Whether it’s the kitchen tile, or the vegetable garden, or an escape tunnel under the fence, a digging dog can become a problem. I’ve had to learn, for my own reasons (vegetable gardens) how to stop dogs from digging over the years, so here’s a summary of what’s worked for me.
The first thing to know is that this is a normal behavior which your dog has to be trained against. You can’t expect a dog to follow boundaries that haven’t been clearly set by the alpha leader – and that’s you.
How to Understand a Dog’s Digging Habit
The first step in learning how to stop dogs from digging is to understand what they’re thinking about when they decide to do it. Here are the main reasons dogs start digging:
- Wild dogs carve out a den to protect themselves from the weather when sleeping. A bowl of dirt blocks the wind, resists heat in the summer, and stores heat in the winter.
- It’s a fun use of his claws, and a source of exercise.
- Maybe digging gets your attention and leads to interaction.
- He’s got nothing else entertaining to do.
- Dogs who start digging tunnels under the fence may be in a mating cycle or smell a mate.
- Freshly planted gardens have soft dirt. It feels good to play in, so they see no reason to stop digging!
- Along the same lines, some dogs love the smell of the chemicals in fertilizer. Churning it up increases that smell.
- Some breeds are more driven towards digging than others.
- Some dogs are actually doing you a favor! They might be digging to hunt rodents and other critters who are attacking your garden. (Wish I’d known this one when they were puppies!)
- Digging a hole to store food is another habit from the wild.
How To Stop Dogs From Digging
Now that you’ve probably identified one or two likely reasons behind your dog’s digging habit, let’s talk about a few specific solutions that will stop some dogs from digging.
- Dog is bored or has too much energy: Give them play time, obedience training, and exercise.
- Dog is digging to bury food: Feed your dog inside while you are training against digging.
- Dog is digging for fun: When he’s not supervised, keep your dog indoors, in a crate, or build a kennel with a vinyl floor (not plywood – they’ll try to dig thru it and get splinters)
- Dog is digging to escape the fence: Aside from repairing the holes, use black plastic to prevent the dogs from seeing outside. If they can’t see interesting distractions, they might stop digging.
Now, for some more general solutions. These are the training methods that you’ll use to stop dogs from digging for the long term.
- This one is actually fun for you. Bury some air filled balloons throughout your yard, or at least in his favorite digging spots. Dog resumes digging. Dog finds balloon, balloon pops. You snicker slightly. Dog is less amused and begins to dislike digging.
- Bury a layer of chicken wire throughout the yard (or at least their favorite digging spots) just under the soil. Again, this makes them dislike digging.
- If you have the time, you can simply blast them with the hose as soon as they start to dig. You have to be available to catch them every time they do it for at least several days before this will stop your dogs from digging, but at least you didn’t have to till your back yard.
- Don’t let your dogs watch you working in the garden. I couldn’t believe I had to read this one before it occurred to me that one of my dogs was copying my yard work.
Still More Options:
No Need to Stop Dogs From Digging!
Why not give them their own space to dig? Of course, you need the available space, but even a six-foot-square area filled with sand is a great gift for your digging dogs. With just a little bit of training your dogs will understand what the point is.
Pet stores carry various products that claim to stop dogs from digging. It seems to me that these products depend heavily on your dog’s personality, but they’re definitely effective in some cases.
Don’t Forget Separation Anxiety
As with many kinds of problem behaviors, digging may be an outlet for your dog’s separation anxiety. If this might be the case, I wrote a long article about that problem. As a quick fix, simply employ a dog walker to help burn off energy – exercise is known to fight anxiety. For more information, read my full article about separation anxiety in dogs.
If I wanted to get my money savings at the grocery store as a benefit from my garden, I needed to learn how to stop dogs from digging – repeatedly. Each dog was a different case and two of my dogs started again after successful training, for new reasons. And, one of my dogs was doing me a favor by digging, but I didn’t realize it at first!
As always, basic obedience training is a shortcut to solving any behavioral problem, because many dogs will stop what they’re doing just because you said so. Obviously, that’s ideal.