If you are a dog owner, there is a good chance that you’ve come home to find your backyard has been turned inside out and upside down by your beloved pooch. Digging is a common behaviour in dogs and is an instinctual trait that they inherited from their wild wolf ancestors. Certain breeds such as terriers are more prone to digging due to the behaviour being encouraged for the purpose of hunting. But if you have had enough of falling in holes whenever you step out into your backyard or your dog has escaped underneath your fence, again, you might want to keep reading to see what steps you can take to stop your dog from digging.
Why Do Dogs Dig?
Dogs can dig for many reasons. Some dig to seek prey that has burrowed underground such as rodents and insects. Dogs dig to entertain themselves or to alleviate anxiety. They will also dig to bury toys or treats. If they have seen you digging in the yard, they may think they are also allowed to dig up your prized petunias. Dogs will dig under fences to escape yards to seek a mate, relieve boredom or if they are scared. Identifying the reason why your dog digs is the first step in stopping their digging behaviours.
Time To Stop The Digging
Once you have identified why your dog digs, you can make some changes to your yard and routine to discourage further digging.
If your dog digs to:
- Chase or seek prey – You can discourage rodents from entering your yard by setting traps or using poison, but you should use poison with caution, as it may be poisonous to your dog as well.
- Keep cool – Ensure that you are providing adequate shelter for your dog that will allow them to lay comfortably in full shade.
- Bury food or toys or for fun – You may wish to direct their digging to an area just for them such as a sandpit. You can bury rubber bones or their favourite toys to encourage them to dig in this new location. Reward your dog when they dig in their allocated spot with praise or a treat.
- Alleviate boredom – Bored dogs will dig just to have something to do, or may dig underneath your fence so they can head out in search of a mate or some adventure. Ensure you are providing your dog with plenty of toys to entertain themselves. A long walk once a day or multiple walks a day will help to discourage them from escaping in search of adventure.
- Escape your yard if they are scared – A scared dog will need a safe space for them to retreat too if they feel the need if you are to deter them from escaping your yard. If you are able, install a doggy door so they can access the inside of your house if they are feeling like they need to hide or provide them with a large kennel in a quiet part of the yard that they can escape to.
- Let off some steam – Some dogs are so full of energy that they feel the need to escape your yard. To avoid this, make sure you are taking your dog on plenty of walks or playing games that will wear them out.
- Build a den – Pregnant dogs also have a tendency to dig holes because they engage in what is known as denning behaviour prior to them giving birth. They might be discouraged from digging if they are provided with a large whelping box, perhaps with lots of blankets or towels that they can “dig” through to prepare for their pending labour.
You should never punish your dog for digging. Your dog will only see you giving them attention for their digging and this could inadvertently encourage them to dig even more. A firm “no dig” along with directing your dog to another activity is the best way to tell your dog that their behaviour is not appropriate. You can also discourage your dog from digging by burying chicken wire in the ground, or by placing large rocks or a fence around their favourite places to dig. Avoid using fertilisers such as blood and bone which can smell tempting to dogs and may encourage them to dig.
If you have tried every trick under the sun to stop your dog from digging to no avail, you may wish to enlist the help of a veterinary behavioural specialist who will help you to determine the cause of your dogs digging and can provide further advice on getting your dog to stop.
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