How To Stop Dogs Digging Up The Garden

It’s terrible to see holes everywhere in your beautiful garden whenever you let your dog out playing in the garden. He is killing all the plants around the holes that you have been spending time and patience nurturing.

To save your plants, you would have to think of ways to make your dog stop doing that annoying digging or you would have to keep him away from the yard.

In order to work on correcting this behavior, it is important to know what makes your dog digs?

Knowing why dogs like to dig should be your FIRST task in getting them to stop digging. Dogs dig for various reasons, such as to ease their boredom, to flatten their overgrown nails, genetic influence, weather changes or separation of anxiety. When you know the triggers, you can work on the RIGHT solutions.

Why Does Your Dog Like Digging?

To effectively train your dog to stop any unwanted behavior such as digging, you would need to know why he is doing it in the first place.

You see, your dog often digs for certain reasons such as for fun, to ease his boredom, to create a cooling spot for him, to hunt for things underground or even as an attempt to escape from the yard.

The surprising trend is that you would often see him going back to the same spot to continue with his digging.

Getting to know what triggers your dog to dig will certainly help in correcting his behavior.

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Boredom – No Outlet For Releasing His Energy

Did you meet your dog’s physical and mental needs? Did you allocate time for your dog to release his energy daily? Common behaviors exhibited by dogs when they are full of energy include chewing, barking at the door and digging.

Physical and mental exercise are essential to help your dog let off his energy so that he will not have that excessive energy to do his “extra” activity which is digging. 

Physical games such as “Tug of War”, Flirt Pole, Frisbee as well as chasing bubbles could be ways for your dog to let off his energy. These games will make your dog exhaust much of his energy and keep him in low energy mode.

Of course, you should not miss out on mental exercise as well. I would love to get my dog to play with a treat dispensing toy as it would make him utilize his brain power to think of a way to get that tasty peanut butter out from the toy.

I would also include obedience training as part of the mental exercise for my dog. This training will require him to learn new commands and make him use his brain power to execute them.

So make sure that you have planned sufficient activities for your dog to keep him both physically and mentally simulated.

Overgrown Nails Lead to Digging

This is often an overlooked factor. When your dog’s nails are outgrown, he will tend to do some activities that can help him to flatten his long nails and one of the activities will be digging.

Your dog will find it very uncomfortable to walk with long nails and digging is his way to “self-help” trimming his nail.

So if you hear the sound of the nails when your dog is walking around the house or outside, it’s time to trim his nails.

I would suggest that you do a routine check on his nails when you are playing with him to ensure that his nails are well taken care of. 

By making sure that you keep your dog’s nails ground down a bit, he will not be getting that “fun” experience in his digging.

Genetic Influence

Some breeds of dog (such as terriers) have the natural instinct to hunt and dig. They simply just have the urge to dig and feel that is a fun and exciting activity.

They could even smell the scent of other animals – (such as Worms, Bees, Termites, Moles, Gophers and kangaroo mice) living underground and this could also trigger his excitement to dig for it. 

This is especially so if your dog belongs to a hunting breed which comes with a super sensitive nose.

What you can do is to:

Create A Dig Pit For Him

Since your dog likes to dig, why not designate an area specially for him to do his digging? This will prevent him from digging everywhere in your garden, destroying all the plants.

You can encourage your dog to dig in this specially reserved pit by loosening up the soil (dogs like to dig at areas where the soil is loosened up), bury some toys or treats in it so that your dog will feel rewarded for doing his digging there. 

This will make him love to do his digging at this spot as he gets to experience “surprises” such as treats or toys hidden in the area.

Weather Changes

If you find your dog’s digging habit only happens whenever there are extreme weather changes – either too hot or cold, this could be his way to keep himself adapting to the weather changes.

Your dog knows that the ground is cooler a few inches from the surface, so he starts his digging to get that “cooling” spot for him to rest on when the weather gets heaty.

This could also happen when the weather turns cold. In this case, your dog is trying to get a warmer spot from the ground to keep himself from the cold weather.

What you can do is:

1. Prevent him from going outdoor when the weather gets extremely hot or cold.

2. If the weather is too hot, get him to rest on a cooling pad.

3. If the weather is too cold, get him to rest on a warm blanket.

To Escape From The Yard

If you find that your dog is digging around the fences rather than on some random spots, he might be attempting to make his escape from the garden.

There are few possible reasons for this:

1. If your dog has not been neutered, he might be attempting to escape to look for a mate. For this case, you might want to consider neutering your pet.

2. He is suffering from separation anxiety. This is pretty common if your dog is new to your home and away from his pack member. He might be feeling lonely and wants to escape to look for his siblings. For this case, you should spend more time with him to build his trust and bond.

The “Poop” Trick

Keep your dog feces as they will come in handy when you need your dog to stop his digging.

This is what you would do:

1. Fill up holes that are created by your dog’s digging with his own poop and cover it up. 

2. The next time your dog goes back to the same spot and starts digging, he will notice his own feces and will be drawn back and leave the area immediately.

3. This works marvelously for my dog and makes him do away with his digging. 

4. If your dog starts digging in another new spot in the garden, just repeat the exact same process (burying his feces in the holes). The goal is to make your dog associate digging with a negative experience (seeing his own poop) to make him feel that digging is no longer a fun experience for him.

5. Of course, depending on your dog’s reaction, you may have to do this for several rounds before your dog finally gives up his digging habit.

Use of Scents That Repel Dogs From Digging

Dogs do not like the strong scent of citrus (such as orange, lemons or limes) and you could make use of this to your advantage.

Bury some orange or lemon peels on the holes left by your dog. When your dog goes back to the same spot for his next round of digging, he would be discouraged from his digging by the strong scent.

You could also purchase some readily available cayenne pepper powder and spread them onto the holes. This works great as the scent is rather irritating to your dog’s sensitive nose.

How about setting up a physical barrier on the holes created by your dog to deter him from digging.

You can do this by getting some big stones to cover the holes. The rough and hard surface of the stones will certainly make him uncomfortable to step on and will make him go away.

Use of Chicken Wire

This will be for the case where your dog likes to dig near the fence. Consider getting chicken wire and place them on the ground and put some gravel on top of it. This will make the ground extremely uncomfortable for your dog to do his digging.

Behavior Training – Long Term Solution

While the above solutions will provide a quick fix on addressing your dog digging behavior, you should work on the long term approach which is to make your dog do away with this behavior even when you are not around.

This can be done in 3 steps: (Supervise – Communicate – Redirect)

Keep Close Supervision

This will help you to uncover that moment when your dog attempts to or starts his digging and do the correction right away. Do not let your dog get away with his digging else it will become his habit.

Remember, you cannot correct it when you can’t see it!

By supervising closely, you will be able to redirect him with the right behavior.

Communicate Expectations When Negative Behavior Occurs

You caught him in the act and now it’s time to communicate to him that this is not the right behavior that he should act on!

If your dog is being trained on some basic obedience commands, you can use the “No” or “Leave It” command for him to back off and stop the digging behavior.

It’ important that when you catch him going to or in the midst of doing the act, communicate clearly to him what you expect from him (which is he should not be digging) so that he will be able to associate that as a negative experience during the redirection stage!

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Redirection Stage

So you have caught him in the act, communicate to him what you expect and now it’s time for the redirection training!

Keep in mind that you should NEVER go straight to the redirection stage without the previous 2 stages (Supervision and Communication).

The communication stage is extremely important to avoid your dog from thinking that by digging, you are rewarding him for this behavior.

Get ready some of his favorite treats or toys and redirect his attention to it once you say to him the ”No” or “Leave It” command. If he responds, reward and praise him. The goal is to make him associate “no digging” with positive rewarding experiences!

He should learn that the reward is given to him as the result of him stopping his digging action.

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