How to Limit Destructive Digging With Dogs

by Lisa McQuerrey
    Your pup may dig if he's bored.

    Your pup may dig if he's bored.

    George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    Digging is an instinctual behavior for dogs, particularly for breeds like terriers, which were bred for digging. Nevertheless, you don't want Rover digging around in your garden or destroying your favorite flower beds, or even your lawn. Take measures to limit your dog's digging behavior by providing constructive alternatives and by keeping him from accessing the places he likes to dig.

    Spay or neuter your dog if you don't plan to breed. This can help reduce digging as a means to escape and seek out a mate. It can also cull behavioral issues related to digging, chewing or eliminating in inappropriate areas.

    Destructive digging is often a sign of a bored dog who is lonely and has nothing else to do. Exercise your dog and play with him regularly; don't leave him unattended for long periods of time. If you can't be with your dog during the day, hire a pet sitter or consider doggie daycare.

    Give your dog something to entertain himself with so he doesn't dig in unwanted areas. Give him interactive toys or chewing bones. Meanwhile, put a gate or fence around areas you don't want disturbed, such as a garden or a flower bed. For some dogs, digging is going to take place no matter what, so you'll want to have an appropriate digging spot.

    To limit a natural digger's digging to one area, you'll have to train him with positive reinforcement techniques: Distract him from the place you don't want him digging, take him to the place he's allowed to dig, where you've already turned up some soil, and give him a treat. This won't break his inappropriate digging overnight; you'll have to be persistent.

    Some dogs dig holes to lay in for cooling off or for sheltering themselves from the elements. If your dog spends any time outdoors, he should have adequate shelter that protects him. Make sure you provide a dog house that’s water-resistant, wind-resistant in the cold and cool in the heat.

    Contain your dog when you are unable to monitor him. Consider a kennel large enough for him to stand up, lay down and comfortably move around in. If you use an outdoor containment system, make sure posts or fences are buried so he can't dig out. Always provide ample fresh water.

    If you have yard pests, like tunneling or burrowing animals, they can drive your dog crazy, spurring clawing and digging. Humanely trap and relocate ground rodents, or hire a professional to do it for you, and block the entrance to existing holes.

    Inside dogs may also do a form of digging by pawing destructively at carpet or furniture cushions. Use the same behavioral deterrents and add a commercially produced spray designed to keep dogs from treading into off-limit areas.

    Photo Credits

    • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

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