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How to stop a dog from digging?

May 21, 2023

Duncan Houston

Dogs dig for various reasons including seeking entertainment, seeking attention, hunting for prey, or trying to escape. It's important to identify the underlying cause in order to effectively address the behavior. Here are several ways to stop dogs from digging:

1. *Provide Exercise and Mental Stimulation*: Dogs often dig out of boredom or excess energy. Regular walks, playtime, and training can help. Puzzle toys or toys filled with treats can also keep them occupied. Depending on the breed, some dogs may need more physical and mental stimulation than others.

2. *Create A Digging Zone*: Instead of trying to eliminate the digging behavior completely, you can designate a specific area in your yard where it's okay for your dog to dig. This could be a sandbox or a particular corner of the garden. Encourage them to dig there by burying toys or treats in that area.

3. *Training and Positive Reinforcement*: Teach your dog the "leave it" or "no dig" command. When you catch your dog starting to dig, use the command and redirect their attention to a different activity. When they obey, reward them with a treat or praise. Remember, it's crucial to catch them in the act for this method to be effective. Punishing them after the fact will only confuse them.

4. *Avoid Negative Punishment*: It's important to never resort to harmful or negative punishments. They don't work and will only harm your relationship with your dog. Instead, use positive reinforcement and redirection.

5. *Make the Area Unappealing*: If there's a specific spot your dog loves to dig, you could make it less appealing. Some people place rocks or chicken wire (ensure the edges are not sharp) beneath the surface. Alternatively, certain non-toxic deterrent sprays with a smell unpleasant to dogs can be used.

6. *Address Separation Anxiety*: If your dog is digging in an attempt to escape or when left alone, they may be experiencing separation anxiety. This is a more complex issue and you may need to consult with a veterinarian or a professional dog trainer. Methods to ease separation anxiety may include crate training, gradually increasing the time you spend away, or even medication in severe cases.

7. *Check for Pests*: Your dog might be digging because they're hunting for pests like moles or gophers. If that's the case, you might need to consult a pest control professional.

Remember, consistent, positive, reward-based training is key. Don't expect immediate results, and understand that it might take time for your dog to unlearn their digging habits. Always provide them with plenty of alternatives for expending their energy and keeping their minds stimulated.