Why is My Dog Digging up the Garden?
“My dog is digging in my garden and ruining my poor azaleas,” I hear many people say “What’s up with that and how do i stop my dog from digging?”
Glad you asked (kind of). The thing is, much like all aspects of getting to know your dog, this issue would be best approached by understanding what is happening from the canine perspective. This will proffer effective solutions to canine behaviours.
The first thing to understand is the dog is not doing this to you. The dog is not jealous of your gardening, out to spite you or being malicious. Dogs don’t have a malicious bone in their bodies, that is a strictly human condition.
Now boisterous is something completely different. Dogs are rowdy, energetic and fun loving and often will take up regular digging like you or I would take up bowling or jazz guitar; as a way to focus our heightened natural ability. Younger dogs do this for fun, as well as to sharpen their investigation and hunting skills, which they assume will be very important when they reach maturity.
Another reason dogs will dig is to escape the burning summer heat, the ground below is often cooler. They may also dig out a den if the temperatures get too cold, just like Mother Nature intended or perhaps they have some energy left over from the day and figure this would be a productive activity. Why not? That’s what those front paws were designed for.
You must consider all those points before you ever express your dissatisfaction to your dog.
Something Smells Like…
Another common reason dogs will dig is because they smell something that piques their curiosity. Fertilizers will often do this, especially those marked “blood and bone”. Drives them doggies crazy, so make sure they aren’t smelling anything funky in the ground below.
And while we are talking about things you sprinkle around your garden, many varieties of slug pellets are highly toxic to dogs, even deadly. Certain market brands will specify that they are safe for use in yards and homes where dogs live. If they don’t, you should assume they are lethal and avoid using them.
And we’re back to digging, so after you have given your dog plenty of exercise, made sure they have protection from the elements and removed any smelly treats or additives from the soil below your yard and your canine companion is still on a hunt for buried treasure… you got to be asking yourself What Now? I need to stop dog from digging!!
Remember that digging is hard wired into their doggy natures and it will take the jaws of life to pry it from them. In other words, instead of attempting to curb your doggies habits, try to work with them to manage their hobby.
Dogs enjoy digging like we enjoy sports and hobbies, so why not give them a spot in the yard where they can practice their interests.
You can even cordon off a corner with a couple wooden planks to keep the hole from spreading. Bury their toys and maybe a bone or two and have some bonding time.
Once dogs see they are permitted to dig “here but not there”, they will begin to fine tune their efforts and leave the rest of your garden or yard in peace, (plus they may also strike oil LOL)
Dealing with Holes
But what if they keep missing their dig site? Well, training your dog to dig “here but not there” may take a bit of skill. Dogs, as you probably know, are highly intelligent and will begin to adapt their behaviour according to the results they get. So each time they dig a hole, throw some large rocks or a brick into the hole and fill it back up.
When they come back to dig up this particular patch and find their excavations are prevented by this barrier, they will begin to lose their interest. Yes it may take a couple times but the best way to communicate to your canine pal is by consistency. This will help stop a dog from digging.
If they do continue after a few times of finding rocks, I would suggest waiting for your dog to begin digging, walk up to them and invite them over to their dig site, encourage them to do their work here. If they continue to dig, bring in the tactical nuke response, which is time out somewhere they can’t dig. If you truly make an effort to reach them on their level, they will respond.
Pack Leader Issues
Many people with dogs complain that their four-legged friend only digs when they are gone. Guess why. That’s right, your dog doesn’t understand why you, as pack leader, would take off without your pack. Never mind though, he will be right behind you as soon as he removes some of this dirt from around the fence. Of course, if you are home, this isn’t a problem.
You see, in their big puppy-dog eyes you need them to protect you and vice-versa, and if you got away from them they will try to find you before it’s too late. It is the Doggy Code. If they can’t reach you, they may become very nervous or stressed, which is another reason that dogs exhibit destructive behavior like chewing, scratching and ,yes, dog digging.
Become the Pack Leader
All in all, you will have to become the answer to your dog’s needs and issues, you will have to become the pack leader. This is a position of respect awarded to you for the way you have interacted with your pet and won their respect. This can be harder to do with certain breeds who will face you down for this position and ultimately ignore you if you are below par.
I recently came across a site that had some incredible advice on this very topic that helped me and my relationship with Cooper, my 8-month-old Golden Retriever/Beagle mix.
Doggy Dan’s web site explains how this is not a struggle of brute strength or stubborn personalities but of finding the gentle way to interface with what can often be a complex and difficult personality– like Cooper’s.
Stop by Doggy Dan’s official doggy training video website, if you find yourself with a particularly feisty friend. You can check out the site for a dollar, to make sure it will be beneficial to you and your situation. I promise it will be though. On the site you will find advice and information and extensive list of doggy situations and scenarios.
If you really want to learn how to stop a dog from digging holes and all other behaviour issues, becoming the pack leader is crucial. You have to win their hearts and minds if you want their respect, and to do this you will have to convince them you got the stuff to be pack leader. If you aren’t sure how to be the pack leader, click here before they figure you out.