try to identify what the root of the behavior is, and continuously implement the corrective approaches to train your dog. 

Seek professional training

Seek assistance from an animal behaviorist or a dog trainer to help in training your Saint Bernard to control the digging habit.

Professional training provides individual solutions and guidance based on your dog’s drive to dig.


Saint Bernard digging is an instinct as well as caused by other factors that drive your dog to dig. It is a destructive behavior that needs to be controlled.

It is important to identify the specific reason for Saint Bernard digging to put in place the right approach to control it. 

With the help of a trainer and advice from a veterinarian, you can minimize the behavior through training and by implementing preventive measures.