Dogs dig for a variety of reasons and when you adopt a dog there should be an expectation that they will engage in this very normal canine behaviour. If you are very precious about your garden it would be wise to plan ahead and provide your dog with everything they need in order to minimise the damage to your garden. The most effective way to solve a digging dog problem is to look at why the digging is occurring.
Dogs that dig to escape the back yard are often doing so for a number of reasons. One reason is separation anxiety, a dog who digs for this reason will often dig around areas where you come and go, and it will often be coupled with barking, crying and destruction of gates, fences and the home. Helping reduce anxiety when you leave your dog is a process that requires careful monitoring and management. Another reason for escape digging is for mating reasons. Dogs that are desexed are much less likely to want to roam. If you have an entire male or bitch it is best to keep them confined indoors or in a purpose-built dog run with a concrete base outside.
Dogs also dig to cool down, the earth under the surface is much cooler and will be comfortable for your dog on a hot day. You will know your dog digs for this purpose because they will dig a long, shallow hole and lay in it. To solve this problem you can give you dog a cool place to lay like a shallow wading pool, cool tiles and lots of shade. There are even some cool coats and cool mats on the market that can be soaked in cold water before your dog uses them.
Some dogs, especially terriers, dig to investigate what is going underground, often this is due to vermin or other creatures that live underground. This type of digging will be accompanied by lots of intense sniffing by your dog. Removing the vermin is one way of solving the problem, if this is not possible you may be able to help the problem by using the below suggestions for boredom digging.
By and far boredom tends to be the biggest reason for digging. It often starts in puppyhood where the digging becomes reinforcing for and it turns in to a habit. Once the habit is formed your dog will turn to this behaviour regularly, especially if they have not been walked or while they are home alone. Appropriate enrichment activities and a good exercise regime will often help overcome boredom digging. It is best to start with these before your dog develops the habit of boredom digging. Usually the longer a habit has been practised the more difficult it is to change.
Possibly the best cure for a digging dog is to provide them with a sanctioned digging area, you can use four sleepers to make a square, dig them into the ground and simply fill it with sand. Bury some treats inside the sandpit as well as scattering some treats on top of the sand to encourage digging in this area. Your dog will also love this space to cool down on a hot day and to roll around in.
Feeding all of your dog’s food through interactive food dispensing toys is a great way to offer environment enrichment for your dog. Simply ration out your dog’s daily allowance of food and take from this ration to load the toys, several times each day if you like.
Exercise is also another factor in making sure your dog is content enough not to dig. Walk your dog every day, twice each day if you spend long hours away from home, and allow your dog many opportunities to interact with other dogs and their environment on a walk. Of course your dog will need to have a reliable recall if they are to be let off lead. Most dogs are active at dawn and dusk and tend to sleep during the day, giving your dog exercise at these times will increase the likelihood of sleep, rather than digging, throughout the day. You might even like to hire a dog walker to walk your dog if you are out for long periods.
Other things that can lead to digging include smelly fertiliser on your garden beds and newly laid soil. Dogs love fresh soil as it is soft, fresh, smells good and is easy to dig. If you are laying a new garden bed you will need to fence the area off until the garden is established. If you need to fertilise your yard do so on days that you are going to be home to supervise your dog.
Digging for dogs is such a natural behaviour, as normal as toileting for your dog. Presumably you gave them a space to toilet, and this has worked, so give them a space to dig so you can save the rest of your garden from looking like the surface of the moon.