How to stop your Westie digging

stop westie digging

Do West Highland White Terriers dig

The Westie is prone to be a digger. They were originally bred to track vermin underground. This includes digging up their preys burrow to get to them.

This is a natural instinctive behavior for many Westies. You can’t train and instinctive behavior out of a dog, but you can redirect it in a more constructive way.

Westies are a terrier. The word terrier is taken from the word “terra”, meaning earth It is a major part of who they are. In addition, their nails grow faster than most dogs. This gives them the tools they need to get the job done.

West Highland Terriers often excel at earth dog competitions. Earth dog trials are a non-competitive way to test the dog’s ability to seek and locate rodents underground. The rats are safely caged and not harmed.

Toys for Westies that dig

Toys are a great way to cater to and redirect any natural behavior in a dog. This is true of the digging instinct. By providing a way for your Westie to have our outlet for their desire to dig you can avoid destructive digging behavior.

This can be digging up your yard or flower garden and even the carpet or furniture. Here are some recommended toys and activities to cater to a dog’s digging instinct.


This is the first dog toy that has been specially designed to cater to your dog’s natural digging instinct. You simply hide their favorite toy or treats in the flaps and let them dig away to uncover the hidden treasure. Not only will the action of digging help burn off pent-up energy, but the mental challenge of working out how to get to the goodies will help to tire them also.

The iDigg comes in two types – the iDigg Go and the iDigg Stay.

The iDigg Go has a soft outer shell making it easy to pack up and take with you and the iDigg Stay has a hard outer shell.

Check out the video to see how this works or view the iDig Go on Amazon.

Snuffe Mat

A Snuffe Mat is another great way to provide for your dog’s natural digging instinct and to provide mental stimulation and relieve boredom. A Snuffe mat is a mat that is made of fleece and you can hide dry food or treats into it. If you are someone that is good at crafts you can try to make one yourself.

Alternatively, check out the range of Snuffle Mats at Amazon.

Digging Box

Provide a digging area or digging pit for your Westie. This way they can provide for their nature digging instinct without ruining your garden. Simply fill up a Sand Box with soil or sand, hide some chews or toys in it to encourage them to dig only there.

View sandboxes on Amazon

If you choose to use sand be aware that the sand can get quite hot in the warmer weather. Just wet down the sand before allowing your dog to use it.

Indoor dog digging box

If you are unable to get an iDig or are looking for a lower-cost option for indoor digging for your dog perhaps try a ball pit like the ones used by children. You can hide treats or your dog’s favorite toy among the balls and let your dog go to it. Check out ball pits on Amazon.

Why westies dig

If your West Highland White Terriers digging has become a problem you need to ascertain the reason for the digging. Dogs dig for different reasons such as trying to escape to simple boredom. Knowing the reason for the digging is halfway to stopping the behavior. Here are some reasons dogs dig.

To escape

If your Westie is digging along and under the fence, the motivation is most likely they are trying to get off the property. This may be because they are bored and want to look for adventure, there is a female dog on heat, or they are coming to look for you. For solutions to stop a dog digging under a fence see here.

Instinctive behavior

As we have discussed, digging is a natural instinctive behavior for a dog, especially ratting breeds. If their digging is destructive and unwanted behavior you need to redirect that behavior. This can be achieved by providing them their own digging area such as a sandpit or activities that cater to the digging drive. See toys for Westies that dig above.

Boredom and stress relief

Westies are high energy and an intelligent breed. It is crucial to provide sufficient exercise, mental stimulation and keep them occupied. A bored dog will develop behavior issues such as digging. For a guide to exercise and mental stimulation for a Westie see here.


Dogs by nature seek the security of a den. Dens keep them cooler in the hot weather and warm in the cold weather. Provide your Westie their own shelter such as a kennel to meet this need. The key is to have a kennel that is big enough for them to stand up and turn around. If a kennel is too big they will not feel secure and probably won’t use it. For tips on keeping a dog cool in hot weather see here.

To bury food

If your Westie has a tasty bone it wants to save for later they will often look to hide it. Burying food is a common instinctive behavior for dogs.

Hunt prey

This is what Westies were bred to do. If they smell a rat or other vermin underground they will dig to get to it.

They like the smell

Some odors in the soil actually persuade a Westie to dig.  Fresh earth, topsoil, mulch, and some fertilizers such as blood and bone can be very enticing.  If you plan on planting flowers, vegetables, or other plants you will want to fence these areas off to make sure your Westie cannot access them. 

Solutions to Westie digging

Once you know the motivation for the digging behavior it becomes simple to stop or redirect the unwanted digging. If it is boredom provide them with more environmental enrichment to keep them occupied. See Environmental enrichment for dogs here.

These are some more suggestions to stop unwanted dog digging.

Put something in the hole

If there are existing holes that your dog has dug you can put a variety of items in the hole and refill it to prevent them from digging in that same spot. Examples include;

  • Their own poo – dogs won’t dig in areas that they have toileted.
  • Citrus peels, cayenne, or vinegar – these will irritate their nose discouraging digging
  • Rocks – bury rocks, particularly large flat ones to stop them from being able to dig.
  • Plastic netting – bury plastic netting just below the surface of known digging spots.  Avoid wire as this may cut their paws.

These are what are referred to as hard solutions. Soft solutions are things you can do to treat the motivation of the behavior. If boredom is the cause provide more exercise and activity. If they are trying to keep cool, introduce ways to cool off (see above).

Alternatively, redirect the behavior so they dig in an area set aside for them or provide activities that cater to the natural digging instinct.

Summary – Westie digging

Digging is a natural instinctive behavior for Westies which they do for a number of reasons. Quite often digging is a sign that your dog is bored and frustrated. The above suggestions are a good way to provide for your dog’s natural digging instinct and to provide mental stimulation and relieve boredom.

There are also many simple solutions to stop digging by putting objects in existing holes and refilling. You can also put plastic netting in known digging areas so they can not dig there.

Westie related posts

Guide to Westie exercise

Best type of toys for Westies

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