How to Stop Dogs Digging. A Helpful and Useful Guide. If you’ve spent years turning your backyard into a true Garden of Eden, you’re likely to be less than appreciative if your dog attempts to offer a helping paw. Still, we’re inclined to forgive a one-time offender.
However, if your pooch continues digging holes no matter what you do, the situation could quickly become incredibly frustrating. But don’t worry — today, we’re spilling all the beans on how to stop your dog from digging. Now before we let you consider some of the solutions that will curb your pup’s digging habits, we should also talk about why it developed them in the first place. So let’s talk about destructive behaviors and why they occur.
Destructive Behavior in Canines
Many dog owners look at their pets’ destructive behaviors and think that that’s just how they are, and how they’re always going to be. But that’s not necessarily the case! In fact, pulling on a leash, barking, chewing, digging, aggressive jumping, and play biting are symptoms of a larger problem. If you want to know how to stop your dog from digging holes, you’ll first need to understand why it tends to engage in these kinds of behaviors in the first place.
Luckily, we do have some good news for you. Pups that engage in destructive behavior are often incredibly intelligent. So they actually want you to show them how to behave, they want to learn. If you’re willing to invest some of your time and attention into your hound’s training, you’ll find it really receptive to instructions.
Most importantly, we should note that physical punishment or verbal scolding rarely achieve the desired effects. First of all — you should never be aggressive with your dog. In any case, a small percentage of dogs will perceive your physical punishment as harsh cuddles. However, the more likely scenario is that hitting your pet will break its trust in you. Either way, you won’t get what you want — which is for it to stop the destructive behavior.
In fact, the behavior may even worsen. After all, to a dog, all attention is good attention. So if you’re only interacting with it to scold it after it’s done something bad, you’re only reinforcing the behavior. If it’s pawing through your yard out of boredom or separation anxiety, it’s actually trying to get your attention by any means necessary.
There are several reasons why a dog might engage in destructive behavior. In fact, some of the reasons are the same for all kinds of destructive behavior. However, if you want to figure out how to stop your dog from digging holes in your yard, you’ll have to focus on the specific behavior you’re trying to prevent.
Boredom, Loneliness, and Anxiety
Still, one thing is the same across the board. If a pup is bored or lonely, it’ll be more likely to act out. It may just start digging to see the dirt fly everywhere. Basically, if your dog spends a majority of its day alone in your yard, you should expect it to have a lot of pent up energy. You’d be bored too if you were alone all day, every day! Fortunately, the fix is easy: you just need to spend some more quality time with your pooch!
On the other hand, some canines generally have higher energy levels than others. Additionally, smaller breeds are also naturally more anxious than others. In that case, you’ll need to control your dog’s environment better to eliminate any possible stressors. Still, in order to learn how to stop your dog from digging holes, you’ll need to also understand the underlying causes of its anxiety.
Sometimes, the stressor can be in the environment itself. Specifically, many dogs dig to escape unpleasant surroundings. For example, if they don’t have adequate shelter in the backyard, they may simply be trying to burrow. That usually happens in extreme weather, so during the height of summer or winter. Basically, the ground remains cool in the summer and maintains the pup’s body heat in the winter. So if you really don’t appreciate your pup rearranging your roses, consider making it a comfortable hiding spot.
Furthermore, some pets even dig right next to the fence in order to escape the yard. In those cases, we recommend putting a stop to it by physically preventing digging. Additionally, you may want to solve whichever problem is prompting your pup’s escape attempts. Is it running from the yard or toward something on the other side of the fence?
If you establish that your dog dislikes its environment, try to fix whatever is causing the distress. It could be as simple as cleaning up the mess if there is any. On the other hand, it may be digging under the fence in order to run after something, such as passing cars or other mutts. In that case, try to prevent it from seeing or hearing whatever’s triggering it. If everything else fails, you may have to keep your dog inside your home.
Lastly, if you want to know how to stop your dog from digging holes, you should also take its instincts into account. For one, if you leave it alone with its toys or with snacks, don’t be surprised if they start disappearing. Like many other animals, dogs are prone to hiding their possessions for later use. Whether that’s a juicy piece of meat (that definitely won’t stay fresh underground) or its favorite chew toy, your pet loves to know that its things will wait for it.
Also like many other animals, dogs can also forget where they left their loot. Toys, in particular, tend to lose their scent after a while, so finding them may require some more digging than you’d like.
Aside from the animal instinct to stash things away, you also may be dealing with the natural canine hunting instinct. Remember, your pooch can smell and hear much better than you. So if you do happen to have something else burrowing around your garden, just below the surface, it’ll probably hear it.
It’ll also want to hunt it down, which will result in your backyard being riddled with holes. Some breeds are more predisposed to burrowing after pray. For example, if you have a terrier or a dachshund, that makes this scenario even more likely.
Hopefully, these suggestions will help you determine why your pup is misbehaving. However, if you’re still puzzling over the reason, we recommend consulting a canine behavior expert. Still, now that we know the possible stressors, let’s get into how to stop your dog from digging holes in your backyard.
- Don’t do gardening with your dog present
- Don’t leave them alone with toys or treats
- Eliminate Stress
- Create a pleasant environment
- Solve potential pest issues
- Physical and mental exercise
- Use digging deterrents
- Create a digging zone
Once you figure out why your pup is trying to get to China, figuring out how to stop your dog from digging holes should be easy. We’ve scoured the Internet to find the greatest tips from canine training experts, and here’s what we’ve come up with.
1. Don’t Tend to Your Garden With the Dog Present
The first tip we have for you is to do with our pets’ natural tendency to imitate human behavior. It’s one of the ways for them to establish a connection with their owners. So if dogs are prone to the same kinds of behavior, you might want to avoid gardening in their presence.
After all, no amount of scolding will help if your dog sees you digging up the garden yourself. On the days when you need to weed your flowers or turn the soil, you ought to keep the dog inside the house. Alternately, have someone take it out for a walk. Either way, make sure it doesn’t see you rummaging through the ground.
2. Don’t Let Them Be Alone Outside With Toys or Snacks
If you’re wondering how to stop your dog from digging holes to stash its toys or snacks, the answer is really simple. Make sure that you’re not leaving your pet alone outside with things it usually wants to bury. If you’ve noticed that it’s particularly possessive of a certain toy, don’t leave it unsupervised while it’s playing with it. Otherwise, you’ll find a hole in the grass where the toy used to be.
3. Eliminate Stress
While our previous two tips were fairly common sense and easy to implement, eliminating stress from a dog’s life seems like more of an abstract concept. However, here we’re specifically talking about separation anxiety and loneliness. If you want to avoid having your garden ransacked, you’ll need to start spending quality time with your dog.
Basically, take it out on walks, engage with it, and give it plenty of physical affection. Above all, don’t leave it alone in the yard for long periods of time. Remember, you’re the center of your dog’s whole world. It wants to spend time with you, even if it’s just lounging around your room.
Bringing your dog inside will also eliminate some of the other stressors that may be at play here. For example, if it’s digging to run away and chase after neighborhood mutts, bringing it inside would eliminate the temptation.
On the other hand, if you can’t do that, you can also make sure your dog can’t see passersby through the fence, by setting up an opaque tarp over it. Still, your dog will still be able to smell and hear whatever it is it wants to chase. If it keeps digging by the fence, we’ll talk about how you can physically prevent that later.
4. Create a Pleasant Environment
Before we stray too far from the subject of eliminating stress, we should also mention environmental causes for digging. As we have already established, extremely high or low temperatures do tend to make dogs look for shelter. If your dog is digging holes just so it could lie in them, it’s almost certainly looking for adequate shelter.
Fortunately, you could make one easily enough. But first, you need to establish which conditions it’s looking to escape. Your base should be the same — you can use any old crate you find. During the summer, you won’t need to add further embellishments to its den, just make sure that it’s in a heavily shaded area, with fresh water nearby. However, during the winter, you’ll want to line the inside with blankets. Once again, make sure that drinking water is nearby, as dogs have been known to eat snow if they don’t have access to water.
5. Solve Potential Pest Issues
Now, if your pet is digging through your yard to satisfy its urge to hunt, that’s another issue altogether. You’ll know that you have a pest issue if your dog is unusually jumpy before they start digging. Separating it from the spot it’s pawing at will also be extremely difficult — that’s its canine focus at work.
Obviously, you shouldn’t punish your dog for digging in any case, but especially this one. After all, it’s alerted you to a much greater issue. So if you do have pests, figure out what sort of animal you’re dealing with before planning your defense strategy. You may also want to consult a pest expert at this point. In the meantime, keep your dog inside.
6. Physical and Mental Exercise
Believe it or not, exercise actually solves over 90% of all canine behavioral issues. Usually, dogs who exhibit destructive behavior are either attention-starved or under stimulated. If your dog is outside all alone every day, it’s probably lonely and in dire need of some exercise.
Fortunately, as we have previously mentioned, dogs who are sometimes destructive are usually incredibly intelligent. They want to have something other than digging to focus on. At first, you can try to switch out the toys they get to play with every day, or even a few times per day. However, ultimately, the only thing that’ll work is your engagement.
Just like us, dogs want to be entertained. So if a simple walk won’t cut it, try to play a game of fetch. If your dog doesn’t know how to play yet, it’ll be up to you to teach it. There are plenty of videos online that are full of expert tips from professional dog trainers, even about something as simple as playing fetch.
The key is to establish the rules firmly. Let your dog know that you’re not playing if it won’t hand over the toy or if it keeps reaching for it before you’ve thrown it. Make it clear to your dog that you’re not entertained by its antics. Having this kind of structured playtime in its life will hone your dog’s ability to focus. It’ll also require more of its mental acumen and energy, which will tire it out.
Remember, a tired dog is a happy dog. You’ll know you’ve done a good job if your dog is panting and drooling by the end of playtime. And, of course, there are plenty of dog sports you can try once fetch stops being fun.
7. Use Digging Deterrents
Now, you may be wondering how to stop your dog from digging holes if exercise doesn’t do the trick. Well, there are several ways to create physical barriers that would prevent its paws from making much of a mess.
For one, if you’ve noticed that it keeps returning to the same few spots, the simplest solution is to cover them with crates, boards, or rocks. Large, flat rocks will be particularly hard for your pet to turn, so we recommend those. However, you should keep in mind that the grass won’t be able to grow back until you remove whatever obstacle you set up. So your dog will need to learn to stop digging at some point. Don’t worry, though — we still have one tip to share that might help with that.
Aside from crates and rocks, you can also use chicken wire and wire mesh to discourage digging. Before you fill up the hole your dog’s made, put a piece of chain-link wire on the ground. When you’re sure the wire is secure, cover it with dirt. The next time your dog starts digging, it won’t be able to get more than an inch deep. After a while, it’ll give up.
A similar idea we’ve seen involves burying a slightly inflated balloon in the holes your dog is repeatedly coming back to. You don’t want to overinflate the balloon because the noise might frighten the dog. But if you inflate it just enough, the sound of the balloon popping will surprise the dog enough to discourage the behavior.
Lastly, you can also use motion-triggered sprinklers or alarms to protect sections of the garden you want to remain free from holes.
8. Create a Digging Zone
Finally, if there’s no curing your dog of its digging obsession, you can also create a digging zone for it. Now, if you want to know how to stop your dog from digging holes, you won’t learn it from this tip. In fact, a digging zone is your last-ditch effort to get your pup to color inside the lines when everything else has failed. So how do you do this?
Well, you’ll want to find a spot you don’t mind being ruined, somewhere away from fences and foundations. There, you’ll dig a small hole to put your pup’s favorite toy in, then cover it up with dirt. That should encourage the dog to dig in that specific area. Then, when it does, shower it with praise. Moreover, you can also use digging deterrents to discourage it from digging elsewhere.
Keep Your Garden Pristine and Hole-Free To Stop Your Dog Digging
After your dog stops rummaging through your roses, your yard may not be able to bounce back immediately. Fortunately, with a bit of TLC, you should be able to completely recover the space in a matter of weeks. However, before you can fully commit yourself to the task of helping your garden thrive, you need to figure out how to stop your dog from digging holes in the first place.