Sometimes its just hard to stop your dog from being dog and enjoying themselves digging up holes in your lovely garden, lawn, or vegetable patch. It is quite disheartening to come home to find holes all over the place or disrupting the serene beauty of your garden. There are many reasons that can contribute to your dog’s untiring endeavour to savage your garden but luckily there are simple tips and methods you can use to stop your dog digging up your garden.
Why does my dog dig up the garden?
There are many factors as to why your dog digs up holes in the garden. One of the main reasons is its simply instinct. A dog’s need to dig can be simply ingrained in their character as much as sniffing and barking. All dogs, even the most domesticated of them, have a predatory instinct within them. Most often when they are busy digging your lawn it is probably because they can either hear or smell small animals underground.
Sometimes it can also be boredom that prompts your dog to dig, or simply to entertain themselves. Dogs crave activity and will do whatever it takes to find something interesting to do while working off their excess energy. According to the RSPCA digging is a common activity with dogs that feel under-exercised.
You find that during hot weather dogs may dig to use the cool upturned soil to lie on to regulate their body temperature. If this is the case the digging can be curtailed by providing your dog with a nice shady spot so that they can cool off easily without having to dig up the soil.
Another strong instinct that some dogs feel is the need to bury things they value such as food, bones and even favourite toys. It is an instinct in some dogs to hide items precious to them, for safekeeping.
On occasions a dog can start digging when it is anxious and feel threatened as well. Digging in such an instance means your dog is trying to escape the perceived threat.
What should you do if your dog digs up the garden?
Luckily with this understanding of why a dog may dig up a garden or lawn you can take remedial action to gradually reduce the urge to dig your garden up and with time bring it to a complete stop. The one thing you must avoid at all costs is punishing your dog as it will not address the underlining issues and instead could in fact cause the behaviour to increase. Instead, try out some of the suggestions given below.
How to stop your dog from digging up the garden?
Listed below are a few recommendations that will help stop your dog from digging up the garden. Keep in mind that each breed is different, and each dog is unique and so patience and gentle perseverance is important to reach a successful behavioural change.
Training through positive reinforcement
This is something that is especially beneficial during the puppy years, as they can be trained on acceptable behaviour and that which is not. Even older dogs can be made to understand commands and be rewarded with treats when they comply with a given command. This can be a loving bonding time for you and your dog which your canine friend will truly love.
If your dog is not responsive to training, you could try simply creating a fence line by blocking off the yard temporarily with chicken wire. This will give your dog time to adjust and accept the fact that it will not be able to dig that specific area. You could also try adding paving stones around the usual digging spots or partially bury flat rocks in their favourite digging areas. You could also add natural deterrents like cayenne, citrus peels or vinegar that will change the scent of the preferred digging areas. For a long-term solution see if you can grow rose bushes or thorny shrubs as they will restrict your dog from accessing these spots. Try spraying vegetable plants with pungent white vinegar or apple bitter to deter your pup from uprooting the vegetables.
Train your dog to prefer a separate digging zone
Another good method is to designate an alternate digging area such as a sand pit, if possible. By creating a space that is intentionally created for your dog to play in, your dog can satisfy its need for digging without harm to the rest of the garden area. This can simply be a pit or small area designated for your dog. With constant gentle coaxing your dog should begin to understand that this is an allowed digging zone and automatically gravitate to it.
Offer plenty of distractions
Provide heaps of mental stimulation to take your dog’s mind of digging. A dog given other interests will most often reduce or stop digging. Play games with your canine friend, offer interactive dog toys such as tennis balls, cuddly toys and rope toys that will keep their attention. Give your dog treats when he/she listens to you and avoids digging the garden. This will help reaffirm to your dog that digging is not acceptable, but for this to work he/she must be provided with other forms of entertainment.
Deal with issues such as separation anxiety
If you feel that your dog’s digging is owing to separation anxiety or feelings of loneliness, then those issues will have to be addressed before any remedial action can be taken. Speaking to an expert will help you understand the best way to deal with your pet’s anxiety. At home, solutions include leaving an item of clothing that has your scent when you are not at home, giving your doggie a pressure wrap, calming treats, or using calming sprays. These tactics together with any specific advise by your vet should help your dog deal with separation anxiety.
Provide dog with sufficient exercise
Lack of exercise is one of the key reasons dogs spend their pent-up energy on digging. It is essential that we incorporate a good long explorative walk into our dog’s daily routine. It gives their senses stimulation as opposed to being stuck in the same garden setting. Being exposed to new smells and areas to explore is important to your dog’s wellbeing and if they realise that daily walks are a part of their lives, chances are they will be less likely to destroy the garden is search of interesting new smells and activities. This long walk should be all about taking time to sniff, explore and make new discoveries. Do not rush the walk or keep your dog on a tight leash, and let your dog absorb the experience unhindered.
It is important that a dog has one slow, long, and undisturbed walk a day to keep them mentally alert and physically active. You can incorporate shorter more intense walks throughout the day for actual exercise if you feel your dog needs it, but ensure that they have this slow one for exploring. Try and change the routes every few days or so to keep things new and exciting, so that they do enjoy some variety in their walks. After running around your garden the whole day with sights and smells that are familiar, they will welcome the onslaught of new scents and sounds.
If you do not have time for these slow meandering walks during the day, consider hiring a dog walker. These are professional dog walkers who love dogs, spend time with them and who are responsible and committed to taking dogs out on fun stimulating walks. You can discuss the route and type of walk you want your dog to have with your dog walker. This way you can be happy knowing that your precious pup is getting their much-needed adventure time even when you are busy. Finding a good dog walker is very simple these days. There are reputed dog walking apps you can access to connect with professional dog walkers that come highly recommended by fellow dog owners. You will be able to find someone in your area for greater convenience and connect with them easily.
There are no overnight solutions to stopping your dog from digging your lawn or vegetable patch, though the suggestions listed here are easy to adopt and put into practice. It will take time, commitment, and patience to slowly wean your dog from the habit. By finding out the reasons for the behaviour and by actioning positive steps as above you will be able to stop your dog from digging up the garden. You will not only have a garden that is not being constantly destroyed but also know that you dog is mentally happier as well.