Dogs have a tendency to dig. Even your beloved cockapoo may tear up your lawn once in a while. It is part of the nature of dogs, and it is instinctive. However, if your dog digs over your carefully manicured garden, then it goes beyond a minor nuisance and can become quite a problem. There are a number of things you can do to minimise the damage of a digging dog.
Why is my dog attracted to my garden?
You first need to understand the reasons why your dog may enjoy digging up your garden. From your dog’s perspective, your garden may be a wonderful playground. It will be full of lots of exciting smells which tug at his sensitive nose. He may be able to hear interesting sounds, perhaps in the gardens of your neighbors. There are potential playthings, from his point of view, such as mice, moles and other small animals.
How to stop digging
Spend some time working in the garden whilst your dog is outside with you. If you have one, set up a hose and sprinkler, and leave it out in the garden, almost like the bait of a trap. If your dog is inquisitive, he will no doubt want to investigate this new device. When he approaches the sprinkler, turn it on, and see his reaction to the water. Many dogs will associate this unwelcome dampening with discipline. However, the discipline is not coming from you, it will probably seem like it is coming from the garden itself in some way.
An alternative method to a sprinkler is a toy water pistol. It may require some waiting time on your part as your dog works up to digging in your garden, but when he does, you can deliver a watery warning that his behavior is not acceptable. Training your dog not to dig in this way will take effort on your part, since you will have to act as though you were not part of the watering, and must ensure that the activity does not become a game which your dog enjoys. If your dog does enjoy receiving a soaking, then using a sprinkler or a water pistol is unlikely to train him out of digging up the garden.
Some dogs dig in the garden and chew upon plants out of boredom. If you find your dog has excess energy, then make the effort to take him out for more exercise during the day. Use a ball to play “fetch” so that he have plenty of opportunity to run. If appropriate, allow your dog into the house where he will not be alone. Use toys as a means of keeping him occupied. Fill toys with treats and foods so that the time he spends alone can also be spent in an activity. If you feel that boredom is at the root of your dog’s behavior, you may wish to consider getting another dog as a companion for him. If your lifestyle and family arrangements permit, this may be an ideal solution. Bear in mind though that two dogs left alone can cause a great deal of destruction to a garden. You might want to try retraining your dog out of a digging habit, before adding another potential digger to your family.
If you find that your dog digs at the fences around your garden, it may well be become he can smell something interesting on the other side of the fence. Perhaps there may be another animal he can smell, and he wants to investigate. Spend time filling in any holes or gaps under fencing, using concrete if necessary, so that your dog can’t make his escape into your neighbor’s garden. Some dogs will return to the same places to dig, especially to those potential gaps under the fence. If your dog does so, then try placing some of your dog’s own feces in the area which he keeps coming back to. Dogs do not like the smell of their own excrement, so this will deter him from attempting to dig in that same place again.
If you have tried to discourage your dog from digging, but he still persists, then consider allowing him to have a portion of the garden for himself. Just as you might allocate a sandbox for a toddler to play in, you could allocate a section of bare earth to your dog to play in.
Dig over the soil and partially bury one or two of his toys and a couple of bones. When the area is prepared, bring your dog to his section of the garden, and behave excitedly. If you have left a bone partially buried, your dog will no doubt catch the smell and investigate more thoroughly. As he digs it up, praise him for finding the “treasure”. If your dog returns to digging up your portion of the garden, re-try the “buried treasure” routine until your dog resumes his interest in his section of the garden. This compromise allows you to keep the majority of your garden neat and tidy, whilst also allowing your dog his enjoyment of digging.