Tips to Curb a Dog that Digs

He’s done it again! Fido’s dug a hole right in the middle of your freshly-pruned row of Petunias. Digging can be one of the most frustrating doggy behaviors, as well as one of the hardest to stop. Below are some pointers to keep your dog’s destructive habit from digging a hole into your brain.

Step 1: Identify the Causes

There are many possible causes of a dog’s digging that go beyond their simple enjoyment of the act. Once you identify the reason (or reasons) for your dog’s digging, it will be much easier to come up with a solution. A few of the fascinating causes for digging include:

• Entertainment—If you’ve seen the wide, gleaming smile of a dog digging a hole in the backyard, you know he has no qualms about tearing apart your garden; digging is just plain fun.
• Temperature Control—In the hot summer months, your dog might find a hole in the ground the perfect spot to cool down. Similarly, getting into a hole he’s dug can offer him more warmth when it’s cold out than staying above ground.
• Escape—High fences or gates aren’t always enough to keep a rebellious dog with a taste for wanderlust contained. Your dog may be trying to get away, at least for a little while.
• Hormones—Both male and female dogs may try to dig their way out of the yard in order to sniff out a mate.
• Burying Objects—Dogs dig to save food, bones and other prized possessions for later while keeping them hidden away from others.
• Natural Instinct—Some dog breeds like to dig more than others; it’s just in their nature. Thick-coated dogs such as Siberian Huskies and Chow Chows might dig to escape the heat, while earth dogs such as Terriers and Dachshunds were bred to do the very thing that gets under your skin—or lawn.

Step 2: Breaking the Habit

While there are no foolproof solutions to a dog’s digging, there are measures you can take to lessen the behavior. Depending on the cause for the digging, the appropriate solution may vary.

• Keep Him Busy—If your dog resorts to digging as a form of entertainment, he may not be getting the proper attention at home. Prevent boredom in your pup by scheduling daily playtime and exercise.
• Keep It Cool—If your dog is digging because he is hot or because of physical discomfort or distress, make sure you pay attention to him and provide him with what he needs to stay cool and comfortable.
• Get Him “Fixed”—Spaying or neutering makes a dog less likely to wander in search of a mate. Coupled with regular exercise, this can solve escapism, as well as curb hormonal instincts.
• Limit Treats—To get your dog to stop burying his food, don’t give him more than he will finish. If you see him trying to stash a treat for later, quickly take it out of his mouth before he has a chance to bury it. If he reacts aggressively to this gesture, it’s a sign your dog needs immediate professional help.
• Compromise—There’s not much you can do to stop a dog from digging if it’s his natural-born instinct. If he’s digging for temperature control, you can trim his fur in the summer or give him a sweater in the winter. But what if he’s a Terrier with digging in his blood? In this case, it may be best to designate a single spot in the yard where he can dig, rather than him digging holes all over the place.

Step 3: Reward, Reward, Reward

When training your dog, one of the best ways to get your desired outcome is to reward positive behavior. This is called positive reinforcement, and is often more effective than punishment. The same goes for training your dog to stop digging. Instead of scolding your dog for digging, reward him with praise and treats for obeying commands, reacting calmly or digging in the right spot. Hopefully, both you and Fido will dig the end result.