As we know, when a dog digs, several problems can arise. Does your dog make his landscaping… in your yard? It is possible to give your dog a job other than that of a landscaper.
Of course, a dog that digs is a completely natural behaviour that comes from its ancestors. We have also made a genetic selection for certain breeds such as Terriers so that they are predisposed to digging.
In addition, the dog is having fun digging holes, but it could also be a more serious problem and this article explores this behaviour and how to stop it.
Why Does a Dog Dig?
It’s hard for your dog to stop digging since it’s a self-rewarding behaviour. That is, digging holes is satisfying for him and acts as a reward.
Reasons why your dog digs holes :
- To refresh themselves
- By instinct (often associated with breed)
- To hunt insects or rodents
- To spend energy
- Out of boredom
- To escape
- For pleasure
Plus, each time your dog digs, the behaviour becomes more and more ingrained in his habits. This is why it may take some time to change his behaviour.
How Do You Stop a Dog From Digging?
We understand how irritating it can be for the owner to experience craters appearing in the garden. Thus, we highlight the methods to change the behaviour of a dog.
To stop a dog from digging, redirect his attention to another activity, keep him occupied, find him a suitable place to dig, help him spend his excess energy and manage his environment.
#1 Redirect His Attention
To modify his behaviour, redirect his attention before he even begins to dig.
As soon as you see your dog starts sniffing the ground, grab his attention with his favourite toy or a squeaky toy before he finds the right spot to dig. This means that when your dog is outside, it’s best to always accompany him to make sure he never gets a chance to dig. Yes, it’s a lot of management!
The is to show him an alternative behaviour to that of digging. Over time, your dog will understand that he cannot dig into your plants or your yard.
However, it is important to know that punishment is never the right solution. A dog needs a positive leader to motivate him and show him the right behaviour to adopt.
If you talk to him, even if you say “NO!” or if you take him by the collar to move him away, you don’t teach him what he needs to do instead of digging. So even if he momentarily stops digging, he still hasn’t learned that he can’t do it.
Plus, when you talk to your dog, you may encourage him to dig even more! By talking to him when he digs, he then understands that he gets your attention this way, which motivates him to start again every time he wants to play with you.
#2 Keep Him Busy
Keep him busy by playing with him or giving him a bone or an interactive toy like a Kong. You can also play hide and seek in the yard
Hide kibble, a toy or treats in the yard without him seeing you play treasure hunt. With this in mind, avoid making the task too complex for him to begin with since he could get discouraged and return to his bad habits.
To start this game, make sure it’s a toy or treat of high value so that he is motivated to seek it out.
Here is a list of games to try with your dog to keep him busy :
- Ball or Frisbee
- Treasure Hunt
- Obedience Games
- Interactive Games (Omega Paw, Kong, Sniffing Mat)
- Flirt Pole
- Hide and Seek
If you can’t supervise him, make sure your dog is fully focused on his activity before leaving him unsupervised.
#3 Find a Place Where Your Dog Can Dig
Some dogs feel the need to dig more than others, Terriers being a good example. If so, you can bring him to a dog park, the beach, or any other place where he can dig and thrive.
Don’t worry about letting him dig in the right places. Just because you let him dig somewhere doesn’t mean he’ll do the same in your yard.
In other words, if you teach him that he is not allowed to dig in your yard, you can let him dig elsewhere.
You can show your dog a place in the yard where you don’t mind him digging. To do this, redirect his attention only to the places where you do not want him to dig.
Also, you can get a sandbox or a small children’s pool, fill it with soil or sand and hide bones or toys in it. It’s a great way to meet your dog’s needs without doing too much damage to your lawn.
Thus, he will be less tempted to dig elsewhere in your yard, since he will always find a treasure there. In any case, he will understand over time where he has the right to dig and where he cannot.
#4 Burn Your Dog’s Energy
Some dogs dig to burn their excess energy, and most behavioural problems are due to a lack of stimulation.
If your dog feels like digging, take him for a long walk, play with him or give him any other physical or mental activity that will get him to burn off his energy. It is important to know that mental effort, where your dog needs to concentrate, spends his energy faster than a physical effort.
Also, dogs need to be able to have physical and mental stimulation every day to thrive. By doing this, you will have a dog with fewer behavioural problems. Thus, if your dog is tired, he will not have the energy to dig into your garden.
To stimulate your dog mentally you can give him a sniffing mat, a filled Kong, a liking mat or an interactive bowl.
#5 Manage His Environment
If you have a garden where you do not want your canine companion to be, installing a small decorative fence is favourable.
You can also install fences or rocks where your dog digs most often. These installations will allow him to think twice before digging and it will greatly help him to learn even if they are temporary solutions.
In addition, if you notice that your dog digs and then lies in the hole, it is because he wants to cool off. Set him up in a small shaded area, a children’s pool or a cooling mat on hot days.
Why Does My Dog Dig to Escape?
A dog that digs to escape is due to stress. He tries to calm down by digging, but it may be related to separation anxiety.
This is a complex disorder that is extremely stressful and can put your dog’s health and safety at risk. Dogs with separation anxiety will mostly dog exit points to escape.
If you think your dog is suffering from this disorder, it is advisable to seek the help of a behaviourist who will help you manage his anxiety.
Which Dog Breeds Are Prone to Dig?
Here are some examples of breeds that like to dig :
- Airedale Terrier
- Alaskan Malamute
- Australian Shepherd
- Basset Hound
- Border Collie
- English Setter
- Fox Terrier
- Golden Retriever
- Jack Russell Terrier
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Siberian Husky
Terriers have a natural talent for digging, having been bred to hunt ducks and small animals like rodents. Of course, all dogs are different, so we can’t assume that the breeds mentioned above are necessarily going to have the instinct to dig.
In conclusion, the easiest solution for a dog who wants to dig is to find him a place where he can practice his activity without destroying your garden. It is always better to meet the natural needs of your dog so that he can flourish as much as possible.
Although your dog must be supervised in the yard, take this opportunity to bond with your furry companion. Have a good training!
Bibliographic sources :
GIBEAULT, Stephanie (2019). «Why Does My Dog Dig?», American Kennel Club.
The Humane Society of The United States. «How to get your dog to stop digging».
COSGROVE, Nicole (2022). «20 Dog Breeds that Love to Dig», Hepper.