There’s nothing cuter than watching an excited dog happily digging in the soil with their tongue out and dirt billowing all around them… unless it’s your dog and your yard!

Digging is a common complaint among pet owners, and it can feel like an overwhelming task to curb this behavior. However, perhaps understanding why your pet does this is the first step toward stopping a dog from digging.

Ancient Instincts

Our dogs were once wolves – even that cute little Pomeranian or Corgi shares a lot of DNA with these ancient ancestors. Wolves and wild dogs do a lot of digging, especially when they’re making their dens. Similarly, a pet dog may dig in order to create a cool or protected spot to rest.

Burying tasty food items and other treasured possessions is another trait passed down from the ancestors of modern dogs. That’s why your pet may choose to bury their toys, bones, or especially delicious treats.

Boredom and Separation Anxiety

Dogs with a lot of extra time on their paws and no humans around for company may resort to digging as a way to relieve stress and burn off excess energy. Those who suffer from separation anxiety might dig as a way to try and escape their confinement.

Hunting and Gathering

Those incredible ears and amazing noses can detect things we humans can’t even begin to imagine, including mice, voles, beetles, and other exciting critters that live underground. Digging may be your dog’s way of hunting these small creatures or uncovering a tasty piece of root, bark, or other plant material.

Green Paws

If your pet has a knack for digging up everything you just planted in your garden, you may have a dog on your hands who simply can’t resist the smell of fresh dirt and organic fertilizers, like fish emulsion. Certain soil amenders, such as blood meal and some types of compost, should not be used in homes with pets, as these can be toxic if ingested. Check with your veterinarian if you aren’t sure what types of products are safe to use.

Stopping a Dog from Digging

Pinpointing the reason(s) behind your dog’s digging is key. Once you’ve figured out the cause of their behavior, consider the following recommendations to stop or prevent a dog from digging:

  • Make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise each day. If you’re gone for long periods of time, make sure there are several activities to engage them, such as a treat-filled Kong, challenging food puzzle, or a scheduled visit from a dog walker or neighbor. If you’re away from home regularly, social dogs may benefit from a few hours at doggy daycare.
  • If your dog is digging out a spot to sleep, try positioning a comfy outdoor bed in a shady, sheltered area. Be sure they have access to fresh water at all times.
  • Keep your dog indoors when gardening, and don’t use fish emulsion or other “tasty” fertilizers unless you’re able to temporarily fence off the area.
  • Cover your dog’s favorite digging spot with chicken wire or large rocks temporarily.
  • Don’t punish your dog for digging. Instead, set up an area of the yard where they’re allowed to dig, and reward them with praise when they dig in that spot.
  • Never use harsh sprays or chemicals to deter a dog from digging.

Do you have additional questions or concerns about your adorable digger? Please don’t hesitate to contact the team at Highway Veterinary Hospital.