1. Cover the area with bad smellsEver notice how your dog sniffs the dirt as he digs his hole? We are going to use this behavior against your furry earth-mover. Yep, by assaulting your dogs keen sense-of-smell you can stop his digging in his tracks. All you need is a nasty scent. The most effective digging deterrent smell we tested was red cayenne pepper. Sprinkle a small amount of this powder wherever your dog is digging. Once your dog takes a sniff, he will avoid the area completely. When inhaled, this red pepper will irritate your dog’s nostrils. You’ll know it’s worked because your dog will likely snort, shake his head or even run… Most dogs don’t think digging is worth putting up with this pain – but don’t worry, it’s only temporary and harmless. Best of all, you likely have a bottle of red cayenne pepper sitting in your pantry. Especially if you like spicy food as much as I do! However, If your dog is a dig-o-holic, the small-sized jar in your pantry might not be enough. For this reason, I recommend buying in bulk – 6lbs will be more than enough for most yards.
- Citrus fruit (oranges, lemons, grapefruit)
- Coffee Grounds
- Citronella Essential Oil
- Dog poop (bury your dog’s poop where he digs
2. Block off your dogs accessIs you dog focusing his digging efforts on a specific section in your yard? He can’t dig up your lawn or garden bed if he can’t get near it. The easiest way to stop your dog accessing his favorite digging spot is to fence it off. Exactly how you do this will depend on your yard. For fencing off the lawn, you can attach patio fencing to posts with zip ties, sectioning off the yard.
3. Create a digging barrierWhat if you could create a barrier in the ground that would stop your dog from digging? Well, you can do just that. All you need is a roll of chicken wire and an afternoon to install it. This wire mesh is typically used to keep chickens from digging in your vegetable garden. But it works just as well for dogs. Roll out the chicken wire laying it flat. Pin it down, and you now have a horizontal barrier that your dog can’t dig through – if you don’t like the look, cover it with a thin layer of soil. When your dog tries to dig, his paws will scrape along the chicken wire – preventing him from scratching up the soil underneath. Even the most determined digger will eventually give up! However, you should know that metal chicken wire has a severe drawback. It has sharp pieces, especially if it rusts. If your dog scrapes his foot across the chicken wire while attempting to dig, he can injure his paw pad – you don’t want that. That’s why I prefer to use plastic poultry fencing. It’s affordable, durable and won’t harm your pup’s paws.
4. Blast your dog with waterMy dog hates water. Baths, sprinklers, rain, puddles on the ground – if it gets her wet, she will go out of her way to avoid it. If your pup feels the same way, then water may be the perfect digging deterrent. Every time your dog goes near his favorite digging spot, spray your pup with water and he will run away, he will forget all about digging. But you don’t have to wait around with a garden hose until your dog decides to dig – a motion-activated sprinkler will do the job for you. If the sprinkler detects movement, it will unleash a jet of water in a specific direction – soaking your dog.
5. Create a super fun dig-pitInstead of letting your dog choose where to dig in your yard, why not decide for him? All you need to do is create a digging zone, just for your dog. This could be as easy as tilling the earth in a specific section of your yard – dogs prefer to dig where the soil is soft and sandy. If you have the time and money, you could take this concept a step further and create a sandy area just for your dog to dig in – children’s sandboxes work great here. Dog’s love to dig in the sand because it’s soft and easy to move around. You can encourage your dog to use this area by sprinkling or burying treats. You can even hide dog toys below the surface – when your dog digs here, he is rewarded! By regularly hiding surprises in your dog’s dig pit, he won’t want to dig anywhere else! Don’t have room in your yard to set up a dedicated doggy digging zone? Check out this toy instead…
6. Scare your dog with a balloonA big thank-you to Carol, a reader who shared this tip. Carol noticed that her Basset Hound, named Droopy, was afraid of loud noises – especially thunder and fireworks. Whenever her Droopy is startled, he runs for cover. Droopy also wanted to dig his way to China – he was determined to dig the deepest hole he could. So, Carol used inflated balloons as a digging-deterrent. When they popped with a loud bang, Droopy ran for the hills. Droopy now associates his hole with a scary noise and now won’t go near it. Is your dog easily startled? Here’s how you can use his fear to stop him digging for good: Blow up a balloon and place it in your dog’s hole. Cover the balloon with a layer of dirt, just enough to hold it in place. As your dog starts digging, his sharp nails will pop the balloon. The loud popping sound will scare your dog away. It may take a few tries before your dog understands that when he hears this loud bang when he starts digging. It took four attempts before Droopy stopped his digging ways. Don’t forget to pick up all the rubber balloon pieces once you are done – you don’t want your dog swallowing them!
7. Train your dogCan you imagine asking your dog to stop digging and have him obey? It might seem hard to believe, but with proper training, you can do precisely that. By teaching your dog the stop or sit command, your dog will stop what he is doing when you tell him to. However, my favorite command is “place” This command can be used to get your dog to return to his doghouse, bed, or crate. I prefer this command because it moves your dog away from where he was digging. Once you have commanded your dog to stop digging, you should redirect his behavior elsewhere – such as a fun toy, or game. Having difficulty training your dog? Reach out to your local dog trainer for help!
8. Exercise your dogI know we all get busy from time to time, but there isn’t an excuse not to exercise your dog – especially when it can help stop your dog digging up your yard! Have you ever noticed that when you go on a walk, your dog spends most of the time sniffing? Being exposed to new smells is important to a dog. One of the reasons your dog digs up the yard is to expose himself to new smells. By taking your dog for a long daily walk, you are fulfilling this need for new scents. Your pup will be less likely to dig for new smells if he knows he will be exposed to them each day. Many dogs love “sniffy walks.” Instead of walking as fast as possible, allow your dog a more leash and stop and let him sniff whatever he discovers along the way. As if you needed another reason to walk your dog, exercise is an excellent way to burn off energy. If your pup doesn’t get a good run, then that undisturbed earth begins to look like a great way channel that excess energy. If you don’t have time to exercise your dog, consider hiring a dog walker.
9. Distract your dogSome dogs dig because they have nothing better to do. The next time you catch your dog digging, try distracting him with a game of fetch, giving him a toy, performing a trick or even giving him a treat. If your dog doesn’t return to digging after his distraction, you’ll know he was looking entertainment. In this case, you’ll want to give thought as to how you can make your yard more fun for your dog. The best solution here is to give your dog toys to play with. Speaking of which…
10. Give your dog toysWhile researching this article, I spoke to numerous people who leave their dog in their yard with nothing to do. They were then surprised to return home and discover that their dog had dug up half their yard. Can you imagine being locked in a yard all day with nothing to do? You would go crazy. So, rather than let your dog amuse himself by digging, you should be providing entertainment for him. That’s where dog toys come in. But not any toy will do. You want toys that your dog can play with by himself when you are not around. These types of toys are called interactive dog toys. Popular interactive toys include treat-dispensing balls, tether-tugs, and automatic ball throwers. A popular interactive toy is the Babble Ball… best dog toy review – we have tested over 1,000 different toys!
11. Use an uncomfortable ground coverDogs have a preference for digging in soft soil – it’s easy to dig and gentle on the paws. If the ground in your yard is too hard or hurts your dog’s paw pads, he will avoid digging it up.</p That’s precisely what this trick focuses on: Making the ground in your yard unenjoyable to dig in. To do that, you want to cover your soil or grass in a hard, dense or coarse material. Large pebbles are a great anti-digging ground cover. By layering pebbles or rocks on to each other, they are too heavy to dig up. A thick layer of crushed gravel will also work. Dogs won’t dig through them as the coarse chunks will scratch your dog’s paw pads.</p Mulch is another ground cover that can prevent your dog from digging. In particular, large wood chips. These pointy wood chunks are not fun to dig in. The trick here is that you want the ground cover to be thick enough to deter your dog. Shallow cover can easily be moved around and expose the tempting soil that hides below. Where it makes sense, you could even lay down stone pavers. If you live near wooded areas, you may not even need to buy ground cover. Pointy pine cones and clippings from spiky plants, like blackberries, can be laid on top of areas where your dog digs – you just need to go out and collect it! I’m sure there are plenty of other ground covers you could use too – get creative!
12. Use pointy plantsHave you ever been stabbed by a cactus? Hurts, right? Your dog thinks the same. Your pup is smart. If a plant pricks your dog, he will remember it. If he sees that plant again, he will avoid it. You can use this to your advantage by planting prickly plants in locations where your dog digs. The next time your dog tries to dig here, he will receive a nasty prickle for his efforts. Your dog may try to dig once or twice, but he will soon learn his lesson: Spikes hurt and digging is not worth the pain. The types of prickly plants you can choose from will entirely depend on where you live… Various thorny rose varieties can be grown in most locations in the USA while cactuses thrive in dry, arid areas. It doesn’t matter where you live, there is a prickly plant to deter your dog from digging. But do your research first… You can’t go out and buy any old spiky plant. You see, many plants are toxic to dogs… For example, while holly will stop your dog from digging, it’s also toxic to dogs. If your dog eats holly leaves or berries, it can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. Other pointy plants like sago palms are particularly deadly. Even a single seed can kill your dog. As you can see, researching dog-safe prickly plants is essential. You are trying to stop your dog from digging, not kill him!
13. Cure your dog’s seperation anxietyIs your dog overly attached to you? He may miss you so much that he acts up when you leave him alone. This extreme attachment is referred to as separation anxiety and is a surprisingly common issue. Troublesome behaviors associated with separation anxiety include:
- Your dog going potty where he shouldn’t.
- barking and howling
- Chewing or being destructive
- and, you guessed it… digging holes
14. Make your scaredy-dog feel safeThe world is a noisy place. But some sounds are much louder than others. I’m talking about fireworks, thunder, gunshots, loud trucks, trains and alarms… Of course, you and I know that loud noises are entirely harmless. Unfortunately, your pup doesn’t know any better. When your scared dog hears these sounds, he thinks that it’s something threatening. His first reaction? To search for a safe place to hide… If there is no safe space around, your dog may frantically dig, to make a safe hole to hide in. Fortunately, loud noises are an easy fix. Keep your dog inside when you know there are going to be loud noises. 4th of July fireworks? Incoming thunderstorm? Bring your pup inside. Need to leave your dog outside? Provide him with a cozy shelter, such as a dog house. If your dog does get spooked by a loud noise, he will hide in his house, rather than dig a hole. A popular solution for scaredy-dogs is the Thundershirt. These dog coats gently constrict your dog with reassuring pressure – many dog owners swear by them for keeping their dog calm during thunderstorms and fireworks</p Mutt Muffs, hearing protection for dogs and the calming chews mentioned in the previous section.
15. Cure your dog’s boredomCan you imagine being locked in your yard all day with nothing to do? Sounds pretty dull, right? Well, your dog feels the same way…. To keep himself entertained, your pup may take up digging as a hobby. It may be destructive, but to your dog, digging a hole is better than being bored. By curing your pups boredom, you won’t return home to a yard full of holes. I covered a couple of boredom busters earlier in this guide, such as toys and taking your dog for a walk. Other boredom solutions include training your dog or even getting a second dog to keep your pup company.
16. Stop the treat hidingBack when dogs roamed wild, they would dig holes to hide their unfinished food. Once the food was inside, they would cover it back up. Think of this hole as a refrigerator for dogs. The next time they were hungry they would dig up their hidden meal. Nowadays, dogs have it too easy. They don’t need to hunt, a tasty meal hand to deliver to them. And if your pup is like mine, he gets a steady supply of treats in between meals too. Even so, your dog still has these natural instincts. Despite knowing that he won’t go hungry, the desire to hide food is irresistible. And so he will turn your yard into his private food storage. Some dogs will even go so far as to hide their chew toys in holes. Look closely at the hole your dog has dug. If you see food, treats or toys inside, you’ll know you need to deal with your pup’s instincts. But how do you fight what comes naturally to your dog? The first step is to remove anything your dog has buried in your yard. If you don’t, your pup will dig it up again. You don’t want another hole in your yard, do you? Now you want to make sure you are not over-feeding your dog. If your dog is full, but there is food left over, he will be more likely to hide it. Next dogs are less likely to bury bite-sized treats. Larger treats like bully sticks, yak chews or bones, on the other hand, are more likely to be saved for later. Making the switch to a smaller treat could be all it takes to stop your dog from digging up your yard.
17. Be vigilant when modifying your yardDogs often dig because they smell something new and exciting. If that smell is coming from underground then your curious pup will dig until he can find the cause of the scent. You see, your dog is a super-sniffer. He can smell things that humans can’t. That’s why dogs love going for walks so much… Walks open your dog up to a whole range of new smells and scents that he wouldn’t get to smell at home in your yard. Your dog knows what your yard smells like. It’s boring. It’s not new or exciting. Unless… You decide to do some landscaping or modifying your back yard. When you do this, you are bringing in new smells into your yard. And to your dog, that’s incredibly exciting. Let’s say you plant a new tree in your yard. Don’t be surprised to find your dog digging up the roots in a hunt for new smells. Even rolling out fresh sod (grass turf) – your dog will happily dig through the grass roots. Same goes for digging up newly installed sprinkler heads and irrigation systems. But it’s not just what you add to your yard. Even preparing a garden bed for flowers or vegetables can cause your dog to dig. You see, dogs love freshly tilled soil. It brings a whole new range of smells to the surface. These smells were previously locked underground. With the soil unearthed, your dog is now encouraged to dig. Not to mention all the worms and bugs that come to the surface – digging after these critters is great fun! One reader even told us a sad story of when they buried their cat in their backyard and placed a memorial statue on top… They were horrified to discover their dog digging the grave up days later. Dogs will happily dig up dead animals – to your dog, they smell great! Does your dog only dig when you add something to your yard? The solution is simple: Fence off the area. By fencing off the area, you won’t have to worry about your dog digging up your brand new flower garden.
18. Check to see if your dog is pregnantIs your dog pregnant? Congratulations, puppies are on the way! And if your mama-to-be is digging holes in your yard, they may be here sooner than you think. You see, shortly before a pregnant dog gives birth, she will seek safe shelter for her pups. Even if she has to make it herself. If your pregnant dog is digging a hole, she is trying to create safe spot to hide her newborns. When dogs were in the wild, this natural instinct would keep the puppies safe from predators. These instincts are so strong that your dog still has them today. And is the very reason why your dog is digging up your yard. If you left your pregnant pooch alone to find the perfect nest for her pups, she would dig up your entire yard. That’s why it’s on you to create a safe and cozy spot for your pup to give birth. And the easiest way to do that is to use a whelping box. A whelping box is an enclosure that your mama dog can easily walk in and out of, but newborn puppies will be unable to escape. Just one problem. Whelping boxes are expensive. It’s hard to justify the cost for a single litter… But don’t worry, I’m going to share an affordable option that local German Shepherd breeder recommended: whelping box liner), add a cozy blanket or two and you have a cozy whelping box for your pregnant pooch – much more comfortable than the hole she was digging in your yard.
19. Provide your dog with shelterSome yards have patios, shady trees and all manner of cozy places for a dog to rest when the weather turns bad… However, other yards are little more than a field of grass bordered by a fence. If that sounds like your yard, then it could be the reason your dog is digging – especially if this digging occurs when the weather changes. You see, a yard like this offers no protection from the elements. But your dog is resourceful. He will take it upon himself to build his own shelter. Well, dig one up anyway. Don’t want your dog to dig a hole for protection? Then you should provide shelter for him.
20. Cool down your hot dogSummer is great and all, but can we talk about that heat? There is nothing worse than feeling hot and bothered on a scorching summer day. If you were covered in fur, it would be so much worse. Right? In hot weather, many dogs suffer. Especially those with thick coats such as Huskies, Golden Retrievers, and Border Collies. Fortunately, dogs have a smart trick to stay cool – digging a hole. You see, the soil below your grass hasn’t been exposed to the scorching summer sun. In fact, this soil can be 10 – 15 ˚F cooler than the current temperature. And if the soil is in the shade, say behind a bush or near the foundation of a building, it can be colder again. When your dog rests in this exposed soil, it cools him down dramatically. The cold earth is like an icepack made from dirt. If you look at the thermometer, or live in a hot area (looking at you Arizona) then this could be the very reason your dog is digging – especially if your dog is panting as he digs. The solution is simple! Keep your dog fresh on scorching summers days. The easiest option is to bring your dog inside on hot days, where the temperature is likely cooler. If bringing your dog inside isn’t an option, then you providing shelter can go a long way. A tarp stretched between two trees, or a pop-up umbrella can provide a shaded spot for your pup to rest. For those of you that want to spoil your dog, it’s hard to beat a dog pool for cooling down. My aunt has a dog pool and swears by it. When summer rolls around, her black Labrador will lay in the pool all day – his tail wags with joy every time my aunt sets it up.
21. Rid your yard of rodentsIs your dog digging in a single location over and over again? He may be trying to dig up an animal hiding in your soil. You see, there are a wide variety of different animals that can call your yard home – especially if you live in the suburbs. Some common pests that hide in the dirt include:
- Gophers, groundhogs moles and voles
- Rats, mice and rabbits
- Squirrels and chipmunks
- Lizards and snakes
- Bugs, insects and grubs
- Frogs and toads
22. Calm down your excited dogI must admit, it’s cute watching dogs get excited. It’s like they lose control of their body. They jump, wag, shake and, unfortunately, dig. One of our product testers, Boots, a Corgi, gets excited when it’s walk time. When he sees the leash come out, he will bounce from one spot to the next, frantically pawing at the floor. Now, while this doesn’t cause any damage inside, outside is a different story. This frantic pawing wears down the grass and creates shallow holes in the lawn. Common causes of excitement include:
- It’s walk time
- It’s meal time
- Meeting other dogs
- Getting ready to throw the ball in a game of fetch
- Hearing a squeaky toy
- A new guest arriving in your home
23. Get rid of the soft, sandy soil in your yardThe type of soil in your yard may be encouraging your dog to dig. Especially if you have soft, sandy or freshly tilled dirt. I learned this first hand… You see, my pup isn’t a digger. I can leave her in the yard and be confident she won’t dig holes everywhere. But when I take my pup to the beach, she will spend half the time digging holes along the shore. When I asked and dog behaviorist about this, she inquired about my yard. More specifically, she asked about the soil in my yard. Now, the soil in my yard is not only rocky but very compacted. As you might have guessed, this is very difficult to dig in – My husband almost gave up digging a garden bed, and he was using a shovel! It turned out that my dog was digging at the beach because the sand was soft. This soft soil provided my dog with a new way to play that she couldn’t experience at home. Compacted, rocky soil can scratch or damage your dog’s paw pads. By comparison, loose, sandy soil is soft and gentle on the paws and may encourage your dog to dig. Fortunately, loose, soft soil can be compacted. A hand tamper can be used for smaller sections of ground while larger areas may require a lawn roller. If your entire yard contains easily dug soil, then you may need to try one of the other solutions on this list.
24. Stop your dog digging for attentionIt’s no secret your dog loves to be showered with attention. And who can blame him? Praise, cuddles, belly rubs and treats – it’s the good life. It saddens me to say that not all dogs receive the same love. Some owners ignore their dogs. So what can your dog do if feels you are ignoring him? In this case, to your pup, any behavior that gets your attention is only a good thing And your dog knows that digging in the yard is certainly a good way of getting your attention. The moment you notice your dog digging, you rush over to stop your dog from destroying the grass. You pull him away, and you may even give him a treat or a pat. For this brief moment, your dog feels like he is receiving attention. Unfortunately, your dog has now associated digging as a way to get the attention he so desires. He now knows that every time he needs to get your attention, he just has to dig a hole. Fortunately, this is an easy fix: Don’t neglect your dog! Play with your pup and give him attention when possible. Pet him, walk him, give him treats, play with him. Even if it’s just sitting with your dog in front of the TV, your dog will love it! If your dog is digging for attention, one solution is to ignore your pup when he digs. Once he has finished, praise your pup for any good behavior that doesn’t involve digging, such as walking around the yard or playing with his toys.
25. Is your breed a digger?For some breeds of dogs, digging comes as naturally as peeing on a fire hydrant and sniffing butts. Natural born diggers include Terriers (Yorkies, Jack Russels, Fox Terriers, etc.) and Dachshunds. These breeds are known as earthdogs and were bred to chase rats and other unwanted rodents through underground tunnels – often they would have to dig their way in. For these dogs, digging is in their blood, and this behavior is not something that that you quickly train out. While owning one of these dogs doesn’t guarantee a lawn full of holes, it does raise the chances of problem digging. Considering getting a new dog? If your yard is your pride and joy, you might want to cross these digging breeds off your list.
26. Is your dog eating dirt when he digs?Does your dog have dirt all around his mouth when he digs? He is probably eating it, which means it’s probably time for a trip to the vet. Now I’m not talking about a taste of soil now and then. But if your dog is frequently eating dirt or eats large amounts of it then it may be an issue. You see, frequently digging and eating dirt may be an indicator that your dog’s diet is lacking in essential nutrients. This is often a result of an unbalanced home-made diet. While you may not be aware of this, your dog is and will eat dirt to try and make up for the nutrients he lacks in. According to our in-house Vet, Dr. Sara Ochoa, several other medical disorders can cause a dog to dig and eat dirt:
- Upset stomach
- Gastro intestinal parasites