Dogs love to dig. More often than not, dog owners are absolutely horrified to find their back yard full of holes and will do anything to stop their dog digging- no matter what it takes! However, this is not the best approach. Digging can be caused by a number of reasons, and before you look at how to stop your dog from digging up the garden, it is first important to understand why they are doing it.
Digging Holes is Natural Behaviour
Although digging can be an undesirable behaviour for many dog owners, the truth is that it is completely natural for dogs to act in this way. Wild dogs frequently dig, and there is a school of thought that preventing dogs from engaging in their natural behaviours is not good for their general health and mental wellbeing.
Whether you can put a stop to your dog’s digging or simply provide another outlet depends on why he is doing it to begin with.
Why is Your Dog Digging?
- Escape! Your dog may be attempting to tunnel under a fence and escape your yard- either to explore further or to escape something that is frightening them, such as the aggressive dog next door.
- Anxiety. Especially if they are left out in the yard whilst their owner is away, anxiety issues can cause dogs to dig.
- Cool down. If you live in an area with especially high temperatures, your dog may dig holes as a form of shelter to relax in.
- Saving it for later. It is a natural instinct for many dogs to dig holes and bury items such as food or favourite toys.
- Boredom. If your dog is not getting enough exercise or mental stimulation, it is possible that he may turn to digging holes as a way to entertain himself.
- Hunting. If your dog hears or smells creatures under the ground, they may dig holes to find them.
How to Stop Your Dog from Digging
The first thing that you need to do is rule-out ‘non natural’ causes for your dog’s digging, namely boredom, anxiety or fear. Make sure that your dog is getting plenty of exercise, is well fed, and there is nothing in his environment that is causing him undue stress or fear. In addition, when you leave the house, make sure that your dog is not left alone outside and is instead secure in his living area.
The next step (more for your own sanity!) is to protect any areas that you don’t want digging up. You can use objects such as rocks or tarp to protect areas he commonly digs in, as well as natural and non-toxic repellants such as red pepper flakes, citronella or pennyroyal oil.
So that your dog has somewhere to satisfy his need to dig, it is important to provide your dog with a dedicated area that he is able to dig and play in. Pick a spot in your yard that you are happy for him to dig in, and make it easily recognisable by creating a natural border out of stones, sticks or fencing. Fill the area with a soft material such as dirt or sand- or a combination of the two.
To encourage your dog to use the digging area, bury treats such as toys or food just beneath the surface. Next, draw his attention to the items, lavishing him with praise when he digs it up. As he gets used to it, bury the items deeper to make it more of a challenge. Soon, your dog will see this area as a place full of fun and surprises, and will be far less likely to dig anywhere else.
If your dog is still digging elsewhere, be careful not to scold or yell at him. Instead, when you catch him digging outside of the designated area, get his attention by clapping your hands sharply. Then, lead him to the digging area and encourage him to continue there. He will quickly learn that he will be interrupted if he digs outside of his area and spend all of his efforts there instead!