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Dog Digging

9 Tips to Stop Digging for Good (Video)

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Today’s article may as well be written from the growing hole in my backyard. Lately, Leroy has been digging more than usual. It may not have been a problem if it weren’t for the fact that the chickens can fit through the hole to get outside the fence. And that leads to a very grumpy Ash having to chase down some silly birds on more than a few freezing mornings.

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I found out pretty quickly that Leroy was digging because some moles had moved in for the winter. But dogs dig for a lot of reasons, and it isn’t always so easy to figure out why. And what’s worse, once you do know why, it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to stop them right away. I’ve had more experience with this problem than I ever wanted, because Boxers tend to dig quite a lot, even in the winter (even if they aren’t bored). So I gathered up some of my favorite tips for stopping this behavior, and put them in this handy list for you guys.

Why Do Dogs Dig?

Before I list off those tips, though, I wanted to talk a little about why dogs dig. In order to know how to get your dog to stop digging, it’s a good idea to figure out why he’s digging in the first place. There are a few main reasons for this kind of behavior:

  • They might be too hot or too cold. The dirt that is just under the surface is cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
  • They might be bored. Some dogs just enjoy digging and find it a fun thing to do when they are bored. Terriers do this a lot, but really any breed could develop this habit.
  • They might be hiding something they think is special. Dogs used to hide food stores as wild animals, and this instinct is still very strong in a lot of dogs.
  • They might be hunting. Some dogs will root out pests that burrow underground by digging for their homes.
  • They might be feeling lonely. Some dogs channel anxious energy into digging, or they may try to dig an escape to come and find you if they are feeling alone.
  • They might actually be trying to escape. If your dog sees another dog that they want to go play with, or they smell something good down the street, or are distracted by something else, they may be digging as a way to get out.
  • Finally, some dogs may actually be digging up something to eat if they are really hungry or are suffering from a medical condition known as pica, where a nutrient imbalance causes them to crave soil.

Try to figure out if your dog falls into any of these situations, and you’ll know how to tackle the digging. If you aren’t sure that your dog falls into any of these categories, then he’s probably just bored. Here are some tips to help stop the digging, whatever the reason.

(1) More Supervision

The first thing that you can do is be with your dog more often. There are a few reasons why supervising your dog when outside can help stop digging. First, your dog will be so excited that you are around, that they’ll have plenty of distraction to stop bad behaviors. Second, your dog won’t be suffering from loneliness or anxiety if you are around. While you’re out there with your dog, it’s time to play! If you aren’t able to, or don’t want to, be particularly active every time you go outside, grab one of those ball tossers so that you can easily keep your dog busy.

This tip is especially important for puppies or dogs that aren’t all the way trained. They need plenty of supervision so that you can correct bad behavior in the moment. Dogs don’t understand when you get on to them for something they did in the past. The only way to deter a behavior you don’t want is to catch them in the moment and correct it then. So you need to be around when and where they normally dig.

(2) Leave It Command

In some cases, the problem may be that you don’t have a command for your dog when they are digging. You could try heel or come, but what if you catch them when you’re on your way out the door? One good command to have in your back pocket for this and other situations is “Leave It”. This command instructs your dog to turn away from whatever he is currently investigating. This could mean dropping a shoe he’s picked up, getting away from a pile of trash, or stepping away from a fresh digging hole. As you can see, it’s a useful one.

(3) Give Them a Space to Dig

Some dogs just really love to dig, and you may have a hard time getting them to stop completely. If this is the case, it could be a better option to teach them where they can dig, and where they can’t. Set them up a sandbox or choose a part of your yard that you can sacrifice and create visual boundaries in that space (as if you were making a sandbox). Then teach your dog to dig only in this area. This is especially important for dogs that have a strong drive to hide treats. They’ll have a place where they can satisfy their instincts.

(4) Get Rid of Yard Pests

My problem was moles, but in other seasons, it’s often rabbits and prairie dogs. If you have a problem with small prey that tunnels underground causing your dog to dig, you may need to call in some pest control. This is a good idea for other reasons beyond the digging. These animals can often carry bacteria or diseases that your dog can catch if he eats one; at the very least, he’s likely to get worms. Keeping these pests to a minimum is helpful for your dog and your yard.

You can set traps, get a better fence, and put up some natural deterrents like a scarecrow. If you do use a professional, be sure that you understand how their chemicals may affect your dog. You may need to keep them away from certain areas of the yard for a few days till the chemicals are all soaked up by the ground. And be sure you watch them around any standing water in your yard if you go this route – it could have chemical pesticide in the water after a treatment.

(5) Yes, More Exercise

I know this is never what anyone wants to hear, but a bored dog is a destructive dog. If your dog is digging and you can’t figure out any reason why, she probably needs more exercise. Try giving her an extra walk one day, or head to a dog park and have a very vigorous game of tug of war. Invite over some younger relatives or set up a puppy play date. Whatever you need to do to keep her busy and tire her out, do it. I’ll bet you that the digging comes to a halt for a while! Here’s a really cool toy I found recently that I plan to try for Leroy: a Frisbee you can throw for fetch, that also doubles as a tug of war toy and a treat puzzle! He can catch it, tug it, and chew it till he finds the hidden treat pocket. Genius! It’ll wear him out at least once or twice.

(6) More Mental Stimulation

Speaking of a snack dispenser, you may also need to give your dog some mental stimulation. If your dog already gets tons of exercise, or they aren’t all that high energy, consider giving them some things that will satisfy their curiosity. A toy filled with treats is always a good idea, or you can try a dog puzzle with hiding “prey” that may activate and satisfy the same instinct that is causing them to dig. Mental stimulation keeps your dog from being so bored that they turn to nervous behaviors to fill their time. If you’ve got a dog that can tear up a toy in no time flat like Janice and Leroy, consider the wide range of KONG toys that can keep a dog busy, like this bone that you fill with smaller bones.

(7) Keep Your Dog Cooler or Warmer

If the weather has been very hot or very cold lately, then it could be that your dog is overheating, or is too cold. Pay attention to where they are digging. Is it summer, and the holes are always in shady spots? Your dog is probably hot. Be sure they have cool water available. A Polar Bowl is a freezable water bowl that you can use to keep water cooler for longer if ice melts too fast. And be sure that they get a chance to come indoors often. If it is winter and the holes are in sunny areas, or are near buildings, then your dog is probably cold. Be sure they are getting to come inside and warm up frequently.

(8) Use Digging Deterrents

If your dog is digging in an area where you really don’t want them, like a garden or in your front yard, you can do a few things to stop them from digging in those specific spots. First, you can put obstacles in the way. Yard ornaments or large rocks set close to each other won’t give your dog enough space to dig unless they are very small. You can also partially bury some large, flat rocks in areas to deter digging.

Some people believe that sprinkling the ground with coffee, cayenne pepper, or some vinegar helps deter a dog from digging because they don’t like the smell or taste. Just be careful here – if your dog eats the coffee or cayenne, it could make them sick. If it’s a garden area, consider planting some things with thorns, like rose bushes, that will make your dog want to stay away. You could also try putting a sprinkler in the area that goes off randomly to startle your dog away.

(9) Don’t Use Treats that Last

My final tip is for dogs that are always burying their treats. If this behavior has led to a yard full of holes, consider that you may need to stop giving them treats that last. If your dog chews on a bone for a bit and then hides it, that bone is lasting too long. Switch to small training treats or bite-sized snacks that they eat in a single sitting. If your dog likes to chew on things, and you use treats to deter chewing, consider making some dried sweet potato pieces and cutting them into smaller chunks. It will take some experimenting, but you will find the right size that gives them enough chewing time without leaving so much that they want to bury the rest. Another option could be to stop using food as a treat and offer them toys or more attention instead.

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Flying Dog Frisbee Toy
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Polar Bowl
Small Bites Natural Duck

The Final Word

I know that digging is a very annoying behavior, and sometimes it’s more than just annoying. I had a friend once who lived in a home owner’s association. She was fined because her dog tore up her yard with holes! If you need to make sure that your dog does not ever dig some holes in your yard, then I highly suggest starting with supervision as much as you can. This will mean that you have to give your dog more exercise, because you won’t be able to just let them outside – but the upside is that your yard will stay intact! You’ll also get the benefit of more time with your dog and more movement for yourself. Next time you start to see digging behavior, use these nine tips to help keep your yard looking good and to protect your dog from eating or drinking anything they shouldn’t.

Sources:

https://www.rover.com/blog/how-to-stop-dog-digging/

http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/4-tips-to-stop-your-dog-from-digging?page=2

https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/why-dogs-dig-what-you-can-do#1

About the Author Ash

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