With Spring in full swing, you may find that your beloved canine has begun to dig holes seemingly everywhere in your yard. Dogs of all sizes and breeds like to dig for many different reasons. As frustrating as this may be, there are some things you can do to stop a dog from digging. Knowing why a dog is digging in the first place will help you figure out how to stop a dog from digging, so let’s dive right into the “why” before addressing the “how”.
Why do Dogs Dig?
We do not always know why dogs do what they do, but over time some behavior can be understood. Here are some of the most common reasons why dogs take to digging up the ground around them.
As temperatures rise dogs seek out cooler ground to help to cool themselves. If the dog does not dig in colder temperatures, this may be the reason behind their digging behavior.
Just like humans need stimulation, so do our pets. Some dogs dig just because they are bored and have nothing else to do. This may be especially evident in dogs that have to be tethered or enclosed in a small area.
Protecting Something Valuable
Humans use safes and banks to store their valuables, dogs use their yard. Burying their favorite toy or prized chew bone is one way that a dog can keep them safe. Dogs that hide things will usually do it quickly, so you may be able to catch them in the act if you are paying attention.
We all know that a dog can smell things humans can’t. That increased sense of smell will turn a dog into a regular detective as they search for the source of the new scent. Terriers and Hounds are breeds of dogs that are particularly drawn to smells, and they will dig quite a hole to get to it, if necessary
Some dogs are just diggers by nature, and this is particularly true for hunting breeds. Unwanted animals and other pests in a hunting dog’s yard will send them on the chase. In some cases, this may be down, such as a snake or mole hole, and sometimes they will attempt to dig under a fence to get to whatever they are hunting.
Separation anxiety can cause many destructive behaviors and digging is one of the most common. For these dogs, digging distracts their mind from their anxiety and if left uncorrected can become compulsive.
Trying to Escape
Anyone who has ever owned a dog has likely experienced the moment when a dog makes every attempt to escape. In the case of a digger, when they cannot go through a gate or over a fence, they are going to try to go under.
Steps to Take to Stop the Digging
Keep Them Comfortable
Providing a cool spot in your yard as the heat rises will help to deter dogs from digging to find a cooler spot themselves. Alternatively, as the colder months set in, they may be looking for a place to keep warm. Making sure your dog has shelter from excess hot and cold climates is important.
Provide Plenty of Exercise and Stimulation
Whether is it going for a walk or playing fetch in the yard, spending quality time with a dog will help to settle them down. A dog that is given plenty of exercise and played with on a regular basis will be less likely to go digging for stimulation.
Let Them Run
Particularly in the case of dogs that are tethered or kept in a small enclosure, they need to be able to just run around. Invest in a long leash, until your dog will continually come on command and take them somewhere where they can stretch their legs. Just like regular exercise, this will help to settle a dog that has pent up energy.
Keep Their Nails Trimmed
Digging helps dogs scrap at their nails. By keeping nails short and trim, not only does a dog not have to dig to do it, digging can be slightly harder for them, so they may not be a drawn to digging behavior.
Keep Toys Put Away
Whether you decide to bring toys inside when you are not there to supervise, or place them in storage outside, a dog cannot bury what it cannot access. If a dog tends to bury bones and other treats, switching to smaller treats (one or two bites), will help to lessen the chances they will try to save them.
Give Them A Place to Dig
Sometimes a dog must dig; it’s part of their personality. In these cases, providing your dog with a specified area they can dig may be the only option. Training them to only dig in the approved area may take some time, but the result will be well worth the effort.
Reducing Stress in Their Environment
Some dogs get easily overstimulated by other animals and sounds and distractions around them. For dogs that get especially anxious when other animals are around them, spending some time socializing them with other dogs may help to decrease their stress.
Be Aware of Uninvited Guests
By guests, we mean pests. Whether it’s moles, weasels, snakes, or even fleas. Dogs dig to get to or away from pests. Taking steps to keep out pests will help if you decide to treat the yard chemically, as many pesticides are toxic to dogs.
For dogs that cannot help running laps back and forth along the fence line and trying to get under the fence, installing a privacy fence with additional protection along the base of the fence to deter digging may be the best option.
Most Importantly — Be Patient.
Most likely the dog did not start digging over-night, whether it is from lack of stimulation to trying to escape, changing the behavior is going to take some time and patience. Overall, the best thing to do is to spend time with the dog. Making sure that you are correcting the digging when it is happening and reinforcing good behaviors will help you to succeed.
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