Have you got a digger? Your canine friend loves nothing more than to have fun, play around and eat lots of yummy doggy treats, but some dogs also like to have a jolly good dig about too. This is a bad behaviour that is both fascinating and frustrating at the same time. It certainly gets you thinking about this bad behaviour, especially when it appears out the blue for no apparent reason. Why is your dog digging? What makes them want to do it in the first place? Why are they digging in that particular spot or area? Why are they digging something that can’t be dug up? All very popular questions asked by dog owners and rightly so. One of the bigger questions is ‘How to stop a dog from digging?’ And this is something we are going to delve a little bit deeper into.
Let’s take a look at some of the common places dogs like to dig.
What do dogs like to dig?
- The Garden – digging holes
- Sofas – digging at the cushions
- Any Furniture – that is made of material
- The Bed – digging at the duvet
- Flowerpots – turfing out soil
- The Carpet – pulling up the flooring
- Your Legs! – probably the least favourite one on the list
Why is my dog digging?
- Hunting – usually by certain breed of dogs such as terriers and beagles that are looking for rabbits and foxes
- Denning or Sheltering – To keep warm and secure. Sometimes a way to hide themselves from the world when they want to be on their own and feel protected
- Escape Route – Some dogs are just always looking for an escape route. Digging holes can be a great way to tunnel under a fence and be as free!
- Boredom – One of the most common causes of digging is boredom through lack of stimulation and exercise
- Stresses – Digging can be a way of showing us that they are feeling stressed, worried or anxious about a situation. It’s a cry for help.
- Hyperactivity – Some dogs just can’t sit still to save their lives. The built up energy gets a bit too much and they just have to have a good old dig!
So what do I need to do?
Digging is quite often classed as an undesirable, bad behaviour by most dog owners. It can be pretty destructive behaviour that can cause damage and chaos to your home. Rather than shouting or punishing your dog, try to seek the root cause of the issue. There are many ways you can try to stop a dog from digging which are simple and effective. Check out these great steps you can take below which will assist you in being free from the ‘digging dog’.
Play time is very important for your pooch and is not just for pups. Older dogs love to play too and let out some of that pent up energy inside. Mental stimulation is vital for dogs and they need activities in their life that keeps their brains ticking over, something to focus on. Bad behaviour, such as dog digging, often occurs through a lack of stimulating play which is a very easy solution to the problem if you feel like this is why your dog is acting up. There are a vast range of dog toys on the market and their function is all slightly different, but you can be assured they all have that one thing in common, to keep your dog entertained! Let’s take a look at some of the types of dog toys on the market and how they could be helpful to stopping your dog digging.
- Chewing toys – these can keep your pooch entertained for so long that they don’t even think about digging at the sofa. Dog chews also tend to last a long time, which have a similar effect.
- Puzzle Toys – These are great for keeping your dog thinking and guessing. It is effectively exercise for the brain and can keep your dog busy for hours
- Throwing Toys – These are a modern version of playing fetch. These little gadgets will throw the ball for your dog and are a great addition for your walks in the park
- Pulling Toys – Dogs absolutely love a tug of war. They never like to be beaten at this game. It’s a fantastic way to bond with your dog and have them burn off some extra energy
- Dispensing Toys – Food is always a great motivator for dogs and these types of toys keep your pooch’s mind and body active. They won’t give up until they get the treats!
Dogs need plenty of exercise, to keep them happy, healthy and mentally stimulated. For some dogs, one walk a day is just simply not enough and digging can quite often be an attention seeking tool. Just allowing your dog to let off some steam can make all the difference. Dog digging can also mean your pooch has bundles of energy that they just don’t know what to do with or where to direct it at and your sofa is the one that ends up getting it! There are plenty of ways to help your dog get some more exercise aside from playing with toys.
- Make sure you take several walks a day to keep your dog active and fit
- Try to take longer walks, with varying terrain that can help tire your dog out more easily (i.e. uphill)
- Lead your dog to a secure doggy park where you can let them off the lead for a bit and run around as much as they like to let off steam
- Take games and outdoor toys with you to the park for some extra energy burning, which can make walk times just that bit more interesting for both you and your dog
- Install a doggy door if you have a secure back garden, that can give your dog free access to exercise whenever they please
Always provide your dog with adequate exercise. You wouldn’t expect to sit in the house all day, every day and neither does your canine friend. Make time for good quality exercise and an opportunity for your dog to let off some steam. This could be the perfect solution to banishing bad behaviours such as dog digging.
3. Digging Areas
Most of the time, dog digging is carried out in places that are just not acceptable to you such as furniture or the garden. Dogs may well understand that it isn’t acceptable behaviour (they may also not) but what they certainly don’t understand is, what an acceptable area is to you and what is not. For instance you may not be happy with your dog digging at your bed, but you may be ok with your dog digging in the garden or the carpets and vice versa. You have to make it crystal clear what is acceptable to you and what is not acceptable by laying down some ground rules. It’s down to you to provide some leadership to your dog and let them know what is right and what is wrong.
- Set aside a specific digging zone for your dog. A space in the garden is usually a safe bet. It gives your dog a clear message that digging is only acceptable outside of the house
- Cover the area with loose soil to make it an appealing area for your dog to dig
- Set aside regular training time with your dog to encourage them to use that space for their digging antics
- If you catch your dog digging in an area that is unacceptable stop the bad behaviour there and then by lowering your voice and saying out loud ‘No Dig!’
- Immediately take your dog outside to the digging area to let them know that this is the specific area that they are allowed to exhibit that bad behaviour
- If your dog understands the message clearly, then praise them with some tasty treats. Let them know they have done a good job
- Hiding toys within the soil can also be highly exciting for dogs who love to play and can encourage them that digging outside can often be more fun than say, digging the bed or the sofa
4. Shelter and Comfort
Dogs absolutely love the comforts that life brings (or at least what their owner brings) and like to feel protected and sheltered as well as comfy. Sometimes a dog digs because they are feeling stressed or uneasy about a situation. All they want to do is hide away in their own little tiny world and feel safe and sheltered. Digging can be a way of them showing that they are trying to dig a hole that they can disappear down because there is nowhere else for them to hide away to. There are a few ways in which you can provide adequate shelter and comfort to your pooch:
- Provide a space in the house that is specifically for your dog. Maybe a dedicated room or quiet place of the house. Somewhere they can call their own
- Give your dog their own doggy cave or dog bed. Something that they are able to get inside and hide away if they want to from all the stresses of the outside world
- Buy your dog a blanket that they can cuddle up into. Dogs love a cosy blanket because it keeps them feeling safe and warm, and gives them the full home comforts they crave
- Home diffusers are not only just for cats, they are also great for dogs. They help to keep your dog feeling like they are in a ‘safe zone’ at home and are particular good at calming anxious or nervous dogs
As mentioned previously, some breeds of dog like to dig more than others thanks to their hunting instincts. This could be a very probable cause of a dog digging, natural instincts. If you have a digging dog and also have the pleasure of owning a hound, terrier, beagle, spaniel, pointer or setter to name but a few, hunting is the likely cause of digging behaviour. Rodents can most definitely be the instigator and are much more common in and around the house than we care to think about. This is a very easy one to fix, get those pesky rodents away fast!
- Block up any holes or gaps into your home or garden that may be a way in for rodents. They can get through even the tiniest of gaps, so make sure you seal everything
- Put down humane traps ideally where once caught, you will be able to relocate elsewhere away from your house
- If you do decide to go down the poison route do not use products that will be dangerous for dogs and try to keep those chemicals contained and far away from your pooch
6. Garden Deterrents
The addition of digging deterrents are ideal for your garden if your dog tries to dig holes to escape, such as under the garden fence. This can be particularly worrying behaviour because if your dog were to get under the fence and out into the road they could put themselves in danger. Some dogs just like the freedom and will do absolutely anything they can in their power to get what they want. Fortunately there are some easy steps you can take to prevent your dog being able to dig right underneath the fence line.
- Block off any visible escape routes you can see that would be an easy way out for your dog
- Place chicken wire along the base of the fence with the sharp parts facing away from your garden, to provide a barrier that your dog cannot dig through
- Place rocks around the perimeter of your fence as a solid anti digging deterrent
- Set up a motion sensor sprinkler system near to the fence line which activates every time your dog gets close to the fence (be aware this could be an element of fun for some dogs, rather than an actual deterrent!)
- Use a dog deterrent spray around the perimeter of your garden or yard to stop your dog from visiting the areas they are likely to dig a hole at. This can also be used in the home too.
So have we helped with your ‘How to stop a dog from digging’ dilemma? The reality is, some dogs will continue to dig no matter what you try to do to stop them. It’s a habit that sometimes can’t be reversed, depending on your dog’s willingness to learn and change those bad habits. Proper training and using the methods above are a good basis to try and prevent a digging dog. However, all canines must be seen as individuals and the methods you decide to use may vary accordingly. If you are concerned about your dog digging you must speak to your veterinarian who can advise you accordingly. Most importantly, don’t give up! It may take time to train your dog out of their dog digging behavior. But with proper management this bad behavior can very likely be reversed.