Behaviors that are natural for dogs to do are the most difficult to eliminate. It is almost impossible to train a dog away from a natural or instinctive behavior. Dogs dig for many reasons:
- To bury something
- To get to an inanimate object that is buried (root, rock, piece of plastic or metal, something they previously buried, etc)
- To get to a small burrowing creature such as a chipmunk, mouse or mole
- To expose cool soil to lay on
- To make a sleeping area
- To escape
Puppies are the most persistent diggers. They are the ones who dig to explore their relatively new world. They want to learn about that world, so they dig!
The most effective control for digging is management. Management means close supervision of the dog when they are in likely digging areas. If a dog is left in a yard to “be”, they WILL be a dog and do dog things, like dig! So, if your yard looks like the moon with craters all over, that is not your dog’s fault – it is yours!
Here are some methods, besides management & supervision, which you can try:
- Put dog poop in the holes your dog has dug. Because most dogs don’t like poop on their paws, this usually will keep your dog from going back to the same holes – but it will not discourage him from digging new ones.
- Sprinkle any number of dog deterrents available on the market into the already dug holes. These may or may not work. They must be reapplied after each time it rains.
- Sprinkle something the dog does not like the taste or smell of into the already dug holes, like original Listerene mouth wash (or even the generic), alum (it is a spice used in pickling), or super hot sauce (but some dogs enjoy its flavor!). These must be reapplied after each time it rains.
- Bury, just below the surface of a hole, a small piece of wire mesh. When the dog digs, he will scrape his paws on the mesh. This is a method that requires supervision, because the object is NOT to hurt your dog, but to catch him and re-direct him away from the hole.
- An old wives’ tale says to fill the hole with water and put the dog’s head into it — THIS DOES NOT WORK!!!!!!!!!!! DO NOT DO THIS!!!!! THIS IS CRUEL!!!
Please notice each of these methods can only be done with existing holes – it doesn’t help to prevent new holes from being dug! The only method of the above that I have used is the poop method, because all the other methods require just as much supervision and effort as I would use for the digging itself, and I am not “into” hurting my dog!
Terriers are notorious diggers. Well, imagine that! “Terra” means “earth”! Terriers are BRED to dig! They are varmint dogs! If you have a terrier, you will not have a decent yard unless you closely supervise.
Beagles are also notorious diggers. They also hunt animals that have burrows in the ground – rabbits! Again, you must closely supervise this breed!
If you want to have a dog AND a yard, you must use your human brain to come up with solutions to keep your dog from digging. Besides strict supervision, which is my method of choice, here are a few other suggestions:
Make a “free-digging zone” for your dog – a veritable doggie sandbox, if you will! Encourage digging in that area. Hide treats just under the surface of the dirt or sand. Create fun digging projects for your dog in that area alone.
- Provide plenty of durable outside toys and “projects” for your dog, so he can be kept busy doing other things besides digging.
- Erect garden fencing to keep your dog out of the perennial or vegatable garden, and teach your dog he is unwelcome in that area.
- Use any of the animal repellants on the market and apply regularly to the perimeter of the areas you don’t want the dog in. I am not convinced those repellants work (I have tried a few, and I don’t use them), but you can give them a try!
- There are motion-detector sprinklers that can be placed in the garden areas or wherever else you don’t want your dog to go. When a dog (or cat, deer, rabbit or child, for that matter) goes near the area, the sensor turns on a sprinkler that sprays water to chase the culprit away. These sprinklers may also spray when birds come, too…
- I am NOT a big fan of invisible or underground fencing, but this is one area where electronic fencing could be used.
The moral of the story is: The most effective control for digging is MANAGEMENT and SUPERVISION!