If you are reading this, you probably own a dog & are well aware that canines have a penchant for scratching, sniffing, digging & getting dirty.
These instinctive behaviours are not really a problem until your doggo starts uprooting the seedlings in your vegetable patch or ruining your lush lawns.
Like us, you may be wondering why they are digging holes & whether you can get them to stop?
We did some research & asked the experts to figure out why some dogs insist on making our lawns look like swiss cheese. Keep reading to discover what motivates them to dig & solution-specific ways to prevent the unwanted behaviour.
Where does this proclivity for ploughing originate from & are certain breeds more prone to it?
The innate behaviours that dogs display such as barking & sniffing are derived from their wolf ancestors & according to Laura, who is the owner of Constructive Canines & the head trainer at Central Bark, certain pedigrees have in fact been bred to increase their burrowing instinct for human benefit.
She states that "some breeds are bred to dig (plus some dogs just really really like it!) trying to get them to stop the behaviour can often be a losing battle. Dachshunds and many terriers were originally bred to go into burrows and then unearth other animals, with digging being an essential skill. They are powerful diggers and often need that outlet of what is a natural behaviour to them."
Terriers were originally bred to kill vermin & hunt animals underground. The word terrier comes from the Middle French chien terrier which is literally translated to "dog of the earth."
Dachshund's were also bred to enhance their ability to chase prey into tight underground tunnels. The name is of German origin & literally means badger dog. Do not underestimate the trenching capabilities their stubby little legs.
With all of the above in mind, is it unreasonable to expect this trait to vanish? Perhaps elimination is not the answer, especially for dogs that cannot curb their unearthing urges.
Besides their lineage, there are a number of other reasons that canines choose to put paw to soil, which we have categorised below.
Solutions are suggested under each heading because we believe the best way to come up with a game plan to change undesirable behaviour is to establish the root cause of it. Failing to address the motivation & simply banning all digging may result in your hound finding a different destructive activity to participate in, such as barking & chewing. Ugh!
Firstly, take some time to observe your dog whilst in the garden (or the area they have turned into a mining site), & suss out which of the common cause(s) listed below best fit their actions.
Has your dog been bred to dig?
Laura believes that the easiest solution is to give your dog somewhere they are allowed to dig & to make that spot rewarding and exciting.
Below are a few steps to prevent unsought after digging:
- Redirect the behaviour by providing a sand pit or a dig-friendly area for your pooch
- To encourage your furry friend to use the designated space, hide treats, squeaky toys & tennis balls for them to discover. Our serious starfish is a great robust alternative.
- Initially you may need to lure your canine to the spot & encourage them to explore the treasure trove you have provided for them. Use lots of verbal praise & treatos.
- If you catch them in the act, gently redirect them to where you want them to play & give them praise, pats & yummies!
-You can use chicken wire or temporary fencing to block-off areas that you don't want your pooch to destroy. This creates less temptation for them while they grow accustomed to the new garden boundaries. These can be removed when you feel confident that they understand where the "no-go" zones are & show little interest in them.
Taking the time to show your dog how you would like them to behave in the great outdoors (aka your yard) is a perfect opportunity to bond with your pet & encourages them to follow your rules. Once your dog learns that there is more reward in using the dig-friendly zones you have provided them with, they will eagerly choose those spots when they get their next excavatory urge. Good Dog!! Happy Owner!!
Do you have rodents or pests lurking around your property?
If so, you need to address this problem, as your pet will persist until the issue is under control.
SOLUTION: Invest in some dog friendly traps to get rid of the unwelcome critters.
Have you got an escape artist on your hands?
If your dog smells a female dog on heat, they might try to escape in an attempt to track down the bitch. This mainly happens to male dogs who are not spayed, but occasionally happens to neutered dogs.
SOLUTION: Keep your dog inside until the frisky female is off heat. Getting your dog snipped is generally a good deterrent. To prevent your dog taking off, place rocks under fencing & secure any gaps in gates.
Dogs like to play & explore. They can't flick on the tele & binge watch Netflix like humans can. What do they do instead? They dig & might even attempt to escape to pass the time.
SOLUTION: Providing your pooch with stimulation in your absence is key.
Noticed that your dog mainly digs when you are home & is almost waiting for your reaction?
Hate to be the one to break it to you, but dogs needs attention. Some more than others. If they are not getting enough, they will look for ways to get more regardless of whether it's positive or negative.
Are you & your doggo spending enough quality time together?
SOLUTION: Bond with your dog in the garden by playing games & training. Make the backyard a fun place for your dog, where the two of you hang.
Is your four-legged friend digging holes to lounge in?
This is common in Northern Breeds such as Huskies & Malamutes. They are prone to create dens in extreme temperatures by digging holes to lie in, as a means of regulating their body temperature.
When it is cold, they dig to create a warm den, that is sheltered from wind & rain. In warm weather they dig to find cold ground & lie in the soil to cool down.
SOLUTION: Ensure your tail-wagger has a cool, sheltered resting area with shade & plenty of water. On very hot days they might be best indoors.
Do you have a pregnant bitch at home?
The maternal instincts of pregnant female dogs are strong & may result in nesting behaviour such as digging & stashing toys, blankets & other items in this area. Your bitch is preparing a safe space to whelp & care for her litter, like she would have had to do to protect her young pups from predators in the wild.
Urban doggo's do not face the same threats, but instinctive behaviour drives them to seek out a dark, quiet spot to prepare a den for the arrival of her pups.
SOLUTIONS: It is best to choose a whelping spot before she does, given that her survival instincts are strong during this phase, if left to her own devices, she might select an unsuitable space outdoors.
As a further preventative measure, best that she is supervised & on a leash when taken outside.
Isn't it great to own a smart dog?
One that grasps tricks easily & considers their options prior to taking action.
The downside to these brain box breeds such as Border Collies, is that they require mental stimulation to keep them out of trouble.
If digging has become one of their pastimes, then enrichment toys & training are the answer. Include yummy treats whilst teaching these clever breeds tricks.
Our Snuffle Stingray is a great enrichment toy to provide mental stimulation.
Does your dog have LOADS of energy & athletic prowess?
Help your active dog or playful pup find a more constructive way to release their excess energy. Are they getting the exercise they need? How long are they being left on their lonesome?
SOLUTION: Try taking them for a walk or run before you leave them in the yard. It is best to leave a tired dog in the backyard with plenty of games for extra mental stimulation to avoid destructive behaviours due to boredom.
After reading Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson whenever a challenge arises with my dog (there have been many), I start by asking myself whether he understands the behaviour I want from him? Have I taken the time to demonstrate the desired etiquette & positively reinforce it? In this case, the question might be "Does my dog know what to do in the garden area & are they motivated to do it?"
Dr Ian Dunbar - veterinarian & animal behaviourist believes that hounds require outdoor training before being left unattended. Just like you have to teach them the house rules, you also need to teach them the garden rules.
"All too often a dog is relegated to the backyard because it cannot be trusted indoors, that is, the owner has not trained it how to behave appropriately when left at home alone. Instead, the dog is confined to the yard without guidance and so, it predictably passes the time digging, barking & trying to escape." Dr. Ian Dunbar
So in conclusion, I'd encourage you & your four-legged friend to tackle the solutions together & if you get stuck or are time poor & can afford it, seek out some help from the experts. It is a great long-term investment for you & your floof to live happily ever after.