Does your dog totally “dig” digging? Has your once lush lawn been reduced to a patchy field of dirt and holes? While digging is a totally natural behavior for dogs – and they’re just so darn good at it – it isn’t always a welcomed past time. Luckily, with a little patience, some understanding of your dog’s desire to dig, and a few adjustments, it’s easy to deal with a dog that digs.
Why do dogs dig?
Dogs dig for a wide variety of reasons. Knowing why your dog is digging is the first and most important step in curbing the behavior. Your dog may be digging to find a cool, comfortable place to rest on hot days, or likewise, to find warmth on a cold day. He may be digging to find prey, like ground squirrels, lizards, or rabbits whose scent he’s tracked. He may be digging to escape, out of boredom, to bury prized possessions, or, well, because he simply likes it.
Once you’ve determined the reason for your dog’s digging, follow the appropriate steps below to discourage it!
When a Dog Digs for Comfort or Climate Control
If you’ve determined that your dog is digging to create a comfy spot to cool off, there are plenty of other ways to provide shade and shelter that don’t destroy your garden.
In warm weather, a self-cooling dog mat or an elevated pet bed provides a great spot to rest while keeping cool. Find a place that’s well shaded and set up your dog’s very own oasis. When the weather is cold, make sure your dog has a warm place to lay his head with shelter from the elements.
Of course, if it’s very hot or very cold out, the best option is to bring your dog indoors where she’ll be most comfortable by your side.
When a Dog Digs to Chase Prey
Because most dogs are hard-wired to chase prey, teaching a dog not to dig when he’s going after a critter is going to require catching him in the act, diverting his attention with a “leave it” cue, and rewarding him for walking away from what’s so enticing to him. A good, solid, and reliable leave it cue is an absolute necessity for parents of prey-driven dogs, not only to prevent digging, but to prevent darting off during your walks and chasing after potentially dangerous “chew toys” like snakes or frogs.
Although a “leave it” cue is easy to teach, it requires skillful timing, lots of practice, and positive rewards. Check out this article for step-by-step instruction and video for teaching your dog the leave-it cue in under a minute!
Digging to Escape
Dogs can be keen to escape the yard for a variety of reasons – dogs that aren’t spayed or neutered often attempt to escape in order to find a mate, dogs that can see beyond their own yard may want a closer look (especially if the neighborhood stray cat is lounging about), or dogs that aren’t getting enough physical or mental stimulation (in other words, they’re bored) in their own backyard may want to escape just to see what else is out there.
To prevent digging an escape route under the fence, consider burying chicken wire, large rocks or bricks, or concrete footing along the bottom edge of the fence to discourage digging.
If your dog is digging because he’s bored – lucky you! Boredom digging is one of the easiest to stop – you just have to give your dog something better, and more fun, to do than dig!
First and foremost, make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise. A sleepy, well-exercised dog is far less likely to dig as a result of boredom. Next, give your four-legged family plenty of alternative activities while he’s in the backyard. Whether those alternative activities include games of fetch or Frisbee with you, a backyard agility course, or even a favorite squeaky toy or long-lasting chew treat, anything that keeps his body and mind active and stimulated will help to curb boredom digging behavior.
Burying Prized Possessions & Digging for Fun
Try as we might to put an end to it, some dogs simply love digging – and that’s ok! Instead of fighting against your dog’s natural desire to either bury his favorite toys and treats or just to dig for the sheer enjoyment of it, why not give your dog her very own digging zone?
Choose an area of your yard that’s devoted to digging, but do make it a controlled digging zone. Build a sandbox using wood planks or a simple plastic kiddie pool, fill it with dirt or sand, and let your dog have at it! It will take some training, however, to teach your dog which area of the yard is acceptable for her favorite dirty hobby. Bury some favorite toys or treats just below the dirt in your dog’s designated dig zone for her to find. If she chooses to dig elsewhere, simply divert her attention and redirect it to the appropriate dig zone and, reward her handsomely for digging in that area.
– Don’t ever punish a dog for digging. Instead, divert your dog’s attention away from his hole in the lawn and reward desirable behaviors with lots of praise and healthy treats.
– If, despite multiple attempts to curb digging, your dog continues to return to a favorite spot, consider planting dog-safe shrubs or hardy grass, putting down pavers or bricks, or limiting access to the area. Because a dog’s sense of smell is far superior to ours, there may simply be something there that’s just too exciting to ignore.
Do you have any tried and true methods for dealing with digging not mentioned above? Please, share them with us in a comment below!
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