Behavior: Digging

dog digging by fence
If you have a dog who likes to dig then you know this behavior can be a real headache! You might have holes in your yard or your dog might look for places to dig under your fence. Digging can be a hard habit to break because, once again, digging is a natural behavior for dogs. It’s especially engrained in breeds such as Terriers and Dachshunds. These dogs have been bred for centuries to hunt vermin, foxes, and badgers who hole up underground which calls for the dog to dig to find them and pull them out of their dens.

There are several ways you can discourage digging, depending on what kind of digging your dog engages in and how committed he is to digging.

Holes in the yard

If your dog likes to dig random holes in the yard or digs to bury things occasionally, you can fill up the holes with something that he won’t like to dig such as pebbles. Some people suggest filling the holes with manure or even dog poop to discourage digging, though some dogs might like these things. You can also fill up the holes with soil from your local garden center and then sprinkle them with something to deter digging such as alum or cayenne pepper. One whiff of the pepper and your dog should leave that particular hole alone. You can also buy products specifically made to sprinkle or spray and discourage digging after you have filled up the hole. Check your garden supply store for suggestions. These deterrents also contain things like pepper and cinnamon – things that dogs don’t want to sniff.

If your dog is very persistent with digging holes in the yard you can try filling the hole and covering it with a layer of chicken wire. Chicken wire is very thin and it can’t be seen from a few feet away, especially after the grass begins growing again. It has the benefit that dogs don’t like to paw or dig at it because they don’t like the feel of the wire on their paws.

You can also set up manual sprinklers in your yard. When you see your dog starting to dig a hole, tell him “No!” and turn the sprinkler on for a few moments. Most dogs will stop digging, though some dogs like the sprinkler and they might continue digging.

Digging in flowers or other beds
If your dog is digging in flower or vegetable beds, you will need to fence off the beds. It’s hard to keep dogs from bothering vegetables, especially if you are growing something dogs like to eat. You may have to use a raised fence around your veggies or flowers. Try using one of the digging deterrents sold at garden stores to spray or sprinkle around your plants. (They also sell these to keep deer, rabbits, and other animals out of gardens.)

Digging around the fence
If your dog is digging around the fence or escaping, you should try to stop this problem as quickly as possible before it becomes a fun habit for your dog. Dogs can become escape artists and become fixated on finding ways out of the yard which is quite dangerous.

If your dog is digging around the bottom of your fence, check along the bottom of your fence for soft spots that might tempt your dog to dig. You can fill these areas in with gravel or concrete or place an object on the spot that will prevent your dog from digging. If your dog is trying different places around the bottom of the fence you can lay lumber or something like railroad ties along the fence that the dog won’t be able to move or dig under. Railroad ties are popular for landscaping and easy to find at garden centers and home stores.

If your dog is seriously focused on digging you can build him his own place to dig. You can get a kiddie pool, for example, and fill it with sand. Or you can use lumber or railroad ties and make a large boxed area for him in your yard, filling it with sand. Use the same kind of sand that is used for a child’s sandbox. Place some of your dog’s favorite toys in the box and half-cover them with sand. Call your dog over and get in the box with him. Start digging and how him how to find the toys. Once he catches on he should learn that he can dig all he wants in his sandbox and he won’t get in trouble. Having his own place to dig will often stop the digging in other places.

Author: Carlotta Cooper
Carlotta Cooper is a freelance writer who specializes in writing about dogs. She is a contributing editor for a national dog magazine. She has written two books about dogs: Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Healthy and Happy (Back-To-Basics) and How to Listen to Your Dog: The Complete Guide to Communicating with Man’s Best Friend . She has five fun dogs of her own.