How to Stop a Dog from Digging Holes
According to the American Kennel Club, some dogs are “earthdogs.” No, that doesn’t mean that some dogs are from outer space! Earthdogs are dogs that are naturally inclined to hunt for little critters in the ground–by digging.
Dachsunds and small terriers are known earthdogs. They’re constantly alert to the presence of rodents and even snakes that live underground. Some dogs, however, aren’t earthdogs but they still really love to dig!
Is your yard becoming a minefield of holes created by your furry companion? Are you tired of losing your favorite plants to your pup’s outdoor antics?
Read on to find out how to stop a dog from digging.
Why Do Dogs Dig?
For starters, let’s talk about letting your dog go out in the backyard. If you don’t have a secure, fenced-in area, you shouldn’t let your dog out in the yard off-leash. Even if you do have a fence, it’s important that you make sure that there are no other hazards such as exposed nails or screws, wood or metal shards, electrical cords or outlets, or dangerous equipment around.
According to PetMD, letting your dog play outside shouldn’t be a substitute for walks! Walking is both a bonding experience, a training opportunity, and a guarantee that your dog is getting good exercise. You feed your dog high-quality food so you should also ensure that they’re getting high-quality exercise!
That being said, letting your dog run around in the yard isn’t a bad thing. It’s just frustrating when they start digging holes. Why do they do that?
As we mentioned earlier, some dogs dig because they’re on the hunt. They have incredibly strong sniffers and their sense of smell is about 40 times stronger than ours!
However, some dogs may dig because they’re “bored” or even overstimulated. They are, at the expense of your lawn and flowerbeds, creating their own fun or coping. But most are simply doing what their genes tell them to do.
So how do you get them to, well, do something else?
Looks like a good place to dig…
How to Stop a Dog from Digging
There are several different methods worth trying if your dog won’t, or can’t, seem to keep her paws out of your yard. Some involve prevention, others involve distraction, and others involve redirection! Read on to find out more about our best methods to get your dog to stop digging.
Up the Exercise
A digging dog is a dog with a lot of energy! While you don’t want to wear your pooch out to the point of exhaustion, excessive digging may be a sign you may need to up the exercise a little bit more.
Try taking longer walks. Increase your walk time incrementally so that you can monitor your dog’s reaction and stamina. If your morning walk is usually half a mile, try walking three-quarters of a mile for the next week.
Perhaps you keep walks brief for your own sake. If you’re not in a position to walk more, consider going out with your pup and throwing a ball around. Playing a few rounds of high-speed fetch is a great way to make sure that your dog is getting more exercise without forcing you to get up and run around with her!
As you increase your walk and fetch time, pay attention to how her backyard behavior changes. If she stops digging in response to more exercise, you’ve found your culprit. She simply had too much energy!
Provide More Outdoor Toys
Some dogs don’t just have active bodies. They have active minds!
For a dog, digging is as much of a mental activity as it is a physical one. They plot their path, select a target, and dig until they find what they’re seeking–which again, may be pure play or entertainment or it may be an actual critter. At least they can dream!
Add a few more outdoor toys to your dog’s domain. If you have a real thinker, try giving them toys that give them more to do than chew.
For example, treat-dispensing toys are a fantastic distraction. Most dogs are food-driven and they’re not going to abandon that toy until they retrieve their tasty prize. Look for treat-dispensing toys that can hold smaller snacks so that playtime stays plant-based!
And hey, some dogs truly love a good old fashioned stick. If you find a good stick that is rot-free and size-appropriate, don’t toss it in your fireplace. Give it to your dog so she can throw it around outside!
Monitor Outdoor Behavior
We tend to let our dogs play in the backyard when we don’t have time to play with them ourselves. The problem is that when play is unsupervised, bad behavior isn’t corrected in time.
Remember that dogs don’t have the longest memories. If you try to correct a bad behavior long after the behavior was committed, they’re not going to understand what’s going on. Rather than recognizing the behavior that led to correction, they’re only going to pick up on the fact that you’re upset.
Make sure you have an eye on your dog when they’re in the yard. The moment they start to dig, go outside and command them to come inside. Be sure to praise your dog when they come to you. If this pattern happens often enough, they’ll start to pick up on the connection between digging a hole and losing outside privileges.
Use Digging Deterrents
If none of these tactics are working, you may have to go the prevention route. Just like dogs love to pee in the same spot time and time again, they tend to love to dig up the same spot, too. Take note of your dog’s chosen areas and add some digging deterrents to them.
Digging deterrents are objects or scents that discourage your dog from digging. The important thing is to make sure that while they do discourage your dog from the behavior, they don’t harm her.
Take large, flat landscaping rocks and bury them just below the surface. Make sure that they’re still visible but that they block the hole that was already started.
Alternatively, you can bury lengths of netting or plastic chicken fencing an inch or two below the surface. Make sure that they’re secure enough that your dog won’t uncover them and take off with them. The last thing you want is for them to start chewing on plastic!
Take advantage of smells that don’t appeal to your dog. Lemon and lime peels, cayenne, and vinegar are all good deterrents.
Make a solution by adding one or more of these ingredients to boiling water. When it cools, add it to a spray bottle and make sure it is well-shaken. Spray the areas where your dog likes to dig and watch them turn up their noses in response! While this rarely works, some dogs will really avoid these strong smells.
Create Dig Zones
If your dog is a devoted fan of digging, you may have to give in–sort of.
Designate a corner of the yard as the permitted dig zone. Using behavior monitoring and repellents, deter them from digging in areas that are not part of the dig zone. For this to work, it’s crucial that they understand that digging is okay as long as they stay in the right spot.
If you’re not keen on them digging up the grass or getting into the root systems of your plants, install a sandbox. Manufactured sandboxes are relatively inexpensive or, if you’re handy, you can make one out of plywood!
It may be easier to train them to use their dig zone if the dig zone is a sandbox. Direct their attention to the sandbox by burying a few of their outside toys in it. They’ll have a blast digging a hole that leads to a fun surprise!
A Note on Heat
The further below the surface you go, the cooler the earth is. If your dog is digging holes in order to lay in them, they might be telling you that they’re feeling overheated.
If this is the case, be sure to take notice. Heat exhaustion is no joke for our furry friends. A good rule of thumb is to limit their outdoor time when it’s anywhere above 80 degrees.
If it’s too hot for you to sit outside without breaking a sweat, it’s too hot for them to play in the yard for hours!