Behavior Problems

Help! My Lab Won’t Stop Digging!

Digging, like all undesirable behaviors, is best stopped with positive reinforcement.

More than likely, your dog is not digging just for the sake of it. There is almost always a reason behind it. Once you decide what they are trying to accomplish, you can come up with alternatives.

In general, digging is a problem that puppies have and is not often a huge issue into adulthood. However, some types of dogs – like terriers – are known for digging well into their older years.  This is because their instincts are predatory.  While Labs are not terriers, they were bred to seek and retrieve prey.  Digging in the dirt can help them to act on this instinct.  The earlier that you deal with the digging, the easier it will be to stop.

How Can I Stop It?

This has a great deal to do with why it is that your dog is digging as well as your own specific needs. You can limit the dog’s access to the yard without supervision, you can try to use training techniques to reinforce better behaviors or you can create a spot just for digging… their own little digging hole can be very agreeable to a Lab.

However, consider why they are digging. If they are digging simply for fun, then the above interventions may work well. However, if your dog is digging for other reasons, you may need to create a more imaginative solution.

Reasons Dogs May Dig

  1. To find food
  2. To create a cool area to lay or sit (the dirt underneath the surface is damper and cooler)
  3. To dig their way out of the yard
  4. To make a home for pups. Expectant moms will sometimes start digging even though they never dug before.
  5. To hide things like bones, extra food, etc.
  6. To burn off energy

Tailoring Your Plan

Therefore, the plan for stopping the digging will need to be developed after you have a basic idea as to why your dog is digging.  A high energy Lab may just need more exercise and stimulation while a dog who is digging to create a cool spot might benefit from more shady areas in the yard or more water, etc.  A pregnant mother might stop digging if she is given what she considers to be a safe and appropriate spot for her pups. In addition, a dog who is trying to run off may need a reinforced fence and a whole lot of training.


In the end, there will be no one size fits all approach to stopping digging. You will have to come up with a plan that works for you and your dog. But, Labs are exceptionally intelligent and eager to please so if they are given alternatives to digging that suit their needs they will usually quickly adjust to your new rules.


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