Gardens can be the pride and joy of many, but our pets don’t always take the same care of it that we do, with it often becoming a favourite spot for a dog’s common pastime – digging! A source of annoyance for many owners, dogs dig for a number of different reasons: out of boredom, natural hunting instinct or on the scent of prey, to bury things, enjoyment, to get attention, to create a den and even to cool themselves down. The key to managing digging, therefore, is to identify the reason behind your dog’s desire to dig so you can take the right steps in helping to solve this.
If you suspect your dog is digging purely out of boredom or to release hyperactive energy, then you can easily avoid this by engaging them in more mentally challenging and physical activity and keeping them occupied. Plenty of toys and playtime can help as an outlet for excess energy; toys that challenge your dog and are designed for longer lasting play are ideal for this – such as our Busy Buddy range. Frequent walks each day, including some longer walks and activities such as playing with a ball, will mean your dog gets sufficient exercise. If you’re the active type yourself, then why not try running together? A guaranteed way to tire out your furry pal!
In hot weather, dogs can dig holes to lie in them or for shelter from the hot sun, so if it appears your pet is doing this then help to cool them down by ensuring they have areas of shade for warmer days, and take small measures such as putting ice cubes in their water bowl. If you think your dog is just digging for the attention it guarantees (even if it is negative!), then the best way to deal with this is to stop giving them any attention following any digging attempts. Instead, shower them with praise and attention for other welcome behaviour, even if it’s just sitting quietly, and they will slowly learn the association between attention and ‘good’ behaviour.
If you’ve tried these steps and they seem to be having limited effect, and your dog is persisting with their digging habit, then owners find an innovative approach is to create a special digging area in their garden to limit the destruction caused. It’s important to teach your dog that digging in this certain area is allowed but not elsewhere; you can do this by rewarding them for ‘correct’ digging and making it clear verbally where it’s not allowed. Burying sticks, bones or toys in the dedicated digging area will help your dog to learn to dig there, and likewise using objects such as rocks or chicken wire on undesirable digging spots can deter them.
Digging is a natural instinct for dogs, but that isn’t to say it needs to be a permanent habit. So try and figure out what’s causing this, take steps accordingly and there’s no reason you can’t channel your dog’s energy in a much more positive way!