Dogs love to dig. And why shouldn’t they? Digging is an instinctive behaviour for these pets. But if your four-legged friend is destroying your prized petunias or making a mess of your expensive lawn, the digging has to stop. Even if you’re not a fussy gardener, your dog’s digging could be a sign that he is bored, is trying to escape, is anxious or needs to release pent-up energy. It’s time to do something about it.
If you think your dog’s digging is a problem, there are ways to fix it. First you have to find out why he is digging. Reasons dogs dig include:
- They aren’t getting enough exercise
- They aren’t getting enough stimulation
- They’re seeking shelter or protection from the elements
- They have chewing needs that aren’t being met
- They’re trying to escape.
- Never use punishment to try to discourage digging – it doesn’t work, and if your dog is digging out of anxiety, punishment will only make it worse.
- Take a look at the type of fertiliser you use on the garden – it could be that your dog is loving the smell of that blood and bone you use for the plants.
- The amount of exercise a dog needs varies depending on breed, age and temperament. But most dogs need a daily walk to keep them fit and prevent behavioural problems. If he’s digging, take him for more walks to see if that helps.
- Socialising with other animals and family members is so important for dogs. Playing fetch takes just 10 minutes a day, and teaching your dog tricks is a great way to keep him entertained and out of the dirt.
- In warmer weather dogs often dig holes so they can lie in the cool dirt. In the winter months, these holes can also provide protection from the cold. Make sure your dogs has a comfortable, sheltered spot to rest in at all times of the day.
- Chew toys are a must for some dogs, especially pups who can tear through clothes, shoes, carpets and anything else their human owners would prefer they didn’t destroy. If your dog is lacking something to chew, he might dig instead. Kong-style toys are great to keep them busy, while a raw bone every few days will also keep them entertained.
- Dogs who dig in an attempt to escape usually dig around fences. If you’re dog is the next Houdini it might be because he is anxious, has separation anxiety or is looking to play with the dog next door. Try to find out why he might be escaping and work on fixing those issues. Making sure he feels really safe and stimulated in his environment will help, and your vet should be able to provide strategies on dealing with escape artists.
Having said all that, some dogs just love to dig. If you think your dog is just a digger, and you’re fine with that, you can keep him happy by providing a designated digging zone in your backyard. Choose a spot that is fairly well protected from the elements. Bury a few toys in the spot for him to find. When he does dig up these toys, reward him with praise or a food treat. If he starts digging elsewhere in the garden, gently move him over to the designated digging area. Lots of praise and encouragement is needed during this training phase. During this phase you can also fence off other areas of the garden to make it hard for him to dig there.