Digging is a natural doggy trait that dogs do for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, your lawn or garden bed can pay the price for your furry friend’s inclination to dig. Dogs have many reasons that they head underground, so you’ll need to understand their motivation to create an effective plan to stop dog frequent digging. Learn about why dogs dig — and how to stop dogs from digging.
Why Do Dogs Dig?
Digging is known as a “self-reinforcing” habit that’s tough for dogs to resist. To them, it’s fun and feels good. However, digging habits can be disruptive. It might also be a sign that your pup is upset. That’s why observing and understanding why your dog digs is crucial for safely addressing the issue. Below are a few of the most common reasons for digging.1
Dogs like to have something to do. So, if you leave them alone in the backyard for extended periods of time, they may decide to fill their schedule with some extracurricular activities — like digging. This is one of the most common reasons that dogs dig, and, fortunately, it’s one of the easiest to address.2
Dogs are natural hunters. If you have critters, like moles, gophers, or voles cruising around underground in your yard, your dog can smell and hear these animals and may want to set chase.3
Dogs, like their human owners, enjoy being comfortable. If they get cold or hot outside, they’ll do their best to remedy the situation by making themselves a shelter. Often, that means digging a hole where they can escape uncomfortably high temperatures.4
Canines are curious explorers by nature, and that fence is keeping them from meeting new fluffy friends and seeing new things. Dogs that dig to escape typically do so along a fence. So, if you find lots of holes at the base of the fence, that may indicate that your pooch desires to get on the other side.5
Some dogs suffer from anxiety when their owners leave them alone. Sometimes, this nervous energy can manifest itself into destructive behaviors, like chewing and digging. Sadly, this kind of manic digging can be destructive and result in dogs injuring their paws and nails. Monitor how your dog behaves when you leave them alone in the backyard to gauge their separation anxiety levels.6
Certain dog breeds are simply natural born diggers. Terriers and dachshunds, in particular, were bred to chase critters, like rats. Oftentimes, the chase would lead underground, and the dog would have to dig after their prey. Digging is deeply ingrained in the DNA of these hunting breeds and can be tough to unlearn.7
How To Stop Dogs From Digging
You can begin to develop a no-digging strategy now that you understand why your canine friends dig. Typically, trying to suppress your dog’s instinctive behavior is not the best strategy.
Instead, you want to redirect their digging instincts toward a healthy, less destructive outlet. This is best done with positive reinforcement techniques that reward and praise good behavior. You can find ideas for safe and friendly training methods below.8
Give Your Pup Lots Of Physical Exercise And Social Interaction
Dogs have a lot of energy, especially if they are young. If you leave them alone in the backyard without any distractions for a long time, they may expend that pent-up energy with frequent digging. You can reduce this urge by providing lots of quality playtime, socializing, and walking.
Additionally, you can leave toys and puzzles in the backyard to distract and entertain your pooch.9
Supervise your dog as often as you can when they go outside onto the lawn. If you see them start to dig, try to distract them with a toy. Then, focus their attention on a more appropriate behavior, like playing. The main objective is to distract, interrupt, and then redirect their energy to try to discourage future digging.10
Build Acceptable Digging Areas
Trying to train dogs out of their natural habits, like digging, can prove counterproductive. Rather than teaching your dog not to dig, you can embrace the digging by giving them a designated digging spot. You could build a sandbox or add soil to an area where you want your furry friend to dig. Bury a few of their favorite toys in the designated dig zone to attract their attention.11
Additionally, you can build barricades around the areas you don’t want your dog to dig. You can place rocks or erect a small fence to create no-dig areas. If you catch them digging in these restricted zones, redirect their attention to the acceptable digging area with lots of positive reinforcement.12
Provide Them With A Shelter
Dogs are no dummies. If there’s hot weather outside, they know how to cool off: by digging a hole into that cool soil under your grass. If your dog doesn’t have adequate coverage from the sun and heat, they’ll often try to cool off by digging. Alternatively, canine companions will also dig holes to escape the wind and cold weather.13
That is why you need to provide your dog with a solid shelter, like a dog house, to protect them from the elements and eliminate the need to dig a hole for relief.
Stop The Hide-And-Seek
Most dogs descend from a long line of hunting hounds. In the past, their ancestors hid tasty treats in the ground to save for future eating. Your dog still has these instincts, even though they have a steady supply of food. One of the best ways to discourage this hiding of food or toys is to dig up and dispose of any toys or bones that they’ve hidden.14
Keep your dog’s hunting instincts at bay by removing rodents from your backyard. Your dog won’t need to dig after any pests if they aren’t present. Use safe pest removal methods or trained professionals to get rid of rodents that might provoke your dog to dig in the lawn.15
Your dog may be doing more than digging out in the backyard. They may also be eating dirt along the way. Dogs will sometimes consume dirt if they are missing some nutrients in their diet. Additionally, they will eat dirt to soothe an upset stomach. If your dog has lots of soil around their mouth, you may want to schedule a vet visit to ensure everything is good with their diet and tummies.16
Avoid Punishing To Stop Dog Frequent Digging
Punishing your dog for digging behavior is like punishing a cat for stretching. For your dog, digging is a totally natural behavior — and punishing them might only encourage more digging. Instead, focus on using positive reinforcement with treats and praise to reward your dog for following commands and demonstrating good behavior in the backyard.17
Don’t Let The Digging Get You Down
There are a variety of reasons that your dog might dig in the backyard. Take the time to observe their behavior to determine what motivates their backyard excavations. They may be curious about what’s on the other side of the fence. Or, your dog may be bored and in need of some mental stimulation.
Once you have an idea of why your dog digs, you can begin to address the issue with one of the strategies above. Hopefully, implementing one of these methods will distract your dog’s attention away from the dirt and toward a less destructive pastime.
But, at the end of the day, if you still can’t stop dog frequent digging, you may consider leaving them in the house when you aren’t around to supervise. Do your best, and keep in mind that your dog doesn’t mean any harm by digging. They’re only doing what they know how to do best: being a dog.
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