Digging quickly becomes a big problem for most Doberman owners. And rightfully so! You can’t keep repairing your lawn forever, and it’s important to be able to leave your Dobie in the yard without fear of finding a new moon crater.
This article will run through why your Doberman is digging and how to stop it, with short-term and long-term solutions.
Why Your Doberman Is Digging Holes
If you want to skip to the solutions in the next section, go right ahead. But I encourage all owners to take a moment to think about the potential causes behind the digging.
Knowing the triggers and causes will better prepare you to solve this issue in the long term, as I will explain further below.
Reasons why your Doberman digs so much:
1. Lack of stimulation (physical & mental)
Physical exercise and mental stimulation are two things you’ve likely heard a million times. And there’s a good reason for that…
Dobermans are a high-energy working breed that must receive sufficient physical exercise AND mental stimulation in order to be content, calm, and well-behaved.
A Doberman that receives at least 2 hours of physical exercise along with command training, socialization, and other stimulating activities (facilitated by you) will have very little desire to dig and will prefer using their other time to rest.
Digging is very stimulating for most dogs, so it’s a classic go-to activity if he isn’t receiving enough stimulation through other means.
2. Stress or anxiety
Stress and anxiety are just as prolific in canines as it is in us, from the causes to the symptoms.
If your Dobie is stressed or anxious for any reason, it’s likely he’ll engage in pacifying behaviors such as chewing or digging. As I mentioned earlier digging is a very stimulating activity so this is a common go-to when dealing with stress.
Stress and anxiety can be caused by many things:
- A change in his environment
- A new routine
- The loss of another pet or family member
- Being left alone too often, too long
- The addition of someone new in your household (or a new pet)
In rarer circumstances, stress and anxiety can be caused by chronic pain or underlying health issues. If you think this could be the case for your Dobie a trip to the vets is advised.
3. Trying to escape
Many breeds, even if they’re not notorious diggers, can try to escape for one common reason. And that’s to seek a mating partner.
If your Doberman is un-neutered or un-spayed then he or she could be seeking to get out in order to find a partner.
This is especially the case if your male Dobie can smell a fertile female in close proximity.
In other cases, your Dobie could be trying to escape due to other smells, boredom, or an interesting noise or commotion beyond the fence.
If escaping (for whatever reason) is the cause, the holes will usually be located right next to the fence panel.
4. He can smell other animals
Dobermans have a strong prey drive and a keen sense of smell, meaning your Doberman could be trying to seek out animals under the ground.
It’s true, your Dobie is more than capable of not only hearing but smelling certain animals and bugs that are just below the surface.
Mouses, moles, voles, gophers, and other tunnel living animals can be just beneath the surface in your yard. Your Dobie will know all about it and won’t hesitate in trying to reach them.
If you notice the holes to be in some kind of line or formation, this could indicate he’s following the scent of an animal. If the holes are completely random, this might not be the cause.
5. Digging is fun!
Lastly, but certainly not least, is the fact that digging is just another activity, and it’s fun!
As I will cover below in detail, you can actually let your Doberman continue to dig, but just in a dedicated area that you allow him to dig in.
Sometimes, redirecting behavior is far easier than preventing it altogether. This also makes sense if the behavior is providing some kind of benefit to your Dobie, as digging might be. More on this below.
How To Stop Your Doberman From Digging
This section will run through both short-term and long-term solutions to your Doberman’s digging habit.
The short-term solutions are appropriate to put into action now while you work on one of the long-term solutions.
The reason it’s important to stop the behavior quickly is to prevent it from developing into a serious habit (if it isn’t already). The quicker you nip this behavior in the bud, the sooner your lawn will be back to normal!
1. Supervision outside
The most immediate and effective change you can make is to only let your Doberman outside with supervision.
Of course, this is not ideal, but if you absolutely can’t tolerate any more moon craters, then being with your doberman, even using a leash, will be your best short-term option.
2. Increase exercise and mental stimulation
One of the most common causes of digging is being under-exercised and stimulated, so if you can tackle this, the digging could very well stop on its own. Just imagine!
If you aren’t already taking your Doberman out for a solid 2 hours of physical exercise, try to work your way up to that.
Additionally, if you are only taking him out in the evenings, this is a big mistake. Your Dobie will have a lot of energy that needs to be released when he wakes up. Leaving him all day before his walk is asking for trouble. He should receive one hour out of his two at the start of the day, then another hour midday or in the evening.
And apart from physical exercise, increasing his mental stimulation is a must. Without being mentally “worked” he’ll never truly be tired, and will seek further stimulation himself (digging). Increase command training, socialization with other dogs and invest in a few interactive puzzle toys.
3. Refill holes with deterrents
Whenever you get a fresh hole to refill, you can discourage your Doberman from digging in that area again by filling it with a deterrent.
You can refill holes with anything from his own poop, citrus fruit peel, cayenne pepper, or apple cider vinegar to stop him from digging there again.
You’ll be surprised that if you do this with every hole he’ll have fewer places to dig and the smell of the deterrents could even put him off digging elsewhere due to the association.
This is a simple and easy option if you have holes to refill already.
4. Use a physical barrier
Whether it’s temporary fencing or a dog gate, nothing will work better than preventing him from accessing the grassy areas in the first place.
If you have an area in your yard that’s wood or concrete, limiting his movement to this area for some time is a good idea while you work on other methods of rectifying this behavior.
Long Term Solutions
1. Create him a digging zone
My favorite long-term solution is to actually just let him dig. It doesn’t get easier than that, right?
The caveat though is to create him a special area that he can dig in until his heart is content.
As digging is actually fun and a great form of mental stimulation itself, why stop it? Of course, you can’t have your entire yard dug up, but a small portion can hopefully be sacrificed for him.
You can either fence this section off with a gate that you’ll need to open and close for him, or you’ll need to train him over time to learn that he can only dig in a small segregated area. Which isn’t as difficult as it sounds.
You could add a few bags of children’s play sand to the segregated area to make the digging experience easier and more stimulating. It will also act as a differentiating factor that will help him identify “his spot” from the rest of the yard. To further solidify his digging area, you can bury his bones, toys, and reward him when he digs in that area.
The moment he tries digging elsewhere in the yard, you’ll need to step in with a firm “no” and redirect him over to his spot and reward him once his focus remains there. (basic redirection training).
I think this is a great long-term solution to the digging issue if you have enough space to create him a small spot.
2. Redirection training
The other long-term approach to is start putting into practice redirection training.
Redirection training will work, but it requires consistency and patience. And you must be thorough with the process each time you implement it.
⭐ This is how redirection training would look:
1. You see your Doberman starting to dig, or digging. (doesn’t work unless you catch him in the act)
This is your golden opportunity to train your Dobie so you must take every single chance you get to solidify this new lesson.
2. You intervene with a firm “No!” or “Stop!”.
You don’t need to shout, but it needs to startle him enough to stop him from his current actions. It also needs to be of a serious tone, not one you would use when you are rewarding him. Always use the same chosen response and never change it. And you need to really hit it home that this is not a behavior you are happy with. Repeat “No!” a few times.
3. Redirect him over to his toy or a different area/activity.
This is the next crucial step. You’ve shown him that you don’t approve of that behavior… now what? You must provide another outlet for him, he must know what he IS allowed to do. This means showing him his toy or giving him something else to do.
4. Waiting for him to remain on the new activity before praise.
Now, it’s imperative you wait 5-10 seconds while he is properly engaged with the new activity before rewarding. Once he’s focused on the new thing, reward him with a treat and your best “good boy” voice.
It’s so important you wait for a little, otherwise, he could associate being rewarding for digging if the two are too close together.
Each step must be done thoroughly for him to learn the lesson.
With time, he’ll learn that digging is not a behavior that you like, and playing with his toy, or whatever other activity you give him, IS what you like. And at the end of the day, Dobermans love to appease their owners. As long as he knows what you expect from him, he’ll be happy to do just that and nothing else.
It’s not as hard as it sounds, it just takes time! I know it sounds pretty long-winded, but in fairness, it’s a simple routine to carry out. You just need to take every opportunity you get, don’t expect it to work instantly, and carry out each step thoroughly.
In the meantime, be sure to refill the holes with a deterrent for extra help!
If your Doberman is digging up your yard, there are many things you can do in both the short and long term.
Ideally, a little time should be spent considering the potential cause of the digging and how you can address that issue appropriately.
In the meantime, short-term solutions like yard supervision, fencing, using deterrents, and increasing exercise are all encouraged while you put into place a long-term solution like redirection training or giving him his own digging area.
Back to more Doberman articles >