Can a Dog Be Trained Not to Dig?

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All dogs dig, but for some breeds it’s a little more inherent than with others. Once upon a time, it was imperative to his survival, that holes were dug in order to hide food from foraging predators. In fact, you may still find that your pooch makes a determined effort to bury a newly received treat in the yard, under a rug, or under the pillows of his bed as if protecting it from other animals. And its that ingrained instinct that can be so hard to break.

Now, there are a number of other reasons that dogs may dig holes including boredom, chasing vermin, following a scent, or when it comes to those really big, deep holes, to find a cool place to chill out. He may also be trying to escape the yard (particularly when holes appear along a fence line) or for pregnant females, it can be a natural nesting instinct.

If you’re sharing your home with any type of terrier (particularly a Jack Russell), or even a Beagle, Dachshund, any type of Husky… you know how destructive this type of behavior can be. You also know that breaking him of this habit can be short of impossible unless you’re prepared to supervise his every move in your yard. That’s why understanding the cause can be the first step in solving the problem.

  1. Tire Him Out

If you suspect your dog is bored or restless, the easiest solution is to provide him with a more formal form of exercise. Letting him out to run in the yard isn’t going to solve his need for mental and physical stimulation the way a walk or run at the dog park will. High energy dogs in particular, need the release that comes from running full tilt during active playtime. If regular walks are a challenge to pull off, invest in a chuck-it or Frisbee that can be thrown, caught, and returned. Add lots of praise and a treat or two and this will easily beat digging a hole.

  • Discourage His Handiwork

Dogs will often opt for flowerbeds when digging. The soil is nicely turned, it smells good, and its super easy to motor through. By the time you catch him, the damage can be done and plantings ruined, so its best to assume he’s going to dig and find a deterrent that makes it unpleasant. Try placing a large rock in the middle of his “site” or burying smaller stones that will make the dig more difficult. You could bury a strong-smelling deterrent – dogs hate anything with a citrus scent, so orange, grapefruit or lemon peels would work. For some, coffee grinds do the trick and they fertilize beds at the same time, so win-win.

  • Create a Dig Friendly Zone

So, you’ve protected your favorite flowerbed and now he’s off to dig up another one. Why not just create a dedicated section of the garden where digging is permitted. For small spaces, you might even consider a sandbox or other contained area that’s filled with nice soft sand. But how to get him to gravitate over? Make it fun and interesting for him by burying some of his treats or scattering some of his favorite toys around it. Tip: plan to refill holes as necessary to prevent him from running out of room and roaming further afield (AKA, your garden).

  • Pest Proof Your Yard

While its easier said than done, getting rid of burrowing animals such as rodents may resolve your pooch’s need to dig. Explore his favorite sites and if they’re close to trees or shrubbery, and have tell-tale signs such as obvious burrow holes and droppings, the cause may be down to him trying to exterminate vermin on your behalf. In addition to your dog tearing up your yard, the downside to having this type of critter nesting on your property is the damage they can do – particularly if they decide to come indoors. Bring in the pros and work with them to come up with a solution that doesn’t involve poisons or traps that might harm your pet.

  • Create a Chill-Out Zone

If you’ve ever sat on a bench or at a picnic table in a leash-free park, you’ve undoubtedly seen those extra-deep holes that are dug out by pooches seeking a cool, shaded place to beat the heat. And its as natural for dogs to do this, as it is for humans to seek out air conditioning on a super hot day. If your dog is digging deep holes, then sitting or laying in them, he’s trying to cool off. So, why not take the cue and create a shaded place for him. Check out sites like Amazon for cooling mats that keep him chill (and clean) when he’s in the yard. And always ensure he has fresh, cold water outside. Even if his yard time is brief and you know he’s coming back in to a comfortable, air-conditioned home, just a few minutes outside can be enough for him to seek shelter on a hot day… and begin digging.