Many dog owners complain that their dogs spend too much time digging in the yard. This common dog behavior problem can be extremely frustrating and is almost always a sign of a dog who is bored or understimulated.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to stop dogs from digging, or at least, make it a less destructive habit.
Why Do Dogs Dig?
Most dogs love being outside, but it's not possible for dog owners to spend all day, every day out in the yard with their dogs. Instead, owners sometimes let their dogs go outside to play on their own for a portion of the day.
Left to their own devices, dogs often find a way to entertain themselves. For many dogs, this means digging holes all over the yard. Sometimes they're entertained by roots under the dirt that spring back and seem to be "playing" with the digging dog, other times they're just looking for something to do.
The best way to begin fixing this problem is to only allow your dog to be outside when you can supervise.
Since dogs are highly social animals, they need playtime with you and exercise to help prevent boredom. Plan on spending at least an hour playing with and exercising your dog every day. You will need to spend even more time with high-energy dogs, such as border collies, terriers. There are a number of activities you can do with your dog that allows it to socialize, get exercise, and receive mental stimulation. Some activities include:
All of these activities will help prevent boredom in dogs. Hopefully, your dog won't feel the need to burn off energy by digging in the yard.
There are a few other reasons why dogs dig outside, and most are easily addressed.
Don't Allow Toys Outside
Many dogs feel compelled to bury their possessions. If you allow your dog to bring toys or bones outside, it may dig holes in an effort to hide them.
The best way to deal with this is to prevent your dog from taking these toys outdoors. Only allow toys outdoors if you're using them to engage with your dog. Things like Frisbees or balls are fine if you're playing fetch.
You may also want to allow your dog to play with its toys outside if you are on hand to supervise. But a dog should not be allowed to have toys it has buried before outside otherwise, or they're likely to go missing again.
Some dogs dig near fences or garden walls in an attempt to get out of the yard. Although they probably have little reason for actually wanting to escape, if they see something, such as another animal, on the other side of the fence, they may try.
This is actually one of the easier kinds of digging to deter, all you need to do is place a barrier in the way. Chicken wire (with the sharp parts facing away from your yard) or large rocks along the bottom of the fence line should discourage your dog from trying to dig there. The next step is to give the animal something else to do instead.
Provide a Spot for Digging
No matter how much you work on preventing it, some dogs are just driven to dig. Certain breeds, such as Dachshunds and terriers, are naturally inclined to dig because they were bred to tunnel for prey. It can be tough to break them of this instinctive drive. You may be better off providing them an appropriate place to dig instead, such as a sandbox or a spot in your yard specifically set aside for digging.
To get a dog to use just one spot, you need to supervise it outside. If the dog digs anywhere but that spot, tell it "no" and redirect it over to the correct spot. Give the dog lots of praise for digging in this area to reinforce that it's allowed.
Keep an Eye on the Temperature
Some dogs only dig when the weather gets warm. They dig a hole to provide a cool spot to lie down. Be sure to provide your dog with a shady spot in the yard during the warmer months, and never leave it outside for long periods when the temperatures are high.
Try a Dog Sport
Dog sports are a great way for your dog to burn off physical and mental energy. This helps alleviate boredom, and also may provide an outlet for your dog's natural inclination to dig. Earth Dog is a dog sport designed specifically for breeds, such as terriers and Dachshunds, who are bred to tunnel for prey. This sport allows dogs to scent prey through tunnels, thus allowing them to engage in their natural instincts in a more appropriate way than digging in your flower beds.
Edited by Jenna Stregowski, RVT