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It’s happened to all of us. You’re casually taking a stroll through your backyard when suddenly you plunge into a deep hole, apparently dug by your four-legged family member.
Dogs love to dig. It doesn’t matter what breed, what age, or what gender. Dogs love to dig.
However, digging can cause more than a few problems. Not only does it ruin your backyard, but it can leave your dog a muddy mess in need of a bath. Also, if your dog is digging under a fence or gate, it could lead to your dog escaping your yard.
Sometimes, your dog may even try to “dig” indoors as well, potentially ruining flooring or even hurting their paws.
So clearly, it’s time to find an alternative to digging and toys can help! They can either keep your dog busy and distract them from their urge to dig, or some can actually simulate the experience of digging without the downsides!
The most digging-specific toy is the iDig Digging Bed and it’s a great option for most diggers, especially smaller dogs that aren’t strong enough to just plow throw it! You can check out a video of how works, along with checking out the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.
We’ll go in-depth on several toys and cover everything you need to know about picking out the perfect toy, but if you want to skip ahead and see which toys made the list you can see all our picks here:
- Best Overall: iDig Digging Bed
- Premium Pick: Step2Play Sandbox with Cover
- Best Snuffle Mat: AWOOF Snuffle Mat
- Snuffle Mat Runner Up: The Wooly
- Best on a Budget: Busy Buddy Squirrel Toy
- Budget Alternative: LickiMat Slow Feeder
- Best for Exercise: Jolly Ball with Rope
- Best Squeaky Toy: ZippyPaws Woodland Burrow
- Squeaky Toy Runner Up: VANFINE Almost Indestructible Squeaky Toys
- Best Food Puzzle: Busy Buddy Bouncy Bone Treat Dispenser
Before we review each one of these, let’s learn more about your dog’s urge to dig.
Why Do Dogs Like To Dig?
If we can understand why our dogs dig, we’ve got a better chance of understanding which toys will work best for them! So let’s look at a few of the most common motivations, but keep in mind this is by no means an expansive list.
It’s Just Part Of Being A Dog
While that might not be the most satisfying explanation, for many dogs it could be as simple as that. Your dog’s natural instincts, going all the way back to their wolf ancestry drive them to dig. Wolves dig in order to find small prey or create a comfortable spot to relax in and these instincts are alive and well in the modern canine.
The same way that dogs bark, they also dig. But just as some dogs bark more than others, some dogs just like to dig more.
Your Dog Is Trying To Hide Something, Like A Bone or Toy
Dogs may try to protect something they value, like food or a bone, by burying it underground. Again, this relates back to instinct. By burying something, your dog is ensuring that other predators can’t get to it, and hopefully, it will be there when they’re ready to come back to it.
If you think your dog is digging to hide their valuables, it’s best to focus on toys that entertain more than anything else. Treat-flavored toys or bones could trigger your dog’s drive to hide food and bury food.
Your Dog Is Bored and Digging Is Just Something To Do
Just as some people get bored more easily, so do some dogs. Digging can be a great way for bored dogs to pass the time and entertain themselves. Introducing toys to these dogs can help keep them entertained and not digging.
Your Dog Was Bred to Dig
While digging is a natural instinct for all dogs, some canines were specifically bred to dig. Terriers are the first group that comes to mind and one of their main jobs was to hunt and kill rodents which included digging them out of the ground.
But it’s not just terriers that enjoy a good dig!
Huskies and Malamutes are driven to dig dens in order to keep warm during the winter or cool during the summer. The instinct to dig dens is what helped these pups survive the frigid winters and the hot summers.
What To Look For In A Toy For Digging Dogs?
So what should you look for in a toy for dogs that like to dig?
We’re going to break down the most important criteria but keep in mind that not every toy will have every one of these features.
Provides Exercise & Mental Stimulation
Have you ever hear the saying, “A tired dog is a good dog?”
It’s 100% true and dogs that are bored, anxious, or otherwise have too much energy will often find less than ideal ways to occupy themselves. That means things like barking, chewing, and of course, digging!
While interactive play is always the best for our dogs, many toys can wear your dog out so they’ve got less energy or desire to do the things they shouldn’t.
But it’s not just physical exercise that your dogs need- they also need mental stimulation! This is especially true of highly intelligent dogs like herding and retrieving breeds.
Simulates The Hunt
Some dogs dig as part of the hunt and this is especially true for terrier-type breeds.
Toys with a squeaker simulate the same sounds that prey would make and help satisfy our dog’s natural instinct to hunt. As Dr. Georgina Phillips explains, “While we might not always think of our little pups as predators, they certainly are and the instincts of their wild ancestors are still alive in them today. The squeaky sound of a toy taps into these instincts as it resembles the high-pitched noises that a wounded, scared or injured prey animal would make. Dogs like squeaky toys because they satisfy their prey drive, which is the instinct to hunt and capture prey.”
By going for toys with squeakers in them, you can satisfy your dog’s desire to hunt without them having to dig to find prey.
Oriented to the Floor & Mimics Digging
Some toys can actually simulate the digging experience without having your dog destroy the yard. These are especially useful for terriers and other breeds that have stronger instincts to dig. You may not be able to distract a Dachshund or a Beagle from digging with just about any toy. But toys like our best overall pick can help them get the feeling of digging in an appropriate way.
Then there are toys that don’t actually encourage your dog to dig but still orient your dog towards the floor in a position that’s similar to how they’d dig. This can be a great middle-ground and you can see this in toys like the LickiMat or either of our snuffle mats.
Durable & Safe
Obviously, durability is a major factor when it comes to purchasing any kind of toy for your pup. You want a toy that can withstand numerous hours of tough and rough play, especially if you have a puppy or a larger dog who is rough on toys.
You also want to make sure that as toys get heavy use, they don’t break down into small parts that can be swallow or form sharp edges.
Best Toys for Dogs That Love To Dig
Now that we know what we’re looking for let’s check out some of the best options out there.
Best Overall: iDig Digging Bed
- Let the diggers dig! Finally, a positive outlet for your dog’s natural digging behavior.
- Bury the treasure: load the pockets of the dig flaps with your pup's favorite toys and treats and...
What better toy for a dog that loves digging than one that simulates the dig! All without destroying your yard!
The iDig Digging Bed comes with multiple folds of fabric and built-in pockets where you can hide tasty treats for your dog to “dig up” and find.
Not only will this toy allow your pup to dig safely, but it is also mental enrichment for them as they have to sniff out the treats and then figure out how to get to them. While the pockets are perfect for treats, they’re also large enough to put in a small squeaker toy which will do an even better job of simulating the hunt.
The digging pad and squeaker toy combo is perfect for dogs like Terriers and Daschunds that love to dig as part of the hunt. But because the whole thing is machine washable, you could actually go crazy with what you put inside including things like peanut butter!
You can check out the iDig in action in this short video:
The only downside to the iDig bed is that the polyester material may not be strong enough for big dogs that will eagerly “dig” up the toy or treat. Bigger dogs may also decide that it’s easier to use their powerful jaws to just rip through the material while most terrier-types will stick with digging.
So if you’ve got a Rottweiler that loves digging, then you may need to look at other options. But if you’ve got a smaller pup, this could be a good fit.
You can read more reviews and check out the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.
What I Love About It: I love the idea of just letting dogs dig! Instead of distraction the iDig goes straight to the root of the issue and simulates the satisfaction of digging. It’s also great for dogs that live in apartments that still want to dig since it’s perfect for indoors.
What I Wish It Had: I’d love to see a heavy-duty version for bigger dogs. Powerful large breed dogs may just tear through the toy instead of digging.
Premium Pick: Step2Play Sandbox with Cover
- Four molded in seats provide a place for kids to sit while playing in the sand
- Sandbox lid provides protection from weather and critters, as well as offering storage for toys and...
Okay, so this isn’t exactly a dog toy.
But if I’ve learned anything from my dog, it’s that anything can be a toy, and if your dog loves to dig why beat around the bush? Why not consider getting an actual sandbox for them to dig in until their heart is content?
Of course, it won’t work for everyone but if you’ve got the space for it this 3.5 feet by 2.3 feet sandbox could be a perfect addition to your backyard. This particular sandbox is standalone so it acts a bit like an above-ground pool. That means it can be moved around wherever you need and comes with a snug-fitting cover to keep it relatively clean, too.
If you do go this route, you’ll want to make sure you give your dog plenty of positive reinforcement every time they use this box and at the same time discourage them from digging elsewhere. However, the sand is probably going to be better for digging than any other part of your yard so that combined with a few treats will probably make this prime digging real estate for your dog.
This sandbox also has more than 1,500 five-stars reviews at the time of writing and before you assume that those are all from happy parents (of children) you should know that there are about a dozen happy pup parents who’ve reviewed this for their digging dogs! You can check out those reviews, along with the latest price, on Amazon by clicking here.
What I Love About It: It directly addresses the problem by giving your digging dog an appropriate place to dig. While it is the premium pick, it’s still not too hard on the budget, especially when you consider what you’re getting.
What I Wish It Had: I’d love to see this go a little deeper but it is designed for kids so I understand why it doesn’t.
Best Snuffle Mat: AWOOF Snuffle Mat
- ❤ RICH FEEDING GAME – Look at the Big Orange Flower in the middle of the snuffle mat. Total 4 layers...
- ❤ EXTRA FUN ATTRACTS YOUR PUPPY – We are extremely positive of our snuffle mat. But in order to...
Not familiar with snuffle mats?
It’s a super simple brain game that encourages your dog to use their paws, nose, and muzzle to find treats within a mini-maze of fabric. It’s good for dogs that like to dig since it orients them towards the floor and uses some of the same instincts that drive digging.
Snuffle mats are often used indoors for mealtime, but they could be a good option for keeping dogs busy outside too. Busy dogs are dogs that aren’t digging! While they don’t perfectly mimic the dig, it still taps into your dog’s foraging instincts and will definitely require them to paw around a bit to get what they want.
There are a few reasons why I like this snuffle mat more than most. First, it’s a bit more elaborate than others but there are still plenty of options for increasing or decreasing the difficulty based on your dog’s ability. Second, it’s got a robust system of straps for keeping the mat in place. That means your dog won’t be able to just pick this up off the floor and shake it around to release all the treats.
Finally, it’s backed up by more than 1,500 five stars reviews which is always great to see. You can read some of those reviews and check the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.
What I Love About It: I love the flower design which gives a ton of options in terms of difficulty. For smarter dogs, you can tuck the food into some of the smaller nooks and crannies. For dogs that need a little practice with brain games, the little cylinders on the edge make great starting points.
What I Wish It Had: I’d love to see more depth to the fabric. They’ve worked in plenty of folds but not a ton of depth which I why I added the next snuffle mat to our list.
Snuffle Mat Runner Up: The Wooly
- Engage your dog’s sense of smell: puts your dog’s nose and brain to work by mimicking the hunt for...
- Simply challenging: encourages natural foraging skills
The Wooly Snuffle Mat looks like some kind of futuristic duster but this snuffle mat is even more simple than our best overall pick. You won’t find any fancy designs on this, just a straightforward strip of deep fabric that’s perfect for digging dogs.
Just lay the mat on the floor and sprinkle some kibble or other desirable treats throughout it. Your dog will have to sniff out the treat then dig around with their noses and paws to actually pull it out!
It checks a lot of the boxes we’re looking for in terms of simulating the dig and providing plenty of mental stimulation. Because the design is so simple, it’s very durable and there’s really nothing to break on this toy. It’s also easy to clean and all you have to do is throw it into the wash.
The only reason it’s the runner-up is that it doesn’t include the same straps for keeping it secure on the floor. Clever pups may decide it’s easier to pick up the mat and give it a shake to get the treats they want instead of sniffing them out.
Still, because your dog’s most powerful sense is smell, and by a huge margin, there’s a good chance that most pups will focus on using their powerful nose to track down the treats.
You can more reviews and check out the latest price on Amazon for this wooly snuffle pad by clicking here.
What I Love About It: The design is dead simple which makes this toy almost bomb-proof and a great choice for bigger dogs.
What I Wish It Had: I’d love to see a ready-to-go method for getting this to stick to the floor. As it stands, some crafty pups will quickly figure out that they can just flip the wooly pad over to get the treats they want.
Best on a Budget: Busy Buddy Squirrel Toy
- TOUGH CHEW TOY: Stands up to aggressive chewing and the fun bounce keeps dogs playing longer
- KEEPS BORED PETS BUSY: Our patented Treat Meter dispenses treats randomly while your dog plays; the...
This toy is similar to the Kong line of toys but instead of a large opening for treats to be dispensed, the Busy Buddy Squirrel slowly releases kibble to keep dogs engaged, and distracted from digging, for longer.
What I really love about this toy though is what they call the “treat meter” which are a handful of prongs where the treats come out. You can cut these prongs to allow them to replace larger treats or to just release smaller treats faster. This means you can customize the toy not only to your favorite treats but also to your dog!
I know that some dogs are a bit sharper than the rest. I can tell you that my dog isn’t exactly a quick learner and so I’ve cut the “treat meter” prongs shorter. Otherwise, she’ll just give up as she can’t figure out what makes the treats come out. For smarter dogs, you can leave the prongs longer which will require a bit more effort to figure out.
The odd shape of these toys gives them an unusual bounce when they’re dropped or thrown which most dogs can’t resist.
Overall, these little purple squirrels do a little bit of everything. They’re part food puzzle, part chew toy, and part bouncy ball all at a budget-friendly price.
What I Love About It: This toy does a little bit of everything at a very budget-friendly price but my favorite feature is the adjustable “treat meter” that allows you to manage the difficulty of this toy!
What I Wish It Had: It might be asking a lot but the only thing this toy is missing is a squeaker! I’d love to see some kind of noise coming out of this little guy!
Budget Alternative: LickiMat
- REDUCES ANXIETY, BOREDOM AND DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR – LickiMat helps calm and soothe your pet by helping...
- RECOMMENDED BY VETS AND TRAINERS - redirect all licking habits and perfect aid to reduce crate training...
The LickiMat is a different take on the food puzzle idea. Instead of focusing on kibble, the LickiMat is all about using treats like peanut butter to occupy your dog’s nose, tongue, and tummy! But you can also use wet dog food and make it a regular part of your dog’s eating routine.
While it doesn’t simulate the dig, it is oriented towards the floor in the same position your dog would take to dig.
You might be surprised at how long it actually takes a dog to eat their meal off a LickiMat, too. We know that our dogs aren’t eager to leave any scrap behind and the hundreds of small nooks and crannies mean it’s going to take a while to actually get everything. The amount of time it takes will depend on your dog’s size but you should expect most pups to take at least 30 minutes to lick one of these clean and that’s without any extras like a little peanut butter.
Not only does that provide extra boredom-busting mental stimulation around meal time but it’s also 30 minutes when your dog isn’t digging!
What I Love About It: I love how long it takes for dogs to actually clear this. We’ve all seen dogs lick the same spot on the floor just for the residual taste and they’re happy to do the same with the LickiMat.
What I Wish It Had: I’d love to see some more creativity in terms of the mat pattern. The design is simple and it works but some extra tough patterns would be great to see, too.
Best for Exercise: Jolly Ball with Rope
- Perfect for Medium Dogs: The Medium Romp-n-Roll features a ball that measures 6 inches in diameter and is...
- Will not deflate when punctured: The Romp-n-Roll is made from Jolly Pet’s signature JollyFlex material-...
What if your dog had something to do in the backyard that was more fun than digging?
That’s the idea behind the jolly ball and not only will some dogs find it more appealing than digging, but all dogs will find it more tiring!
Jolly balls are large balls that just barely too big for dogs to bite onto. That keeps them constantly rolling and many dogs will happily wear themselves out on their own. Check out this cute pittie pup having a blast with her Jolly Ball:
My favorite are the Jolly Balls with a rope because they allow dogs to get some kind of grip on them in case your dog wants to shake their “prey”. A rope handle also makes it easier for you to throw the Jolly Ball to start the action.
This toy is not just about distracting your dog from digging but also wearing them out with plenty of exercise!
You can read some of the 5,000+ five stars reviews and check out more videos of dogs playing with Jolly Balls on Amazon by clicking here.
What I Love About It: This toy is just about indestructible and any dog that enjoys balls won’t be able to resist giving it a tackle! But my favorite part of this toy is just how much it will wear out your dog!
What I Wish It Had: Some strong dogs may be able to pull the rope out of the ball. However, even without the rope, this toy will still work.
Best Squeaky Toy: ZippyPaws Woodland Burrow
- Dog Puzzle Toys: Treat your pup to this hide and seek dog toy that gives your pet hours of fun digging...
- For Puppies and Dogs: This squeaky dog toy is a must-have for your puppy. Each chipmunk has an...
Part squeaky toy and part interactive puzzle this super durable toy is a great option for keeping dogs entertained and not digging.
The toy comes with a stuffed log that’s a little over a foot long along with three squeaker-filled chipmunks that your dog can pull out of the log. This gives your dog the satisfaction of rooting out their prey, similar to the way they’d dig up prey, and the joys of squeaking the individual chipmunks.
Not only is the idea clever and great for dogs but the construction of this toy really helps set it apart. There are more than 10,000 five-star reviews including dozens from pitbull and other big dog owners that can attest to the durability of this toy.
Because dogs love to “kill” their squeaky toys by removing the squeaker, it’s super important that you buy quality squeakers. This is doubly true if you’ve got a big, strong pup!
What I Love About It: I love the multiple ways that you and your dog can use this toy. Not only are the individual chipmunk’s great squeaker toys on their own but adding them to the inside of the log adds a super fun layer to the toy.
What I Wish It Had: I’d love to see a tougher variation where the chipmunks are a bit more difficult to pull out for those extra smart dogs.
Squeaky Toy Runner Up: VANFINE Almost Indestructible Squeaky Toys
- USA BRAND & APPEARANCE PATENT:We have American trademark and product appearance patent certificates, dog...
- SQUEAKY-LOVING TOY FOR DOGS: Squeaker dog toy is designed with built-in squeaker that creats fun sounds...
Squeaky toys are great, but if your dog just rips out the squeaker in 15 minutes they aren’t going to do you much good.
That’s why our pick for the best squeaky toy is the almost indestructible option from VANFINE which features a deeply buried, internal squeaker that’s protected by tough but safe plastic.
Squeaky toys mimic the natural sounds of prey and can satisfy your dog’s desire to hunt. Some dogs are driven to dig through a combination of natural hunting instinct and general boredom. For those pups, a squeaky toy makes a great option for managing digging behavior.
However, this toy is beef flavored which will absolutely draw your dog to it but the food smell may encourage some digging dogs to bury it for safekeeping. Just keep in mind that if your dog regularly buries high-value items that you may want to look at some of the other options on this list.
What I Love About It: This toy is a solid option both indoors and outdoors–wherever your dog is having a digging problem. It’s easily cleanable if it gets dirty.
What I Wish It Had: Big, powerful chewers may be able to quickly tear up this toy. It’s best for dogs that love squeaker sounds more than they love chewing.
Best Food Puzzle: Busy Buddy Bouncy Bone Treat Dispenser
- Age Range Description: All Ages
The full name of this toy is the “Busy Body Bouncy Bone Treat Dispenser Tough Dog Chew Toy.” Whew, what a mouthful! However, it’s a fitting name for a toy with this many aspects to it. This is a food puzzle, designed to keep your pup busy (and not digging) for hours on end. But it’s also a bouncy ball and a food puzzle.
Here’s how it works: just screw off the ends of the toy and slip two treat rings onto the bone before screwing the ends back on. Your dog will have to work and nibble at this treat in order to get it.
What I Love About It: Like a few others on this list, this toy has a lot going for it. Part bouncy ball, chew toy, and puzzle it’s got several ways to appeal to dogs.
What I Wish It Had: These may not work as well for smaller dogs. Although the toy does come in several sizes, smaller dogs may be able to nose their way into the treat much faster than larger dogs. Also, you’ll have to continue buying treat rings for as long as you want to use the toy.
How To Use Toys & Training To Stop Digging
We’ve got several toys that directly mimic digging and those are pretty straightforward to use.
But some folks might be scratching their head at how to most effectively use something like a food puzzle or squeaky toy to manage digging.
We can use positive reinforcement to help our dogs understand which behaviors are good and deterrents to help them figure out what ones are bad.
Let’s take a closer look.
Positive reinforcement is all about giving your dog rewards when they do something good. In some cases, the toy itself is enough of a reward for dogs to stop digging and they’ll find that they’d rather play with their new toy instead of creating an underground network of tunnels.
But in other cases, you’ll need to take things a step further and offer your dog a treat or verbal praise anytime they go for their toy instead of building a hole in the ground. This technique is especially effective for toys like squeakers and Jolly Balls that require dogs to entertain themselves at least a little bit.
You can learn more about positive reinforcement training here but make sure you stay consistent and try to reward the behavior as quickly as possible. You want to make sure that dogs can easily connect their behavior to the reward.
While punishments aren’t likely to work very well, and can actually weaken the bond between you and your dog, deterrents can be a great way to turn your dog’s attention to their new toy.
The difference is, deterrents aren’t associated with you.
Consider the difference between spraying your dog with water from a spray bottle vs an automatic sprinkler that sprays water whenever a critter gets close. You’re associated with the water bottle and the related punishment but the automatic sprinkler acts as a deterrent that’s completely separate from you. It also works 24 hours a day.
So what deterrents work?
That’s going to depend on your individual dog and how motivated they are to dig. While options like crushed red pepper can help they aren’t always practical or kind to your dog. I find the best options are usually motion sensor sprinklers that spray a squirt of water whenever a dog, or another animal, gets too close. You can check out a good one on Amazon by clicking here.
But there’s one deterrent that’s completely free and extremely effective.
Bury Your Dog’s Poop To Stop The Digging (Seriously)
Most dogs have their favorite digging spot that they will frequently reuse. You fill it up, and they go back and dig away.
The next time you fill it up, try adding your dog’s poop to the hole. When your dog goes back to the hole and finds their own stool in it, not only will they be a bit confused but more importantly it’s going to take a lot of the fun out of digging that hole.
For some dogs, one surprise poop is all it takes to break the habit. For other dogs, you may need to repeat this a few times but in either case most dogs will eventually decide that digging just isn’t that fun and move on to other options like the toys or sandbox you got them.
Dogs are naturally inclined to dig. It’s in their genes. Although it can be hard to train a dog not to follow this instinct, you can help prevent digging, both inside and outside, by investing in a few toys to distract or wear out your pup.
But if you’ve got the space for it, investing in an actual sandbox makes a great option since it gives dogs an area that they can act out their natural urge to dig without causing damage to your yard.
Even with toys that mimic digging, your dog will need a little coaching via positive reinforcement to learn that digging isn’t the best way for them to get out their extra energy. Deterrents can help too and when used appropriately are part of a complete training protocol.