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How to Stop a Dog from Digging in the Landscaping


To solve the digging dog problem, you need to understand why your dog digs digging and replace that behavior with more productive activities.

Dogs dig for a variety of reasons, including because it’s just plain fun. But, if you’re not digging your dog’s digging, you must either provide acceptable places for your dog to create holes in the ground, help him wear off excess energy, and/or make that treasured digging spot less attractive. Punishing your dog for digging won’t work because digging is natural to dogs, and dogs don’t learn through punishment anyway. You might manage to coerce him into never digging in front of you, but that’s about it. If you want to stop your dog’s digging, you need to make management changes.

Let’s look at why dogs dig:

· It’s fun: If your dog is intent on making your yard look like the surface of the moon, you need to provide more activity and exercise. This digging likely involves a joyous grin on your dog’s face, possibly looking up here and there and then digging back in.

What to do: Make sure he gets more exercise, preferably in varying environments. Step one, of course, is ensuring he gets out for a walk—or ball-tossing session—at least two or three times a day. Whenever possible, take walks somewhere new, especially some place woodsy with oh so many new scents. Try something new! Consider a dog sport, like agility, scent work, or Barn Hunt. Not all of them require a big expense or athleticism on your part. Take a dog class, like basic training or novice trick classes.

· Dirt is cool: Clearly dogs think digging holes is a cool thing to do, but dogs also dig dirt because the ground is cool. If it’s hot out, and your dog has minimal shade—or it’s even hot in the shade—a nice dirt bed will help keep him cool. He’s digging with a purpose, possibly circling to make the bed larger but not expending frantic energy to get the job done.

What to do: Provide a cool spot for your dog to dig by dedicating part of the yard to him. If that’s not pleasing, consider giving them their own sandbox, maybe with a patio umbrella over it for shade. It’s not difficult to do. A sandbox can also help with him digging just for fun, too. A kiddie pool filled with clean water can help your dog keep cool, too (and if you have a Labrador Retriever, chances are he will think it’s a gift from God). It doesn’t need to be deep, and you will have to keep it clean, but your dog may love it. (Get a hard-plastic pool, not the soft blow-up versions.) Some dogs also love running and playing with sprinklers.

· Looking for critters: Your dog may smell or hear little animals, which causes his instincts to kick in and he goes looking for them, which may include digging for the animals’ dens. Think about terriers, who were bred to go into holes after prey. If he’s hunting, you are likely to see a bit of a frenzy, possibly with whining or barking, while he digs.

What to do: More exercise! Seriously, a “tired dog is a happy dog” may sound trite, but it’s true. Taking walks where you give him plenty of time to “read the ground” and enjoy the smells is important. Again, a park or other area where animals may run will be especially fun. You may feel like it’s not exercise, but for your dog, it is. He’s using his nose and brain to figure out what was where. Don’t rush him along his walks. Let him enjoy the scenery, smells, and environment.

· Escape route: A dog who is digging under the fence wants to get out of the yard. He’s bored or there’s something on the other side of the fence that’s caught his interest.

What to do: There are all sorts of things you can put in the ground around your fence that makes it nearly impossible for your dog to dig out from under then fence. Very large rocks that he can’t move will help keep him away from the bottom of the fence, but you’re probably going to need a lot of them. Some people pour a concrete barricade that is just deep enough to deter the dog’s attempts. You can buy inserts that go into the ground at the base of the fence to make him have to dig a lot farther to escape (this won’t deter the digging attempts, however, the way rocks or concrete will). And, of course, more walks and activities for your dog. Your dog may instinctively bury bones (never feed cooked bones!), treats, toys, and other treasures. There’s not a lot you can do about that, except to keep an eye on him. I also learned to watch what I’m doing in the yard while my dog is with me. I was on my knees pulling weeds and preparing a hole for a new plant, when Draco joined in the fun, “helping” me dig into the earth and make that hole bigger.

For repeated attempts at hold digging, where you fill the hole but he digs it out again, some experts claim putting feces in the hold before you recover it with dirt will deter your dog. But, as you’ve probably determined at this point, a bored, lonely dog will find activities if you don’t find them for him. Your solution is to become a better dog owner and provide your dog with exercise, fun, and companionship. It doesn’t have to be a 24-hour-a-day ordeal. Just make some positive focused activities with your dog will make a huge difference in any “bad habits” and his overall happiness. Make it as much a part of your day as meal preparation. Your dog will love you for it—and sleep more during his downtime.

Posted on February 17, 2023

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