If you think Fido is purposely digging up the yard to upset you, think again. Digging behavior is often triggered by other factors -- Fido might be bored or lonely, or maybe he’s looking for shelter. Finding out his motivation is essential to correct his behavior. Meanwhile you can stop the undesired behavior with citronella oil. Citronella oil has been long used as an animal repellent and is not harmful to dogs, humans or the environment. Fido dislikes the smell of citronella, and when used correctly, it can help keep your yard intact.
Making Citronella Deterrent
Although you can use a commercial citronella-based dog deterrent, you can save money by making your own. Simply fill a spray bottle with water and add just enough citronella oil so you can smell it. Shake it before each use and you're good to go. Alternatively, use a citronella dog collar that emits a puff of citronella each time you press a button. According to a test done at Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, citronella collars are more effective in correcting unwanted dog behavior compared to shock collars.
Using Citronella Deterrent Spray
To use citronella deterrent spray, observe your dog closely when he's in the yard. The moment you see him digging, take action. Go outside, aim the spray bottle at his nose and mist him with your secret potion. The unpleasant scent will stop your pet companion in his tracks. Avoid yelling at your dog or punishing him after finding craters in the backyard -- your dog won't know what you're fussing about and has long forgotten about the damage he's done. To be effective, corrections must consistently happen in the moment.
Using Citronella Oil
Aside from using the homemade deterrent spray to stop your pet companion's digging, you can also use undiluted citronella oil. If your pet companion has a habit of digging in one particular area of the yard, sprinkle citronella oil on the soil in this area. The scent will deter your dog and keep him away. This is when you can redirect him -- give him a dog toy to play with or bring him to an area of the yard where he is allowed to dig. To be effective, reapply the citronella oil regularly.
Other Digging Deterrents
Changing the surface in your yard can also stop your pet companion's digging. Sprinkle small rocks over the soil or place heavy bricks in areas your furry friend likes to dig. Sprinkling ground red pepper on the soil will also keep him from digging, because he won't tolerate the smell. To prevent digging, enrich your dog's life. Keeping him busy, going for walks, playing with him, providing dog toys and just spending quality time with him can prevent a lot of behavior problems.
- ASPCA: Digging
- Environmental Protection Agency: Citronella (Oil of Citronella) (021901) Fact Sheet
- Dumb Friends League: Aversives For Dogs
- Cornell Chronicle: Study: 'Nuisance-Barking' Dogs Respond Best to Citronella Spray Collars
- The Dog Behavior Answer Book; Arden Moore
- Dog Lovers Companion; Paul McGreevy
Kimberly Caines is a well traveled model, writer and licensed physical fitness trainer who was first published in 1997. Her work has appeared in the Dutch newspaper "De Overschiese Krant" and on various websites. Caines holds a degree in journalism from Mercurius College in Holland and is writing her first novel.