A digging dog can be a real nuisance, especially if they’re digging into your neighbour's backyard or worse digging their way out onto the street. You might think it's a losing battle stopping your dog from digging under the fence, or just digging craters in the backyard, but there are plenty of solutions you can try.
Why Does Your Dog Dig?
You might think your dog is digging to defy you, but there may be a logical reason for his or her behaviour. It’s important to know why your dog digs if you want to find a solution that will work.
Your Dog Is Hot
In summer it’s common for a dog to dig in the garden to find a cool patch of sand to sit in. Make sure your dog has other alternatives to help keep cool. Ensure he has a shaded spots throughout the day. Dogs don’t sweat like humans so they use other methods to keep themselves cool.
Try enticing your dog with other ways to stay cool in summer. You can try a cooling pet mat. A cooling mat is a thin mattress filled with a gel that absorbs a pet’s body heat to keep their skin cool.
If your dog likes water, leave a small, shallow paddling pool out on a hot day so they can sit in the water. Frozen treats are also a great way to keep your pooch cool. Take a look at these great recipes!
Many dogs dig when their owners are away from the house, not because they’re stroppy about being left home, but they’re bored. Digging while you are home is often linked to attention-seeking behaviour.
We need to give our dogs enough exercise and mental stimulation, so they don’t get bored and start misbehaving.
If you’re going out for the day, take your dog for a walk before you leave so they’ve used some energy. When you’re home, give your dog plenty of attention and play time.
Some dogs need mental stimulation as much as they need physical exercise. Leave some kong toys or dog puzzles with treat rewards in the backyard that gives them something to do.
Bringing a second dog into the family can help keep your pooch company, while you’re away. But remember adding another dog to the equation will not fix the problem instantly. Training, stimulation and exercise are always key.
Your Pooch is Hunting
Hunting for prey is a favourite pastime for many dogs. If your dog enjoys catching lizards, rats, insects and burrowing animals they may dig for the thrill of the chase. Small animals will try to hide from a dog at the base and roots of trees or shrubs. When there’s something to be found, your dog may not know or care that they’re destroying your garden bed.
It’s difficult to stop a dog from chasing an insect, rodent, cat or dog. Toys may take their mind off it for a while, but often if they pick up the scent, there’s no stopping their nose.
It’s in Their DNA
All dogs can dig, but some breeds are more inclined to dig than others. Hunting dogs are bred for their digging qualities. Jack Russell Terriers might be small in stature, but they’re digging abilities are epic when they’re looking for prey. The Dachshund also doesn’t let its little legs stop them from digging a sizable hole. The Cairn Terrier is another hunter that doesn’t think twice before digging down to its prey. Miniature Schnauzers were originally bred to find and kill rats around farms. Even if you don’t have a rodent problem, their instinct to dig can be strong. The Beagle’s nose will often take them underground in search of prey.
Some of the larger breed diggers include Huskies who will dig to hunt or escape. The Alaskan Malamute is another working dog used to digging a hole to keep warm when temperatures are freezing in the northern hemisphere. In Australia, they’re more likely to dig to keep cool. Border Collie dogs are one of the most intelligent breeds, but you might not think so if he’s always getting in trouble. Without plenty of daily exercise and mental stimulation, all dog breeds get bored.
If you are a keen landscaper, you may want to avoid buying a dog breed that’s most likely to dig. You should always do your research for what breed of dog is most suitable for your family and lifestyle. But if it’s too late, try some of our DIY solutions below.
5 DIY Solutions for Stopping the Little Digger
Read on to find out what you can do to stop your Houdini hound.
#1 Chicken Wire Addition to Your Fence
There’s a reason chicken wire is used to protect coops from foxes - it’s effective against the paws of wild foxes and domestic dogs. You can use chicken wire to stop your dog from digging under the fence. The L-shape chicken wire is one of the most effective ways to keep a dog on your side of the fence. To install the wire, decide if you will remove the topsoil and place the wire under or if you will leave the wire on top. Both methods will work to keep your dog on your side of the fence.
Chicken wire can be used in combination with your existing fence material. The 90-degree angle of wire stops your dog digging their way to freedom. Place a 60-90cm length of wire on the ground and a shorter length vertically against the fence. If you aren’t burying the horizontal section, secure it with rocks at intervals or use tie downs so your dog can’t get in under the wire.
Chicken wire comes on a roll so the end often curves under. Be sure to place this rolled end on the fence rather than out towards the yard so your dog doesn’t hurt himself on any sharp edges if he tries to dig.
If you prefer, use rocks or bricks instead of chicken wire to stop your dog digging against the fenceline. Consider what size rocks you will need. A large dog won’t see a row of pebbles as any kind of deterrent, but it might be fine for a small breed.
#2 Fix Existing Holes
There’s nothing more tempting to a dog than a hole that can be made a little deeper. You might be sick of grabbing the shovel every time you notice they’ve been digging, but it’s important to fill the hole. If he’s digging in the same place, try adding a few rocks along the fence to deter his bad behaviour.
#3 Training and Supervision
If you’re outside and see your dog digging, give him the ‘Leave It!’ command. You want him to know digging is bad behaviour. However, for some dogs any attention is good attention. Make sure you spend plenty of time playing with him so he isn’t digging to gain a reaction from you.
#4 Let Them Dig
If you have a persistent digger, think about giving him a safe digging zone. Sacrifice one area of your backyard to save the rest. It may take a little while to train your dog to only dig here, but it can be an effective long-term solution. It may take a little time for him to understand that this is the area you want him to dig and leave the rest of the yard alone. You may need to fence it off so your dog understands that digging inside the fence is allowed and outside isn’t.
Make it attractive to your dog by placing their favourite type of sand - loose, compacted, wet, or dry. Use treats on top and slightly buried so he’s rewarded for going there. Partly bury some toys he can find for more reward. Give your dog the ‘dig’ command and plenty of praise when he digs in the correct zone.
It may take time for your dog to realise this is where you want him to dig. If he returns to his favourite spot and you’re there, use a firm voice to tell your dog ‘Leave It!’ then take them to the zone you want them to use straight after.
If you don’t have anywhere in your garden you’re willing to devote to a digging zone, try using a mobile children’s sandpit.
#5 Smelly Deterrents
Some dogs are deterred from digging by different smells. A capsicum spray along the fence may put them off digging there.
Hardware stores sell a dog and cat deterrent mix which is sprinkled anywhere you want them to stop visiting. The mix contains natural ingredients and botanical oils that smell and taste bad.
If your dog returns to a hole, sprinkle the hole with pepper. His next visit may cause him to sneeze and discourages him from coming back.
Most dogs will avoid their own faeces so pick up their droppings from other parts of the yard and drop them in the soil along the fence.
What Won’t Work
A dog that digs constantly can make their owner crazy looking for ways to stop their naughty behaviour. You’re willing to give anything a go, but here are a few ideas that have already been done before without success.
Filling the Hole With Water
Some dog owners think they will put their dog off from further digging if they drop the hose in the hole for a while. What they don’t figure is some dogs will think this temporary swimming pool is great fun and make far more mess than the dry sand. Those that don’t like to get their paws wet, might avoid the quicksand...until it dries.
Rubbing a dog’s nose in his freshly dug sand is unlikely to solve the problem. Most dogs can’t make the link between your current anger and the hole they made an hour ago. Some dogs will know they’re in trouble and will look sheepish or run and hide. Tell your dog you’re unhappy about the hole, but don’t raise your voice and never use your hand.
If you’re concerned about your dog's bad behaviour, you should make an appointment with your local vet for recommendations or contact a dog behaviour specialist.