Dogs dig for a number of reasons, and while not harmful it can leave the garden looking less than spectacular.
Before you give up on those prize roses, we share with you some of our tips on how to curb your dog’s digging behaviour and get your garden back for good.
Digging dogs can make a real mess of the garden. These budding archaeologists have many reasons to dig. They will dig to join in with you if you like to garden, they will dig a hole to keep cool, bury bones or out of boredom. Each cause needs a specific solution. For all dogs who like to dig, setting up their own digging spot can help to redirect the behaviour. To make sure the plants are safe and the garden is secure, a few simple adjustments can help to save the garden without resorting to punishment.
Set Up A Digging Spot
If your dog loves to dig, rather than just try to stop him, redirect the behaviour to a more appropriate place in the yard. Either section off an existing area for him or buy a sandpit or shell-pool that he can use. Sand is actually much better and cleaner than soil for your dog to dig in, as soil often contains moulds and fungal elements. You can make this spot more attractive by burying toys there and digging there together to show him how it works. Whenever you see him digging, gently lead him to his spot and praise him for digging there. Many dogs will join in while you are gardening, so having a place he can dig means he can stay outside with you while you work and do his own ‘gardening’.
How to Secure the Garden
To protect plant root systems, place large pebbles or rocks around the base of the plant. If your dog is digging along the fence, consider underground chicken-wire or pavers to prevent him from tunnelling out. Avoid any particularly attractive compost and manure in the garden. Many dogs will also like to dig in nice fresh soil, so avoid putting any new soil or plants in for a while, until he is reliably digging in his spot. There are numerous ineffective products available to stop digging, so be wary of where you spend your money. Far better to invest in some toys and chews to keep your dog occupied.
We don’t recommend punishment to deter behaviour, you are much better off redirecting behaviour and rewarding good behaviour, rather than punishing. It is very difficult to remotely punish without your dog seeing you, so spraying your dog with the hose can really backfire. Who really wants their dog to fear them and fear retribution, particularly when most of the time dogs have no idea what they are being punished for.
Digging to Keep Cool
Some dogs will dig a nice hole then lie in it to keep cool. Look at ways you can make their bed a bit cooler and more comfortable. This might mean moving it to a more shady area or placing frozen drink bottles inside or wet towels over the top. Make sure there is no carpet on the floor of a kennel and that all bedding can be placed in the machine on a hot cycle (over 140F/60C) to help reduce things that cause itch such as fleas and allergies to dust mites. There is no point in washing the blankets or the cover on a pillow when creepy crawlies can live within bulky bedding. A great cool, flea and mite resistant bed for bigger dogs is a trampoline style bed, which allows air to circulate under the bed on those hot days.
If your dog is digging to hide toys or bones, he is placing them in his savings account for later. These bones can be pretty disgusting by the time they are exhumed, so consider changing him onto something less perishable such as a pigs ear, greenie or a dried kangaroo tail. When you give him a bone, give it to him instead of his breakfast, so that you can be sure he will eat it. Make sure all bones are raw, and consider chicken necks if your dog still buries his bones, as they can be eaten in their entirety and are nice and small. Always supervise your dog with bones and make sure he is not damaging his teeth or attempting to eat too quickly without proper chewing.
Keep Boredom at Bay
If your dog is digging due to boredom, take him out for a walk or run in the morning, it doesn’t need to be a long walk, but the mental stimulation will help to keep him happy at home. Consider extra training, a dog walker to come in the middle of the day, or doggy day-care to keep him busy. Also look at the various, toys and treats available to keep him busy while you are gone. Chewing is a known boredom buster and stress reliever for dogs, so a nice Kong filled with treats is ideal. With any toy, make sure he is safe, he shouldn’t be chewing pieces off the toy and swallowing them, and if your dog is fond of chewing very hard things, get your veterinarian to check his teeth.
- Set up a digging spot for your dog.
- Avoid punishment, but gently redirect your dog to an appropriate area and praise when he digs there.
- Keep your dog well exercised and occupied with toys and something to chew.
- Only feed bones when he is hungry.