Why Does My German Shepherd Dig Holes In The Yard? Reasons And What To Do

Venturing into your yard and finding holes created by your dog is not an impressive sight to behold! You may have landscaped your yard or have a vegetable garden only to find it dug up! 

So, why does my German Shepherd dig holes in the yard? A German Shepherd digs holes in the yard simply because digging is an instinctive natural behavior and is common in dogs. It is a behavioral problem in both German shepherd puppies and adult dogs that turns to be problematic for a dog owner because of the destruction. The reasons for digging include boredom, a means to relieve anxiety, escape attempts, or gaining access to an area, hiding of possessions, hunting instinct, or attention-seeking. It is important to determine the exact reason your German Shepherd digs to apply the appropriate action to eliminate the source to prevent or minimize the problem. 

Understanding German Shepherd behavior problems is the first step in addressing the situation. In this article, we will look in detail at the reasons why your German Shepherd digs holes in the yard and what to do about it.

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German Shepherds dig for different reasons. By knowing the specific reason they do so, you can implement the appropriate method to address the behavior. Below are the reasons and motivations why they do it.

Activity to counter boredom

A German Shepherd with nothing better to do may engage in activities such as digging in the yard just to keep themselves busy.

German Shepherds are dog breeds that require regular mental and physically challenging activities and if these are not present they find other outlets to express the excess energy. Therefore digging becomes an exciting activity for them.

Also, an unsupervised dog will take any chance they get to dig if they see an opportunity where they will not be stopped by their owner.

Anxiety relief

Anxiety in a German Shepherd may be a result of separation, fear of old age.

Separation anxiety is experienced when a dog owner or family member prepares to leave their dog either leaving for work or for other errands. Your dog will sense that they will be separated from you and will have anxiety. They will not know how to comfort themselves and will engage in undesirable behaviors such as digging.

Fear-related anxiety is caused by a change in a German Shepherd’s environment such as introduction to a new place, people, animals, or hearing of loud noises.

Older dogs also experience anxiety due to their declining cognitive health which brings about confusion as well as anxiety.

All these common sources of anxiety can lead a German Shepherd to dig as a way to relieve the anxiety.

Escape attempt or gaining access to an area

Digging is also a way of reaching something or area inaccessible by your dog, which may be blocked by a fence or any other barrier.

They will dig under a fence or barrier to get to the other side of the fence.  

Hiding of possessions

Dogs love to hide their possessions and they will do this by burying them.

They may bury toys or bones and keep coming back to the same spot to retrieve them to chew or play with them. This is normal as a way of keeping the stuff that they can find later.   

A means of cooling down

A German Shepherd may also dig as a way of cooling down their body.

When the day temperatures get high, a dog may look for a way to cool themselves. Holes in the ground where they can sit provide a cooling effect on their body.

This is seen when they dig around places near a building, water source, or under a shade. Observe if this is the reason your dog digs during hot days.

Hunting instinct

Your German Shepherd may also be digging in your yard in search of burrowing animals such as rodents. This is a thrilling and exciting chase for them because of having a hunting instinct.

They might have seen one in the yard and to reach them they dig to find them.

If you have also occasionally seen some lumps of soil in your yard, this is usually caused by burrowing animals and you might have them in your yard.

Your dog naturally will just be on the hunt for them by digging.

Attention-seeking

German Shepherds are loving and caring dogs who adore their owners. They love spending time with their owners and they might do something knowing that that activity will drive your attention to them.

Digging is one of the ways they can use to get attention from you even if it is negative attention by having you dismiss them from it. 

Recommended Reading: Why does my German Shepherd chew on rocks?

How To Stop A German Shepherd From Digging Holes: What To Do About It

The first step in controlling your German Shepherd digging in the yard is to find out the root cause of it.

You can do this by observing and determining when, where, and how your German Shepherd digs to know the reason they are digging. From the identified reasons you can implement the appropriate action to control the situation.

The below comprise the different methods to implement to prevent and control digging behavior.

Reduce boredom

Provide toys for your German Shepherd to play with to keep them engaged and not to be bored to minimize activities such as digging.

Sometimes despite having toys to play with, your dog may also get bored by playing with the same toy over and over again. Therefore, have their favorite toys in a rotation where they will have different toys to play with over different times.

Exercise and play with your dog to engage them in activities such as throwing a frisbee, playing catch, or taking simple walks twice a day.

Supervise your dog when in the backyard to prevent digging by discouraging it and train against it when they attempt to do so.

Also, have them interact with other dogs by enrolling them in a doggy daycare in your area which will also reduce boredom and engagement in unwanted behavior.

Build a digging sandbox

Have a sandbox or a small area sectioned off in the yard specifically where your German Shepherd is allowed to dig as he pleases. This will be their place to express their need to dig.

Train them to know it is the only area allowed for digging and not any other area in your yard. You can do this by having commands to have them stop digging when they do it in any other place other than their sandbox or sectioned area.

They will also be free to bury their toys in the area and dig them up as they please and your yard will also be saved from constantly being dug up. A win-win.

Prevent attempts to escape

Prevent attempts to escape or gain access to an area by your German Shepherd by burying rocks, sticks, or bricks at the edge of the fencing area.

The rocks should be sturdy enough that they will not be able to move when digging.

Another way is to place mesh wire underneath the soil at the fencing area of the yard. When your dog attempts to dig, they will feel the mesh on their nails which will be uncomfortable and this will discourage them from continuing to dig.

Provide cool spot in hot weather

Provide a cool spot in your yard where your dog can rest and cool off from the heat of the day.

This can be in the form of a kennel which can also be positioned in a shade or under a tree if possible.

Also, provide drinking water for them to be able to drink whenever they feel thirsty. This will minimize the digging of holes to get cool spots to sit in.

Use deterrents to discourage digging

Use deterrents to discourage your dog from digging. You can do this by filling the holes they dug up with their feces or they or citrus fruit peels.

If your dog does not usually eat their own feces as some dogs do, they will move away because some dogs hate the smell of their own feces.

Most dogs dislike the smell of citruses such as lemon, orange, or grapefruit and will back away from it. When your dog revisits the area to dig again and finds these items, they will be discouraged from digging in that area. 

Get rid of burrowing animals

One way you can discourage your German Shepherd from digging in the yard in search of rodents or any burrowing animals is to get rid of the burrowing animals.

This can be done by reaching out to an expert in this to assist in the methods to discourage the animals from your yard depending on which animal it is.

You can also fence off the area that the animals appear frequently.

One thing not to do to get rid of the animals is the use of poison which can be harmful to your dog if they happen to eat it.

Spend time with their dog

Take time to bond and play with your German Shepherd.

Understandably you may not be able to be active with them all the time because of your daily schedule but try to make time. Taking walks or having outdoor games can really mean a lot to your dog who loves spending time with you.

This can really minimize the attention-seeking behavior such as digging just to have your time.

Consider getting professional help for training

Engage a dog trainer or animal behaviorist to help control the digging behavior by your dog especially if they are continuing to dig after implementing the above methods or when you need more guidance and obedience training.

Professional training will offer individual assistance to help the situation based on your dog’s specific drive to dig.

Do not punish your dog

Avoid punishing your dog for digging in the yard. Aggressive consequences such as yelling or shouting only increase their anxiety which still does not help the situation.

They will be driven to engage in the behavior even more as a way to relieve the anxiety.

Be patient and calm during this process to minimize your dog from digging and in time they will learn to stop engaging in it as much. 

Conclusion: Why Does My German Shepherd Dig Holes in The Yard?

Digging is a natural instinct that dogs have and as a dog owner, you may experience this from time to time by your German Shepherd. It is commonly caused by a German shepherd being bored, seeking attention, chasing rodents, or escape attempts through the fencing among other reasons.

It is important to know the specific reason your dog digs to implement the right action to control it. Though you cannot entirely stop it, you can minimize it by enforcing certain measures to prevent it or ensure your German shepherd digs less.

I hope this article helped you know why your German Shepherd digs holes in the yard and what to do about it. By following the different methods that are provided you should be able to control the behavior. 

If you liked this article you may also like to learn more from the below resources on German Shepherds.

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Patricia Williams

Patricia Williams

Patricia Williams is a writer, mum, and animal lover with extensive experience with dogs. She loves talking about animal advocacy and care. She lives with 4 German Shepherds and 1 cat.