I used to think dogs only dug in the dirt in cartoons. Thanks to several holes in the yard by our lovable pooch, I don’t think that anymore. Let me tell the world, dog digging is REAL! I’m here to report that there is hope though. Here’s how to stop a dog from digging in the yard and under the fence.
That’s the first question, why do dogs dig? Some dogs dig holes in the yard, some dig under the fence. Some even try to dig holes in the carpet or the bed. They are weird, right?! They’re also pretty cool, so we would like to keep our our dogs and our yards in one piece.
So what are they thinking as they furiously paw at the dirt with such determination? Sometimes not much.
The first thing to understand is that their motive is not destruction. Dogs don’t dig up your yard for payback or to annoy you. Fortunately, dogs don’t think like that. A lot of times, people like to attribute human emotions and motives to dog behavior. Not a good idea. Plus you will never get anywhere training your dog.
The reality is that dogs dig because it is a natural behavior. The thing is, some dogs dig more than others
I’m sure you have noticed, but dogs love to have fun. Some dogs just love to dig. Puppies and younger dogs especially love to explore and dig. Sometimes dogs will dig if they are hot or cold, looking for ground that is cooler or warmer. You should be able to tell the difference between these two scenarios. If your dog is digging due to temperature issues, the best thing to do is bring them inside or give them some shelter.
Other times, dogs dig because they have too much energy and they are trying to burn it off. In this case, you want to make sure you are taking your dog for walks often enough. Sometimes we forget that they don’t get much exercise while we are gone during the day.
Dogs can often dig in response to strong smelling objects in the ground. Whether it’s dead animals, fertilizers, or who knows what else that has landed in your grass or garden. They smell something! If you want to curb digging, make sure you try to keep those smelly things to a minimum.
Finally, some dogs dig to either bury or recover treats and other treasure they have buried. Some dogs don’t do this, but if you have a dog that buries stuff, you know they don’t always remember where it’s at. One good way to eliminate this problem is to not let your dog take treats outside. Of course the flip side is that you will now find them in your couch cushions. Trade offs. (Sigh.)
Digging is natural for dogs. Excessive digging is not. If you have eliminated the causes above and your dog still digs like crazy, you need to try something else. Some of these solutions simply manage or contain your dog’s digging, while others can stop the digging all together.
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You can manage your dog’s digging by creating an area that he is encouraged to dig in. You can do this by burying a toy or a treat to get your dog started. The idea is to encourage digging there but discourage digging in the rest of the yard. Many dog’s will catch on to this quickly. Especially if they have a reward.
Other dogs…lets just say it takes them a little longer to catch on. (I wanted to say that politely because my dog is in the room staring at me. She’s in that category.) It’s just a matter of consistently reinforcing where it is ok to dig and where it’s a big no no.
If your dog keeps digging in the yard, another solution is to go to the holes that have been started and place a brick in the hole. Cover the brick up with dirt. The next time your dog starts to dig there, he will get discouraged and give up once he hits the brick. Hopefully…
If your dog keeps digging at the brick, take him over to his digging area and redirect him. If he keeps trying to go back to the yard, put him in timeout until he starts to get the point. This can get a little frustrating, but like all dog training, it takes patience.
If you are out of patience or if your dog still doesn’t change his digging behavior, there might be something more to his digging.
Like most destructive dog behavior, excessive digging can be caused by separation anxiety. The best way to address this is as a pack leader issue. Dogs that think they are the pack leader get anxiety when their pack members leave their sight.
That’s right, your dog is freaking out because he thinks he’s responsible for keeping you safe. If he’s digging under the fence, he’s likely trying to get out so he can go look for you. Sound crazy? It’s really not.
Dogs are social animals that historically lived in packs before living with humans. Packs have structure and hierarchy. Each pack has a leader. The leader of the pack has the job of protecting the rest of the pack and maintaining order.
Dogs still have their pack mentality even in your home. They substitute your family members for their pack. If no one is the leader, your dog will step up to be the leader. When you leave, your dog thinks it’s his responsibility as pack leader to go find you.
Think of it this way: When your dog actually gets out of the yard, what do you do? You go looking for him or chase after him. That’s because he is your responsibility. It’s your duty to find him and keep him safe. So now you see your dog’s reaction is not so crazy after all.
If you can show your dog that you are the leader of the pack, your dog will actually become more relaxed. The pack leader can come and go, no worries. When you leave, he will just wait for you to come back. You will also notice that your dog will be more relaxed an better behaved.
So how do you become your dog’s pack leader? It’s not as hard as it sounds. It doesn’t involve yelling or rolling your dog into submission holds. That’s not cool. Be nice to your dog! Read our post on becoming the pack leader. Also check out our free everyday training guide that has 6 awesome tools for training your dog.
Remember, a good start when training your dog is to try to see the issue through your dog’s eyes. The more you understand how dogs are wired to react, the more you can use that to your advantage.
Digging is a natural dog behavior for the most part. It does become a problem when it’s excessive and you are not able to redirect or change your dog’s behavior. Remember no dog is perfect, but if you are struggling with how to stop a dog digging in the yard, these quick fixes should help. If not, it may be a larger leadership issue with your dog. If you are still struggling, check out our free everyday training guide.
That’s all for now dog lovers. Go spend some time with your pup and remember that all doggies are Good Doggies!