Have you ever gone outside and found a hole in your garden and a guilty look on your dog’s face. You’re not the only one!
It’s perfectly natural for dogs to dig. That doesn't help when you have a garden that you’re proud of or a lawn you've cared for meticulously, and your much loved canine companion destroys it with just a few swoops of those front claws.
The way to change this unwelcome behavior and restore your yard to its former glory is to figure out why your dog is digging in the first place. This will allow you to put strategies in place to stop or redirect it.
When it comes to working out why dogs dig holes, there are a number of potential reasons.
Breed – terriers have been bred to go underground to chase vermin, so it is instinctive for them to dig holes. Dogs with full coats will dig to expose the cooler soil under the ground surface.
Boredom – many dogs will dig just to amuse themselves while they are on their own.
Burying food – perhaps your dog likes to bury a favorite bone to enjoy later.
Stress – some dogs will dig when they are anxious, such as those with separation anxiety and distress about being alone.
When your dog starts to dig, can you identify what triggered it? Is he hot and looking for some cooler dirt to lie on? Is he chasing a bug through the grass? This will help you to work out how you can best stop the digging.
The first step is to make sure the area in which your dog spends most of his day is comfortable with plenty of shelter and cool water. Give him food dispensing toys to keep him entertained for a few hours. Exercise in the form or a fast walk or jog will tire him for the day, and he’s more likely to relax in your garden rather than re-landscape it. This will help with anxiety or boredom related digging.
If you can’t stop a behavior, it can often be redirected and this is the case with digging. Instead of trying to stop digging, give your dog a place where he is allowed to dig. A sandpit or corner of the garden is ideal. To encourage him to dig there, bury some of his favorite treats in it and praise him when he tries to excavate them. If you own a terrier breed, this solution is perfect for you because it allows your pooch to express those instinctive behaviors while not destroying your landscaping.
What about using mousetraps or balloons to stop digging? The theory behind this is that when your dog digs, there is an immediate negative effect, such as the mousetrap snapping or the balloon bursting loudly. This should deter your dog from digging again. Unfortunately it’s not that simple. You’ll find your dog won’t necessarily dig in the same place so may not trigger the noise. Also, the sudden fright may lead to stress and anxiety which is not what you want.
Never punish your dog for his digging; in his eyes it’s perfectly normal behavior. Instead, look at why he is doing it and stop or redirect it that way. You’ll have a much happier dog and a well maintained garden.