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 for some tips on how to stop a dog from digging so you can get your yard looking nice again.
Dogs dig holes for many reasons, and discovering what’s motivating your pooch can help solve the problem, training experts say. Let’s look at the most common reasons dogs dig up the backyard and what you can do to stop it.
Some breeds are natural-born diggers
Digging is an instinctual behavior that goes back to our dogs’ wild ancestors, say experts at the American Kennel Club (AKC). Many hunting dogs such as terriers, beagles, and dachshunds are bred to dig the prey out of their dens.
The solution: Behaviorists at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) 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.
Digging helps a dog cool down
Does your dog tend to dig holes during the summer months and then lie in the hollow he’s made? Smart dog! The earth under the surface is cool and feels good to your dog.
The solution: Redirect your dog to shady options in the yard such as under a tree or a canopy and praise him when he stays there. You might also consider an all-weather-protection doghouse. In extreme temperatures, your dog should stay indoors.
Digging 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.
The solution: The HSUS recommends attaching chicken wire to the base of the fence to stop escape digging. To avoid problems, never leave your dog alone in the yard for long periods. It’s also important to provide mental stimulation by giving your dog at least two walks a day.
Digging is a great way to bury treasures
In the wild, wolves bury food they can’t eat immediately to protect it from scavengers. Dogs have inherited this behavior, and some will bury toys or bones in the yard.
The solution: 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 the bone.
Some dogs dig for fun
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.
The solution: Keep your dog mentally challenged. In addition to long walks, training experts at the HSUS recommend playing ball or Frisbee or enrolling in training classes.
According to veterinary experts at the AKC, while cayenne pepper may not be harmful to your dog when swallowed, it can irritate his eyes. This could be a problem if a 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.
You can use commercial products or make spray at home to break the digging habit. Keep in mind, 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 making 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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