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Different Schools of Thought
There are two very different opinions when it comes to dogs and their digging habits. At one end of the spectrum you have those who believe that dogs will be dogs and digging is in their nature so it’s cruel to stop them doing so. That we should allow our dogs to dig as they please even if this means sacrificing our lawns and gardens. At the other end you have those who believe there should be boundaries and that no dog has the right to tear up our carefully manicured masterpieces.
In my opinion there needs to be a compromise. Most dogs love to dig and it’s healthy for them to do so. But this shouldn’t be done at the expense of something that has taken you so much care and effort to create. So yes, it is possible for you to keep your garden and your dog and for the two to coexist. If your dog has taken a liking to tearing up your lawn and garden don’t worry. There are ways to stop your dog digging.
If you are still thinking about adopting a dog and the fate of your garden is a concern consider the breed of dog you choose. If you have a particular mixed breed dog in mind which is the most predominant breed? Although all dogs are in essence individuals certain breeds are more prone to digging and are therefore more likely to tear up your treasured garden. The Nordic breeds and Terriers in particular seem to have a proclivity towards digging. So if you really cherish your lawn and garden I’d suggest you avoid any dog with terrier in it’s name. After all the word itself is derived from the Latin word Terra, meaning earth.
When trying to figure out how to stop your dog digging up your garden it is necessary to get to the root of the problem. This involves asking the question: Why do dogs dig? Some of the more common and widely accepted reasons are:
A lack of exercise
Digging is a great way for dogs to burn off the nervous energy that builds up if they don’t get enough exercise.
Dogs see digging as a job and will start digging to give themselves something to do. They find it rewarding and are in essence looking for something to give them a sense of purpose in an otherwise empty day. Dogs were born to hunt and these days the average pet dog doesn’t get a lot of opportunity to chase prey so digging becomes a substitute.
For a lot of dogs the reward is not in the digging itself but in the hope of reaching the other side of the fence. Of getting out and exploring the mysterious world beyond their own yard.
Dogs pine for their owners when they are away from home and often dogs dig to try and get to them. They are trying to dig a path directly to their owner. Cute isn’t it?
Other signs your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety
– He gets overly worked up when you leave or return home.
– While you are away he digs up the lawn or destroys property.
– Your dog barks or howls incessantly while you are away.
– He urinates or defecates in the house or in his crate.
– He bites or chews his paws or pulls out his own fur.
– He scratches or claws at the walls or doors.
Now separation anxiety is a very complex issue and can lead to a myriad of different problems so we’ll save that for another article. Once you have determined the reason for your dogs digging the way to stop the habit becomes clear. If your dog isn’t getting enough exercise try taking him or her for longer walks. Usually 45 minutes of brisk exercise is enough but this does vary depending on the breed and size of your dog. If boredom seems to be the issue get some new toys for him to play with. Put his old toys away for a while and then rotate them to keep things fresh. Or try burning some of that energy off before you leave the house so that most of his day is spent napping. If the dog seems to be trying to escape he may need to be crated or kept inside the house. Or if separation anxiety could be the problem read our article about how to handle it.
Like most dog behavior problems separation anxiety is best dealt with before it rears its ugly head. However if you have noticed signs in your dog that may indicate that your dog suffers from separation anxiety don’t worry because there are dog training methods that can be used to deal with it.
While these solutions may work for some dogs, for really persistent diggers you might consider trying some of the following.
Don’t leave him in the yard unsupervised
If your dog is not left alone in the yard unsupervised he won’t have a chance to dig. If you are there with him and he does try to dig firmly tell him no and make a big deal about it.
Use his own feces to deter him
Almost all dogs will be horrified at the thought of digging up their own feces so if there is one particular patch that your dog seems to be digging up over and over again try burying some there. This is due to the fact that dogs hate to soil their own paws and coat. Even dogs that eat their own (a condition known as coprophagia) will be deterred by this method. If your dog does eat his own see our article on coprophagia.
Get more resilient plants
If it’s the fact that your garden is being ruined that bothers you the most try planting shrubs and trees that are going to be more resistant to your dogs digging. Roses and other thorned flowers are great as after one good prick he won’t dig there again in a hurry.
The chicken wire method
Although this method is quite time consuming and involves digging up your garden yourself a lot of people find it effective. It involves digging several inches below the surface of either your lawn or flower bed and laying out chicken wire then covering it back over. After several unsuccessful attempts to dig down your dog will give up and move onto other more rewarding activities.
Give him a spot to dig
Assigning your dog a place to dig is a great way to channel his digging energies. If it seems like completely stopping your dog digging is impossible this is probably the method for you. If you can’t spare a corner of your yard a nice deep sand box also works. Once you have this set up bury something in the area like a bone or a toy and encourage your dog to dig for it. When he finds it praise him. Make it clear that this is the only place that it is OK to dig. This may require a bit of patience on your part and some discipline and reward training.