How To Stop Dogs From Digging?
Bringing a dog into your life should be an amazing, fun experience. But all too often, people’s positive expectations are shattered by their new dog’s painful play-biting, chewing, or digging. No one wants to see big holes appear in their beautiful lawn, or have their flower beds turned upside down. So, how can you stop your new pet from digging up your garden? This article lists the causes for digging – and explains how you can fix this undesirable behaviour.
Why Is My Dog Digging?
Watching your dog put one hole after another into your well-kept garden can be extremely frustrating. Nevertheless, digging is quite a natural behaviour for canines. In the wild, wolves and dogs dig to bury food, to chase ground-dwelling rodents, or to create shallow pits to lie down in. Young canines may dig playfully to explore the different textures of the ground. And before giving birth, female canines either seek out existing animal dens, or they create their own by digging. Canines also scent-mark their territory by scratching the ground.
In domestic settings, dogs can scratch and dig for the very same reasons. But unlike wild canines, pet dogs do not have forests and fields to run and roam. Many dogs never receive enough exercise and mental stimulation to tire them out. As a consequence, many domestic dogs dig to entertain themselves, to play, or to release surplus energy. But genetics play a role as well: Certain breeds are more prone to digging than others. Terriers, Dachshunds, Pinschers, and Schnauzers, for example, were created for hunting rodents. Trying to get into animal dens, or digging up burrows, is in their nature.
How Can I Stop My Dog’s Digging?
So, how can we keep our dogs from destroying our lawn, vegetable plots or flowerbeds? As calm, consistent canine leaders, we do not have to live with this behaviour: We can absolutely address destructive digging. It may take some time and perseverance, but it is well worth the effort.
1. Protect Your Garden
If your dog is prone to digging holes into your garden, there are a few simple things you can do. The first measure is to secure sensitive areas in your garden or backyard. By doing so, you prevent any further harm done to your lawn and garden beds. These safety measures can include:
✓ Fencing in your vegetable plots and flowerbeds
✓ Fencing off a safe running space for your dog (such as a tiled yard, or a piece of unmanicured garden)
✓ Temporarily tethering your dog to a post, or confining them to an outdoor kennel whenever you cannot supervise them
Dog-proofing (respectively, dig-proofing) your garden in this way can effectively break your dog’s habit of getting into their favourite digging spots.
2. Supervise Your Dog
Along with securing your garden, we recommend supervising your dog. We understand that most people neither have the time nor the desire to micromanage their pets. And you will not have to watch every step your dog takes outside for the remainder of their lives. Nevertheless - to counteract digging, some initial supervision is key.
Allowing puppies too much freedom too soon is one of the main reasons why people run into problems: All dogs greatly benefit from having clear rules, boundaries and expectations set up for them. But puppies in particular are prone to “misbehaving” – simply because they do not know any better. Young dogs are brimming with energy, enthusiasm, and the desire to explore the world around them. This is why they mouth, bite and chew so many different things. And sometimes, this desire for zest can lead to digging. Let’s say for example that your puppy is playing with a toy on the lawn. The toy rolls away, and the puppy paws at it. This innocent pawing can then lead to them playfully scratching the ground – which can later escalate into digging.
By supervising your puppy, however, you can stay one step ahead of them: If you are nearby, you can easily stop such scratching: Simply draw your puppy’s attention to you by calling their name - or by picking up the toy and engaging them in a short play session.
3. Use Training Tools
But how can you stop your dog from digging when they are at the other end of your property? This is where training leashes or long lines come in. By putting a leash on your dog before letting them out, you can instantly correct any scratching or digging: first with a verbal correction, and then (should they choose to ignore you) with a pop on the leash.
Our Ragnar Training Leash is an ideal tool for preventing puppies from digging. The leash is also perfect for quickly intervening if your puppy is doing something that could be dangerous for them: for example, picking up stones, chewing on ivy or other toxic plants, or trying to jump into a ditch. Versatile and user-friendly, the Ragnar Training Leash allows you to control dogs with ease. This tool is adjustable in length, and equipped with highly secure carabiner clips at each end. One of the carabiners can be clipped into belt buckles, or worn around the waist. In this way, you can safely tether your puppy to you whilst out in the garden. Whenever you want them to enjoy more freedom, you can let this durable leash trail behind them on the ground. The Ragnar Training Leash works for dogs of any age. So, if you have an adolescent or adult dog that loves to dig, this leash allows for easy corrections. Once corrected, you can redirect your dog’s attention. Then, once they are engaging in the desired behaviour, you reward them.
4. Provide Exercise & Alternative Digging-Spaces
Most domestic dogs are severely under-exercised. They suffer from pent-up energy, boredom and frustration. This in itself can cause destructive behaviours such as digging. Here at Fenrir, we are big proponents of providing plenty of exercise and mental stimulation for our dogs. By taking them on long walks, and allowing them to run, play, and explore, we ensure that their primal needs are met. Tired dogs indeed are good dogs, and tired dogs typically do not dig up their owners’ gardens.
However, if you own a Terrier or a Dachshund, the drive to hunt for rodents underground may be too strong to stop the behaviour entirely. The good news is: You do not have to! Simply provide alternatives. For smaller dogs, sandboxes for children are perfect. Bigger and more powerful terrier breeds (such as the Staffy, the Pitbull or the Airedale) need bigger digging spaces. You can either create a larger pit for them, or set aside a part of unmanicured garden. Dogs are very adaptable, and will gladly accept designated digging areas. They just need a bit of initial conditioning to understand that this is their new “workplace”. To teach them to only dig there, we recommend using all the methods we have listed. You can encourage your dog to dig in their new space by playing with them there. Hiding a ball-toy underneath a thin layer of soil is a good first step. Let them watch you bury the toy, whilst maintaining a nice, polite “Sit & Stay”. Then, encourage them with a cue like “Get it!” Once they move towards the buried toy, praise them. If your dog is hesitant, help them: Start digging for the toy yourself, whilst encouraging your dog to join you. After a few repetitions of this fun exercise, most dogs will be only too happy to use their new digging area.
Digging is a common behaviour for dogs. At the same time, it can be quite frustrating (and even aggravating) to watch your dog maim your garden. However, correcting and redirecting canine digging is relatively easy. And we hope that the tips we have listed in this article are helpful to you. As your dog’s calm, consistent leader, your success in protecting your garden from digging dogs is guaranteed. Be patient, take your time, and soon enough, your dog’s destructive digging will be a matter of the past.