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Learn how to stop a dog from digging up the yard once and for all

These helpful tips can keep your dog from digging holes all over the yard

You look out the window, and your heart sinks as you see dirt flying in all directions. Your dog is having a great time digging yet another hole in the backyard. When this happens, it’s important to remember that while a yard full of craters might be your worst landscaping nightmare, your pup sees it as the perfect playground. It will take time and patience to break the habit, but many dogs can learn to rein in their need to dig. Read on to learn how to stop a dog from digging, so you can get your yard looking nice again.

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30 minutes

What You Need

  • Sandbox

  • Commercial training spray

  • Citronella oil, citrus fruit, or apple cider vinegar

  • Chicken wire

Terrier digging a hole in the backyard

How to stop your dog from digging

Dogs dig holes for many reasons, and training experts say figuring out what’s motivating your pooch can help solve the problem. Let’s look at the most common reasons dogs dig up the backyard and what you can do to stop it.

Step 1: Provide a sandbox.

Some breeds are natural-born diggers. Digging is an instinctual behavior that goes back to our dogs’ wild ancestors. Many hunting dogs, such as terriers, beagles, and dachshunds are bred to dig prey out of their dens.

Behaviorists at the Humane Society of the United States recommend providing a sandbox to meet your dog’s digging needs. Bury a bone in the sand to attract him to his new playground. If you catch him digging outside the box, say, “No digging!” and redirect him to the sandbox. You can make his old digging spots unattractive by temporarily filling the holes with rocks or covering them with mesh wire.

Step 2: Redirect your dog to cooler spots in the yard on really hot days.

Does your dog tend to dig holes during the summer months and then lie in the hollow he’s made? Smart boy! The earth under the surface is cool and feels good to your dog.

Redirecting your dog to shady spots in the yard, such as under a tree, can help. Praise your dog when he stays there. You might also consider an all-weather-protection doghouse. In extreme temperatures, of course, your dog should stay indoors.

Step 3: Keep your dog from trying to escape.

Some dogs dig holes under the fence to escape. This could be in pursuit of wildlife or a neighborhood pet but can also happen if a dog is bored.

Attach chicken wire to the base of the fence to stop escape digging. To avoid this problem altogether, never leave your dog alone in the yard for long periods. It’s also important to provide mental stimulation by walking your dog at least twice a day.

Step 4: Prevent your dog from taking toys into the yard.

In the wild, wolves bury food they can’t eat immediately to protect it from scavengers. Dogs inherited this behavior, and some will bury toys or bones in the yard.

Limit the number of toys or bones you give your dog, so he won’t have extras to hide. Don’t let your dog take toys into the yard, and if he chews on a bone outside, remove it when he loses interest, so he doesn’t have an opportunity to bury it.

Step 5: Keep your dog mentally stimulated.

Many dogs dig just because they enjoy it. Digging turns up interesting smells and offers mental stimulation. This will often happen in places where you’ve recently been gardening.

In addition to long walks, training experts recommend playing ball or Frisbee or enrolling in training classes to provide mental stimulation.

Dog sitting by hole with a bone

Can you use cayenne pepper to stop your dog from digging?

According to the American Kennel Club, while cayenne pepper may not be harmful to your dog when swallowed, it can irritate his eyes. This could be a problem if your dog touches his face or eyes with his paws after digging in an area that’s been sprayed. So, it’s safest to avoid using cayenne pepper as a deterrent.

A brown brindle-coated dog with his head buried in a large hole

What can you use to stop your dog from digging?

You can use commercial products or make spray at home to break the digging habit. Keep in mind that what works for one dog might not deter another. Always check with your veterinarian before using a new product. Experts at Garden Season suggest making natural homemade sprays with citronella oil, apple cider vinegar, or citrus fruit to deter dogs from digging.

If you prefer to go the commercial route, you can choose from several repellents. Here are three products that use natural ingredients:

NaturVet Off Limits Training Spray is a combination of herbal extracts, including clove, garlic, and thyme.

Pet Organics No Dig! includes citronella oil, lemongrass, geranium, clove oil, and thyme oil.

Bonide – Go Away! Rabbit, Dog, and Cat Repellent uses granules instead of spray, with natural ingredients including cinnamon and thyme oils.

Whatever product you choose, be prepared to use it in combination with behavior modification. It will take patience and persistence to break your dog’s digging habit. If you’ve tried everything and your dog is still digging holes in the yard, you may have no choice but to stay out there with him. The good news is that gives you additional time to play or just relax with your buddy. And that’s definitely a win-win for both of you.

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