Is your yard being destroyed by a digging dog? We are here to help!
Unpicking a natural dog behavior can be a challenging task, as digging for the most part is just what dogs love to do.
Behavior like this should be immediately tackled, as a digging dog can quickly rack up thousands of dollars in damage. I’ve witnessed dismantled sprinkler systems, torn up signal wires, damaged plants and trees, and in some cases damage to the property itself.
This guide will teach you how to correct a digging dog's behavior and finally put an end to your backyard being destroyed.
Let's dig in! (Not literally…)
What Are The Common Causes Of Why A Dog Is Digging?
It's firstly important to understand the reasons behind why your dog is digging in order to create the best possible solution.
Below are a few examples of scenarios where a dog may dig, along with the reasons why each type of scenario may take place.
For Fun Or out of Boredom
Typically, a dog will dig because it provides them with the comfort of taking part in a fun activity for stimulation. Digging up the same spot over and over is a clear sign that your dog is digging out of boredom, and in most cases is from the development of pent-up energy.
Other dogs dig to keep their nails at manageable length causing them to go back to the same spot and continually brush up their work of art.
Separation anxiety is a common cause that results from a dog digging in an attempt to escape and find their owner. Non-spayed and non-neutered dogs may try to escape out of natural instinct to roam in search of a mate.
While other dogs may be simply trying to find a more comfortable place to settle, as the result of being either too hot or too cold.
Note: A dog that is digging to escape is a completely different problem and will need to be addressed in a completely different way.
Stress and Anxiety
A stressed or anxious dog can develop mischievous behavior as a result of moving home, meeting a new person, changing in environment, or being left home alone.
Many dogs will display these emotions in the form of increased barking, panting, excessive yawning, and in some instances, digging.
Other dogs dig for purpose of hunting small furry animals such as gofers and moles. Dogs can hear extremely well, and can often hear prey from beneath ground level.
Digging to hunt can be easily identified from the pattern of how a dog digs.
Each hole will join up to the other resulting in more of a tunnel or line-shaped pattern, as opposed to them digging straight down in a single spot.
Some breeds are just more inclined to dig than others…
For example, breeds like terriers (including terriers crossed with hounds) were naturally bred to hunt and used for digging out quarry from their dens.
So if you have a yard filled with gophers and other small animals, there's a good chance your dog will dig it up.
Supplies That You’ll Need To Train A Dog To Stop Digging
The method or solution you choose will determine the potential supplies you’re going to need. Choose from one or all of the following supplies below to prepare for training your dog to stop digging.
- Lemon peel
- Deer repellent or cayenne pepper
- Chicken Wire
- Dog Treats
What Can You Do To Stop Your Dog From Digging Up The Yard?
Here are 5 actionable ways that you can finally put an end to your dog's digging.
Method 1: Increase Their Level Of Physical And Mental Exercise
Digging takes up a lot of energy that could be pent up in your dog, so tiring them out another way could be a great way to potentially stop digging.
Going for long walks, playing fetch, running, and hiking are all proactive ways to tire out a dog while ensuring an increased level of stimulation.
Pro Tip: If you have recently moved home, changed partner, or reconstructed parts of your home, then recreating the pre-existing environment could be a great way for relieving a dog's stressful outbursts.
Method 2: Limit Or Restrict The Areas They Can Go
Fencing a section of the yard with chicken wire or large plastic sheeting is a great way in preventing a dog from entering specific areas.
And while this doesn't exactly stop the behavior, it can certainly play a large role in discouraging a dog from the urge of needing to dig.
Method 3: File Your Dog's Nails
Have you ever heard a dog's nails scratching against the floor when they're walking? If so, then it’s probably a good time to file down their nails.
Neglected grooming will result in the natural urge for a dog to file down their nails, and with long nails will come major digging, as digging tends to be more fun with bigger claws.
That said, being a bad sport and cutting your dog's nails will remove the fun aspect, leaving them with paw pads to dig with (not so fun).
Method 4: Fill Their Holes With Unpleasant Substances (A.K.A “The Poop Trick”)
I'm sure you've noticed that dogs “do not” like playing in the same places they go to the bathroom. So we can use that train of thought to work to our advantage.
The next time your dog goes to the potty… take some of their feces and simply place it into the holes they were digging.
Pro tip: Note that you must properly cover up the holes for this method to be effective, as most dogs will simply push the poop out and continue to dig once again.
And while this will not stop a dog from digging up other areas, it will most certainly help them to understand that digging up the yard is ‘not’ something you would like them to do.
Method 5: Create A ‘dig pit’ In The Yard (a.k.a ‘A digging Zone’)
This step works best after successfully carrying out one of the above methods. As creating a new area to dig is not preventative but instead redirecting the behavior.
This means you will need to be present when directing your dog from the old area (where the bad habits lay) to your newly selected area (where it's totally cool to dig).
You can communicate this through commands such as “no” or “leave it” to let them know this is not where you want them to dig. By following on with “follow me” or “come here boy or girl” to show them where the new spot will be.
Once you arrive in the new area it's time to loosen up the soil then start digging yourself.
This will encourage your dog to follow suit and begin digging too. A great way is to also add in treats and toys to let them know this is a good place for having fun.
What Should You NOT Do When A Dog Is Digging?
You should not post up waiting for your dog or startle them in the act.
Nor should you punish them in any way as this is a surefire way to the worst response, especially if they are digging as a result of anxiety.
Instead, form a plan that uses positive reinforcement and the communication of commands such as “no”, “leave it”, or “no-dig” along with the steps listed above in this guide.
It’s not fun to have a dog digging up your yard… but with the right training, it's without doubt, a behavior that can be dug into and corrected.
In some cases, you can just move the area to a new spot they can dig, but if that's not an option, then filling the holes with cayenne pepper, lemon peel, or deer repellent could be a short term fix.
Regardless of the number of times you attempt at correcting this behavior, digging is a natural behavior for a dog to do.
This means you should never punish a dog for this behavior, instead, you should try to understand it in order to take the most appropriate course of action for correction.
About the Author:
Leon Angus is a passionate pet blogger with a plan to improve the internet one post at a time. He is the senior editor of multiple pet websites and in his spare time educates other aspiring pet owners on how to build a business around their passion.