Why do Dogs Dig?

How to stop dogs from digging. It seems simple enough. Picture this scenario. You’ve just spent the morning planting tulips and daydreaming about how splendid they’ll look next spring. Digger, your beloved canine companion, was at your side watching attentively as one bulb after another disappeared beneath the cool, moist soil.

At noon you abandon the tulips for lunch, leaving Digger outside asleep. When you return you discover your beloved pet has recklessly rooted through the entire garden, dug up every bulb, and placed them in a neat pile beside your garden gloves. Naturally, your first reaction will be to scream at Digger, telling him he’s BAD! But before you do, think about this scenario from a canine perspective.

Why Dogs Dig

Consider your dog’s breed. Certain species are more inclined to dig because that’s what they’ve been born to do. All Terriers and Dachshunds, for example, were originally bred to dig into underground rabbit warrens or fox dens. Digging comes naturally for them, and it is an extremely pleasurable experience. Siberian Huskies and other sled dog breeds dig because of their instinct to burrow in snow. Pregnant females dig to make a nest in preparation for whelping. Bearing this in mind, how can we expect our dogs to know that this is not a desirable behavior? In the wild state, all dog species bury their food to eat later when it is “ripe.” (Translation: rotten!) When Digger unearths your tulip bulbs, he may just be showing you he’s a good provider.

But the most common reason for digging is social isolation and extreme boredom. Dogs left to fend for themselves in the yard-lacking both human and canine companionship-often suffer frustration anxiety that manifests itself in digging or chewing.

How to Prevent Digging

So what are some ways to stop dogs from digging? To relieve boredom and isolation-related digging, the most effective step is to allow the dog indoors and let him become part of the family. Regular exercise, time for play, crate training, obedience school and spaying/ neutering will also help him become more controllable. Some dog owners with born-to-dig breeds fence off a small corner of their yard as a kennel where the dog can dig to his heart’s content but, for existing potholes, try these simple solutions:

  • Fill the holes with water. Dogs usually don’t like mud.
  • Sprinkle red pepper, a few drops of pennyroyal oil or citronella in the area. These are all environmentally friendly deterrents.
  • Fill the hole, lay chicken wire just below the surface, and cover with a thin layer of soil or sod.

To ensure to stop your dog from digging in the first place, keep him busy and distracted with other activities, and don’t leave him alone in the yard for extended periods of time.

Article submitted by: ©Terri Perrin

More to Explore

The Dirt on Dogs Who Dig

Destructive Behavior in Dogs

How to Keep Your Dog from Jumping

Tips for Better Training