Digging dogs can cause all kinds of problems in the home, which can range from mildly irritating to downright dangerous. While wrecked flowers and ruined landscaping is expensive, a dog that digs to escape the yard can easily become lost or even killed.
Digging, unfortunately, is a normal and natural canine behavior, just like chewing. However, whereas many dog owners provide their dogs with chew toys to keep them occupied, a dog’s innate drive to dig is largely ignored. Most dogs, if given a nice soft patch of soil or grass, will engage in some kind of digging at some point, particularly if they are young and bored (which is so often the case with dogs left in backyards).
Prevent Dog Digging
There’s a lot you can do to prevent dog digging by channeling your dog’s impulses into appropriate outlets. As with chewing, the goal isn’t to eradicate the behavior, but rather to teach your digging dog where he can acceptably excavate, and where he can’t. Just as you had to teach your dog not to chew on your shoes, but instead on his toys, you’ll need to spend some time educating your dog about acceptable places for digging.
How to Stop a Dog From Digging
The first thing you’ll need to do is create a place where it’s okay for your dog to dig. You can either choose an out-of-the-way space in your garden where he can go to town, or you can create a “dig box” out of a child’s wading pool (they run about $8 at your local drugstore or a big box toy store) or even a large shallow under-bed storage container. Fill up this box with child’s play sand (available at any home improvement store) and place it near your dog’s current digging site. Hide a few toys and new edible chews in the box in a few different locations.
Next, introduce him to his new sandbox, encouraging him to dig in it by praising him and even helping him by digging yourself. This can actually be quite a fun bonding experience… albeit a messy one. He’ll soon figure out that this box is far more exciting than his boring old holes because this special sandbox hides magical treasures.
Remember to keep his digging box filled with desirable objects – even plain old dry dog biscuits are exciting when they’re hidden! And if you work away from home, remember to stock up the digging box before you leave in the morning to keep your dog busy during the day.
Stop Digging Dogs
If you know that your digging dog is especially likely to bullsoze something in particular – recently transplanted seedlings fresh from the nursery are high on the list – block off that tempting area until the soil has had a chance to harden up around the new plants. Fencing off the old holes – even temporarily – will prevent your dog from digging in them while he gets used to using his new digging box.
If you see him attempting to dig in a non-approved area, follow the same techniques you used when he was a puppy to keep him from chewing forbidden objects: startle him with a loud “Ahh!” or other abrupt noise, and then redirect him to the digging box, rewarding him with praise in a happy, upbeat voice when he begins to dig in the right place.
If your dog has dug any deep holes, or holes near fencing, fill them up with coarse gravel or river rock before covering them up with a layer of dirt. Dogs generally avoid digging in rocks because it’s uncomfortable on their pads.
Finally, provide your dog with more exercise and consider limiting access to old haunts while you get the digging under control. A dog that is exhausted will generally want to just conk out in the sun rather than excavate your lilies.
Some regular agility training or a couple of great enrichment toys can be just the thing to keep your dog in a general state of blissful stimulation and well-earned exhaustion!