Digging is one of the most doggy things your pooch can do. After all, we all know the stereotype of dogs burying their beloved bones! However, your pup’s natural ability to turn your garden into a cratered lunar landscape isn’t the most adorable trick they can perform.
If your furry friend has enlisted themselves as chief earth-mover and ruined your flowerbeds, the time has probably come to figure out how to stop them. So, here’s our guide on how to stop a dog from digging up your garden.
There are many reasons why dogs dig, and it’s an instinctive and normal behaviour for dogs.
Your pooch might simply enjoy digging, the same way that kids will happily spend hours digging holes on the beach. Other pups dig as a way of relieving frustration and anxiety. Some pooches even fit the stereotype of dogs trying to hide bones. Meanwhile, other dogs might be digging to try and hunt down any bugs, rodents, or critters they can hear crawling underground.
Although digging is a very normal thing for dogs to do, it can be frustrating for owners to deal with. But if you can work out why your dog is digging, you can work out what would make a suitable alternative and hopefully stop them from destroying your garden.
Some of the ways you can stop your dog from digging is to:
Give them plenty of exercise and enrichment
Make digging difficult
Make sure there are no unwelcome visitors
Discourage unwanted digging
Create a safe dig spot
Make sure your dog has plenty of shade
Block any escape routes
But how will these help to stop your dog from digging? Let’s find out!
Perhaps the number one reason why dogs dig is because it’s an enjoyable and an easy way to vent extra energy. Many dogs will dig because they’re bored or not getting enough exercise, and digging becomes an attractive and entertaining physical activity.
So, if you want to work out how to stop a dog from digging up your garden, the first thing you should do is give them more mental and physical exercise.
You could take them for longer walks or add another short walk to their routine. Or, try playing an active game like fetch, or start a dog sport together like flyball or agility.
Mental exercise is important too! Training sessions and teaching your dog new tricks is one of the easiest and most effective ways to give them more physical and mental stimulation. You could also give them puzzle toys or try some DIY toys and games to entertain them. Even something as simple as feeding them their Pure dinner in a Kong instead of a bowl can provide your pup with extra mental stimulation.
Most dogs have a favourite spot they like to dig in and return to the same place every time they dig. To try and deter them from digging, you can place large rocks on top of their usual digging spot, or put some plastic chicken wire down where they usually dig. Make sure you use plastic chicken wire which will prevent your dog from digging without hurting their paws and claws.
Another option is to bury orange or lemon peels in your dog’s favourite digging spots. Dogs really don’t like the smell of citrus fruits, so something as simple as putting an orange peel in their favourite hole can be enough to stop them from digging! (In that spot, at least).
However, just covering the holes with stones or wire won’t teach your dog not to dig, it just prevents them from digging in that one spot. Your dog might just move on to another area to dig!
You should combine this method with training to tackle the root of your dog’s digging problem, and continue to provide extra enrichment and exercise to see if that helps solve the issue.
If your dog is digging to try and reach rodents, bugs, or other animals scurrying around underground, you might have to get some expert help and contact pest control. Otherwise, a dog with a high prey drive will keep digging as long as they know those pesky animals are there!
While doing this, you should still give your dog an outlet for their energy. You could try earthdog trials or scent games with your pooch to give them a positive way of using those hunting instincts. It will also provide them with extra mental and physical exercise so they don’t feel the same need to hunt in the garden. You should also continue training to teach your dog that digging isn’t allowed.
Because digging is a natural behaviour for dogs, give them a safe space where they’re allowed to dig which can be really beneficial for them by providing another form of exercise and play.
If you have the space in your garden, you could get a sandpit or a paddling pool and fill it with sand or dirt for your dog to safely dig in. If you fancy a bit of DIY, you could create a dig patch in a similar way as you would make a vegetable patch. (Just don’t put any plants in there!)
However, you will still need to supervise your dog’s digging and teach them not to dig in undesirable places.
Once you have provided your dog with a space where they’re allowed to dig, try to encourage them to dig there. If you find them digging in other areas of the garden, stop them and lead them to their dig spot and reward them once they start to dig there instead.
If you don’t have the space to put a safe dig spot in your garden, you will simply have to try and teach your dog not to dig.
Supervise your pooch whenever they’re in the garden, potentially keeping them on the lead and under control at first. Any time they try to dig, tell them “no” and lead them away. You should then try to distract them by giving them another activity, like playing with their favourite toy, which will take their focus off of digging and provide them with a positive behaviour to replace it with.
Alternatively, if you catch your dog digging, simply try calling them away. Remember to give them lots of praise and suitable rewards if they stop digging and come to you.
Either way, the goal is to teach your dog that you don’t want them to dig, while providing them with something else to do instead.
Some dogs dig holes to create a cooler area to lie down. If your dog has been digging in the garden in search of a colder spot to relax, provide an alternative cool area that’s easier to use. Put up an umbrella for some shade, or set up a small paddling pool your dog can lie in to cool down.
If your dog is digging to hide food or their favourite toy, simply stopping them from going into the garden with their food or toys should be enough to stop the habit. They can’t bury their treasure if they’re not allowed to take it outside in the first place!
Otherwise, you should try to train them not to dig in the same way you would to discourage any other type of digging.
It can be more difficult to deal with your dog’s digging it they’re trying to escape to find a mate or because they’re living with severe separation anxiety. In many cases, you might want to extend your fencing underground to prevent your dog digging underneath it, or keep them supervised or on a lead in the garden until you can tackle the behaviour.
It’s a good idea to contact your vet or a canine behaviourist to help you overcome this kind of digging. They’ll help you to work through your dog’s anxiety or roaming. They may suggest neutering or spaying your dog if their escape attempts are driven by an instinct to mate.
It might also be beneficial to work on boundary training with your woofer so they feel more secure at home and less inclined to escape.
Despite how frustrating your dog’s digging can be, don’t punish your dog. Punishing or scolding your pooch won’t address the underlying reason for their digging. Plus, your pup won’t realise why you’re telling them off unless they’re caught in the act, in which case, it’s always better to distract them and give them something better to do.
Training them will simultaneously teach them not to dig and teach them what they should do instead.
As you can see, there are many reasons why your dog might be digging, and just as many methods on how to stop a dog from digging. But hopefully with these tips you can figure out how to stop your dog from digging up the garden and restore your yard to its former glory!
And remember, you can always ask our vet or a canine behaviourist for help to understand your dog’s digging habit and how to resolve it.