How to Stop Your Dog Digging Your Garden Up!

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. dog-diggingThat 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 its 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:

1: 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.

2: Boredom

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 opportunities to chase prey so digging becomes a substitute.

3: Curiosity

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.

4: Separation Anxiety

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

  1. – He gets overly worked up when you leave or return home.
  2. – While you are away he digs up the lawn or destroys property.
  3. – Your dog barks or howls incessantly while you are away.
  4. – He urinates or defecates in the house or in his crate.
  5. – He bites or chews his paws or pulls out his own fur.
  6. – He scratches or claws at the walls or doors.

anxious dogNow 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.

What To Do When It Starts Happening

1: 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.

2: 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.

3: Get More Resilient Plants

If it’s the fact that your garden is being ruined that bothers you the most, try to plant 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.

4: 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.

5: Give Him a Spot To Dig

dog digging spotAssigning 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 sandbox 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.

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How to stop your dog from digging up the garden

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12 comments
AJ says January 12, 2019

I am glad that none of the dogs we ever had the fortune of owning didn’t dig holes in every available spot in our garden, but we had a couple of dogs who liked ripping anything they can get their paws and fangs on. They’ve mostly outgrown the habit when they get older though. I guess we were one of the luckier ones who didn’t have to deal with dog digging.

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thewanderrunner says January 11, 2019

Learned a lot of information from this article.I’ll surely remember this tips and apply it to my own dog as well.

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Rae says January 11, 2019

Thank you for the wonderful and informative blog. I didn’t know that dogs can also have anxiety. It looks like I learned a lot from this. You learn something new everyday.

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Scott Summers says January 10, 2019

Essentially it boils down to tire them out? Well it is okay and makes sense. I mean how can they dig up if they are already zapped? Thanks for the info.

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Maury Cheskes says January 10, 2019

This is a great piece. If I get a dog, I would love to find a compromise so he can dig and I can keep my backyard intact. I think the sandbox and chicken wire strategies stood out the most for me. I also like how you explained that dogs’ fixation with digging has to do with curiosity and loneliness. Once you get to the root of the problem, it’s easier to solve.

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Tom Esthber says January 10, 2019

What does it mean when they dig inside? Does that mean they are bored?

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sandy says January 10, 2019

Dogs can be so restless sometimes and all they need is what will spice them up like exercising and digging some places.I believe using a sandbox can be very helpful to them.

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Mayou says January 10, 2019

I really hate when my dog is digging up in our backyard. However, now that I have an idea why he does breaks my heart. I hope he does not suffer anxiety.

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Frank says January 10, 2019

Great information here, I really used to wonder why dogs digup in the garden. I think boredom plsyd a major role. Will try out our tips on my puppies I hope it helps.

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Rizzee Cerdeñola says January 9, 2019

I alwayd have a problem with my dog. He always digs up my garden. I now know how to handle my dog. Thanks for this article.

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