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How to Train Your Dog Not to Dig

Not all dogs dig. Not all dogs dig all the time. But some dogs just can't seem to help themselves. No matter where they go, they always find somewhere to get tunneling, and seem to spend their lives showering you with dirt, and covered in the "fruits" of their labour! It's not the worst thing in the world... unless they're really tearing up your yard, but it is something many dog owners would like to prevent.

Find the Root Cause

As with most troubling dog behaviours, getting your excavation expert to hang up his shovel is a tricky process. But it is a good idea to try to figure out why your dog is digging. Once you have established his reason for digging, then you can work on solutions to sort out the problem. Some of the reasons dogs dig are:

  1. He likes digging. Some dogs just REALLY love to dig!
  2. He’s bored. Destructive behaviour in dogs is often a sign that they're not getting enough exercise or play time.
  3. He’s looking for attention. Digging can also be your dog's way of getting more attention - even if that attention is negative.
  4. He’s trying to help you catch that mole that’s ruining your lawn. Or "fetch" those plants you planted earlier. Some dogs dig to "help" their owners!
  5. He wants to bury his bones, or his toys, or whatever he thinks is important. It's a cliche, but some dogs do bury the stuff they care about!

How to Prevent Digging

The following are some proven ways to stop your dog from digging in your garden.

  1. If he simply likes digging, a good, fun and easy way to communicate to him that it’s not acceptable behavior is spraying him with the hose as he’s digging. It'll distract him from the task at hand without yelling or negative actions from you. 
  2. Eliminate his boredom by making sure that he has enough to keep him really busy during the day, such as toys, and loads of exercise.Some dogs really need a buddy, so if your only dog is digging or being destructive, a new friend to hang out with might solve the problem. Or if you can't have another dog, consider a doggy daycare, so he can spend the day with friends!
  3. If you think he’s looking for attention, then give it to him, in the form of more play time with you, or going for walks on the beach or around the neighborhood.
  4. That mole that’s causing havoc with your beautiful lawn? Get rid of it, and your dog will stop helping you to catch it.
  5. He’s not going to stop burying his bones and ask you to keep them in the refrigerator for him, so just stop giving him bones or whatever else he tends to bury Substitute them with rawhide chew toys, or find new types of toys that he doesn't like to bury instead.
  6. Make sure that your dog's visits to the back yard (or wherever his favourite digging spot is) are supervised, until you are sure the habit is broken. If you're right beside him, he's much less likely to go to town on your flower beds!

If none of the above methods stops your dog from digging, then you can try another trick that some people find effective. Bury some of your dog's own poop in his holes. Many dogs won't enjoy discovering this when they dig, and it might be enough to discourage digging.

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