Controlling Dog Digging
Save The Flowerbed!

Controlling dog digging takes some ingenuity. A dog digs for a number of good reasons which I’ll get to in a moment. Digging is something dogs do naturally, like chewing and barking. These are all natural instincts. The problem is to allow the dog to express himself somewhere in the flowerbed and yet leave the flowers alone. Let's go back a bit.

The assumption is that you have not yet adopted a dog or bought one from a breeder. In either case, you have not decided on a dog yet. Good.

It is not too late to STAY AWAY from TERRIERS and the Nordic breeds such as Huskies, Malamutes and any of the Spitz group. All of these dogs LOVE to dig; it’s in their genes

Then again, you can find plenty of mixed breed dogs that like to dig. I recall a Beagle that tunneled her way under a fence and a Miniature Poodle that dug up a bunch of tulips and rearranged a ladies’ garden for her, no charge. So, essentially, it’s a crap shoot. There’s no guarantee when you get a dog, and here’s why…

Why dogs dig?

Here are some common reasons dogs dig:

  • Lack of exercise. Under-exercised and nervous dogs burn off excess energy by digging.

  • Boredom. A bored dog needs a “job” to do. Something rewarding and interesting to pass the time.

  • Digging gives the bored dog a sense of purpose and distracts him from an “empty” day.

  • The need to “escape.” Certain dogs just naturally want to escape, no matter how much exercise they get. It’s not the digging, but the unknown beyond the fence that attracts them.

  • Separation Anxiety. A dog that is really missing you in your absence, getting beyond the fence might allow him to find you so he digs in hopes of seeing you on the other side. You can find information on separation anxiety by following the link.

    When you think about it, many of the reasons causing the dog’s desire to dig suggest their own solutions: if your dog’s not getting enough exercise, take him for more and longer walks.

    Generally, a minimum of forty-five minutes TWICE a day of walking at a good pace is needed for many active dogs, and some dogs need active play time on top of that amount. That will help control the dog digging problem.

    If you feel the dog is bored, load him up with toys and stuff to chew on. Especially hollow chews stuffed with tasty food to keep him busy for hours on end.

    If you exercise him enough, he’ll tire out and sleep a good part of the day.

    If the dog is a confirmed escape artist and nothing else works, you may have to confine him to a crate or pen in the house during the day if no one is home to watch him.

    That sounds drastic, and very few dogs are like that, but it may be the only way to control dog digging.

    Dog digging for some dogs is simply fun and they do it just for the sake of digging. It’s like a hobby to them. All you can do is control where the dog goes and provide him with a place to do his thing.

    Restrict the dog’s access to the yard. If the dog is not in the yard without active supervision, he won’t have a chance to dig.

    A natural deterrent to digging is dog poop. Most dogs will back off from anyplace there’s poop. Spread bits of poop where you don’t want the digging.

    Try to trick him

    It’s time consuming, but effective. Roll up an inch or two of turf in the yard and lay down chicken wire underneath. The dog will try to dig and quickly find his effort is useless and quit, having decided digging in the yard is pointless.

    Or, you can give in to your dog’s need to dig and give him a place to do it.

    If you are determined to prevent dog digging under your fence or turning your yard into a grass-less crater-studded lunar landscape, consider this preventative strategy... if the dog is a true digger, it’s his personality and he needs the chance to express it so there is no need to keep kidding yourself.

    Allocate an area to the dog where he CAN dig, and dig all he wants.

    • Section off a corner of the yard just for the dog. You will have to make it clear to the dog that there will be no digging except in his corner.

    • For a while, you’ll have to fence him into his “corner” so he gets the idea that that space is his. Praise him when he goes in.

    • You’ll need to spend time with him at first, until he understands what’s going on.

    • In the likely event you don’t have a “spare corner” in your yard, and every square inch is spoken for, make a sand box about 2 feet deep and 5 or 6 feet square.

    • Fill it with sand and soil. Add some sod to the top if you want.. Get up there with the dog and paw around until he gets the notion that you are digging, or at least trying to dig. “C’mon in, the dirt’s fine!”

    • Be sure your dog knows the sandbox is his place to dig and not the yard.

    • Every time he goes to the yard, take him directly to the sandbox... immediately AFTER potty.

    • Bury a few choice toys very shallow under the surface like bones for him to dig up.

    • Supervise him closely for the first few weeks that he is in the yard to be sure he doesn’t wander off course into the flowers.

    • Praise him and with a treat whenever he goes into his sandbox and starts to dig.

    • If he should start to dig somewhere else, give him a sharp, loud “ACK” or “NO” and lead him to his sandbox.

      Utilizing at least some of the ideas above will work. Dog digging is not something you can assign a command to. Especially for TERRIERS! It's too much instinct and too much FUN!

      From Dog Digging Back To Dog Behavior Training