Does your dog dig up your backyard every time you let him out? While we know how annoying it can be to find holes in your prized flower beds, but your dog isn’t doing it to upset you. This kind of behaviour is natural and instinctive for most dogs, although the reason why he’s doing it could fall into one or more of several categories.

Want to know how to stop your dog from digging holes in your yard? Read on for our best suggestions.

1. Try to understand why your dog is digging

Dogs dig for several reasons, including looking for prey, looking for comfort, as a way to escape, for entertainment, or simply because they want attention. Understanding why they’re digging will help you find solutions to the problem.

2. Stop your dog from hunting prey

Many dogs dig trying to catch small animals. If your dog falls into this category, you’ll see that they’re always digging around a particular area, such as around the roots of trees and shrubs, or following a ‘path’. To stop your dog doing this, you’ll need to use safe and humane methods to get rid of any animals or pests that might be attracting your dog. Don’t use anything that could prove toxic to your pet or other animals.

3. Give your dog more shelter or a safe place to rest

Many dog owners find that their dog only digs when it’s hot. This is because they like to lie in the cool dirt. Some dogs dig to find shelter from the elements, or to find water. If the majority of their digging is close to buildings, under shady trees or near to a source of water, chances are they’re seeking out a cool place to rest.

It’s best not to leave your dog outside for long periods unattended, but if you do leave your dog outside without shelter, or in a shelter that is exposed, they may also dig. One clue that your dog is looking for protection is they will lie in the hole.

To stop your dog digging, bring your dog indoors or provide a comfortable and cool (in the shade) dog house outdoors. As well as giving them a cool place to relax, make sure they have plenty of fresh water that can’t be knocked over.

4. Prevent your dog from escaping

Is your dog an escape artist? If you find holes along or under your fence line, it’s likely that they’re making a bid for freedom. To prevent your dog from digging holes and disappearing under the fence, you need to put more effort into making your garden a safe and appealing place for your pet.

One way to stop your dog from burrowing under the fence is to bury chicken wire at the base of the fence, ensuring that any sharp edges roll away from the garden. Or, you may prefer to place partially buried large rocks along the fence line, or actually bury the fence itself.

5. Keep your dog entertained while they’re in the garden

One reason many dogs dig in the garden is for fun and entertainment – because they are bored.  Dogs are social animals and they need company, and things to do. Digging often happens if they’re left alone in the garden for long periods of time, or there’s nothing of interest to them in the garden, such as toys or playmates. You’ll also find that puppies often dig to get rid of excess energy. Furthermore, some breeds such as terriers were traditionally bred to dig, while some dogs just like to be active.

If your dog seems to be digging because they are bored, giving them extra walks may solve the problem. Alternatively, you may want to find other ways to occupy or tire them out while they’re in the garden, such as leaving a selection of interesting toys for them to play with while you’re not there.  Best of all try not to leave them alone for long periods of time.  They simply get lonely!

6. Remember, dogs love attention

Dogs love any kind of attention, and their digging may be a sign that they’re missing your affection. This is likely to be the case if they’re digging while you’re in the garden too, or if they have extremely limited opportunities to interact with you.

If you think this may be the reason why your dog is digging in the garden, you need to up the amount of attention and time you give them. Take your dog for regular walks, play with them, and remember to give them lots of praise.

And if all else fails?

The number one thing to remember is punishing your dog after an incident never works. They are not doing this to spite you, it is because of an underlying environmental issue.  All you will succeed in doing is making them more anxious, confused or fearful, and the problem may even get worse.

If you do find that your dog continues to dig despite your best efforts, you may want to set aside an area in the garden where this behaviour is acceptable and train them to use this spot. This may require some basic training lessons and some sneaky treats, to focus their attention in this area. You may also want to bring in a dog behaviour specialist to see if they can help you identify the issue and give you some solutions.

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Liz Walden

Liz has a passion for all things cat and dog, and was one of the first in Australia to bring Pet Insurance to the market. She has headed up Petsecure marketing for the past 10 years, and is committed to promoting and supporting the amazing work done by rescue groups around Australia, and those who work to promote a better life for all animals

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