Why Do Dogs Dig and How Can You Stop It?
Every pet owner knows the joy of seeing their happy dog's face when they bounce over to greet them. That joy quickly turns to other emotions, however, if that happy face is covered in dirt, and your flower beds are dotted with holes. Digging is an activity that dogs love, but it's not such a joy for the people who love them. It can get expensive and frustrating to find new holes in the garden, and a dog who loves to dig will also paw at your couch.
But that doesn't mean you have to choose between your companion or your landscaping. Here's what you need to know about dogs, digging behavior, and what you can do to stop it.
Why do dogs dig?
Although some dogs are more interested in digging than others, all dogs have some desire to get their paws dirty. This is because it's a behavior they carry on from their wild wolf ancestors.
Some breeds were even bred to emphasize their digging instincts. For instance, terriers were chosen for their ability to dig and hunt small animals like gophers, to protect crops. A modern dog living indoors may translate that urge into clawing at the furniture, so getting a dog couch protector is a good idea.
Often, dogs are looking for mental stimulation when they dig. It may not seem like fun to create holes all over the yard, but for a dog, it's very satisfying. They may also be looking for a cool spot to relax. If your dog has a thick coat, such as a husky, it may dig out a soft, damp bed in a shady spot to get some relief from the heat.
Anxiety is another reason some dogs dig. If they're very worked up because of separation anxiety or loud noises, they may dig frantically in an effort to escape.
Do dogs grow out of digging?
Many frustrating behaviors improve as dogs grow up. Puppies have boundless energy, poor impulse control, and a lot to learn. Destructive actions like digging may become less of a problem as a dog gets older, but they're not likely to disappear on their own.
This doesn't mean it's hopeless. Digging may be harder to discourage in some dogs than others, but you can help them learn with some patience and attention. Here are a few things you can try.
What are the best ways to stop a dog from digging?
The first thing to try is adding more exercise. In fact, this is a great place to start with any behavior problem. Exercise is a helpful way to burn off excess energy, as well as relieve the boredom that may lead to bad decisions. Adding a morning and evening walk may help your dog stop digging.
An energetic game of fetch is also a good way to entertain a bored dog. Even better, it gives them a constructive outlet for their chasing and hunting instincts. The best way to train a dog is to give them positive attention when they do what you want them to do.
Another way to ward off boredom is to make sure they have plenty of things to play with. A wide selection of toys will keep them engaged when you're not available, especially puzzle toys that require them to work to get a treat. Chew toys are also helpful for keeping dogs occupied.
If digging in the couch cushions is a problem, there are a few ways you can protect your furniture. It's a good idea to use pet covers for sofas to keep the upholstery safe. You may also want to get a comfy dog bed, since scratching before they lie down is a deeply ingrained instinct in dogs. Let them scratch at their bed instead of your couch!
Watch to see if your dog mostly seems to dig holes outside so they can lie down in them. If so, they're probably trying to cool down. Make sure they have a comfortable, shady spot to rest, and don't leave them outside long in hot weather. A well-shaded dog house may offer the relief they're looking for. You may need to check your yard for burrowing animals. If you have gophers or voles scurrying through tunnels right under your dog's nose, you'll have a very hard time drawing their attention away. You can hire services to trap and remove the pests or you can place humane traps and relocate them yourself. A word of warning: using poison is not a safe option. Because of their prey drive, your dog is already motivated to find the animal, if they dig up the body of a poisoned pest the results can be disastrous.
Is it ok for my dog to dig?
If it's not destroying anything important, digging isn't a bad thing to do. For some dogs, the drive to dig is very strong, and it may be best to give them their own digging area, like a sandbox, to let off some steam. A designated digging space is an option to give these dogs the release they need. Just make sure it's a safe place to dig, without sharp rocks that can hurt their paws. You can even bury dog toys in their digging area for extra fun for the dog.
What should I do if my dog is digging in my garden?
A dog can cause a lot of damage in a small amount of time in a garden. If you can't keep them out of the garden with a fence, consider using a deterrent. You can purchase repellent sprays at the pet supply store, or simply lay out slices of oranges or lemons in the spots they like to dig. Avoid spicy deterrents, such as cayenne pepper, because they can cause irritation to dogs' eyes, mouths, and paws.
You can also place large rocks to discourage digging. However, be careful about blocking digging with chicken wire, because it can hurt pooch paws.
What are the best ways to stop a dog from digging?
The best way to discourage diggers is to find out why they're doing it. Are they bored? Trying to cool off? Hunting? Figure out what your dog is trying to do, and solve that problem for them. If nothing seems to work, increase their exercise and playtime. Your dog wants to please you, so offer them plenty of opportunities to do so.
Digging up your yard is destructive, but you can help your pooch find better forms of entertainment. At Animals Matter, we love pets too, and we're proud to offer the highest quality supplies so you can pamper them in style. For more information, feel free to contact us.