Our furry friends are always up to something. Dogs love to dig holes in the ground and chew on shoes. This is part of who they are, but it’s not always welcomed. We don’t want our lawns to be full of holes, and we don’t want our shoes to be eaten away.
However, there are ways we can train them and prevent them from doing these things. If you want your dog to stop digging holes in the yard, read for some tips and tricks!
Should you be alarmed if your dog digs holes?
Dogs are man’s best friend, but sometimes they have actions and habits that may be slightly annoying. One of these is digging holes. These furry creatures are notorious for digging holes and sleeping in them. It isn’t unusual to see a dog halfway underground with its tail waving in the air.
You may even have accidentally stepped on those holes, or worse, the holes may be an eyesore to your backyard landscape.
Understanding your dog
Some dogs have a predisposition to digging because of breed or history. If your dog suddenly developed the habit of digging holes, this may be a symptom of your pet’s underlying issue.
According to Animal behavior specialists from the University of Lincoln, United Kingdom, separation anxiety is one of these issues. This should be viewed as a symptom of underlying difficulties rather than a diagnosis. You must comprehend why your companion is acting this way to help you understand what might be causing the anxiety. This will be a win-win situation for you and your dog.
Reasons why your dog digs holes
Nature and predisposition (genetics, hormones, and hunting), emotions (separation anxiety, fear, and boredom), weather and temperature, and dog’s playfulness are possible reasons your dog tends to dig holes. The symptoms and solutions for each will be discussed in the sections below.
Nature and predisposition
This is all based on the dog’s genes and hormones. Because of genetics, some dogs have a greater instinct toward digging. For instance, Terriers are one of the breeds that are more predisposed to digging.
Hormones also have a role to play in this. When dogs of the opposite sex frequently visit the area, this could trigger a reaction, especially if your female dog has not been spayed or if your male dog has not been neutered.
Solution: If this is the case, you may visit your veterinarian to ask for an expert’s opinion on whether you should opt to neuter and spay your pet.
Even if you feed your dog well, canines, especially Beagle or Terrier, are naturally curious about their environment and inclined to hunt inferior creatures. Whatever the consequences may be, the art of hunting is naturally rewarding to most dogs, study shows.
It may be trying to get out of your yard to hunt an insect or an animal intruder nearby. If you suspect that your dog is trying to hunt, observe if your pet fixes its focus on one spot of your yard. If it is a yes, your dog is trying to hunt.
Solution: You need to be aware of burrowing animals such as rodents and voles next. Get rid of them as carefully as possible, without toxic chemicals, as this can poison your pet. One way of getting rid of these intruders is using ultrasonic rodent repellents.
A common misconception is that dogs dig because they know they will die. The explanation is that when animals get sick, their first instinct is to be in a safe hiding place. That is why dogs tend to dig a hole and lay on it if they are weak, sick, injured, or in pain. It is not an indication that the dog is about to die.
Solution: If you notice changes in your dog’s behavior, such as a lack of appetite and interest in going for a walk, it is time to get the help of a vet. If no physical symptoms are present, your dog could be experiencing emotional problems such as separation anxiety and stress.
Dogs may not be expressive but also feel a wide array of emotions. If you notice that your dog tends to dig, pace, lick, and change its body posture when you are away, this could be a sign that your dog is missing you. This is commonly known as separation anxiety. They do these digging and other activities to keep themselves distracted and channel their restless energy.
Solution: To channel this energy into a more productive way, you may add exercising into your dog’s routine. If they spend energy exercising, they won’t have much excess energy left for digging. If possible, also spend more time with your pet. If these suggestions still do not keep your dog’s restlessness at bay, it may be time to discuss it with your trusted veterinarian.
If dogs feel separation anxiety just like humans, they also feel curious about what is happening outside. Sometimes, this curiosity can lead to fear. It is not uncommon that dogs are sensitive to sounds. If your environment has unusual or loud sounds and noises, this could cause fear for your canine.
Loud sounds such as fireworks and construction noises may be okay for us humans, but not for dogs. You will know if this is causing discomfort to your hound and if they are attempting to flee if the digging and holes are under or around the fence. You should also take note if these diggings worsen during the occurrence of loud sounds.
Solution: If your suspicion is confirmed, you may create barriers to lower the noise that your dog hears. This can be done by placing objects that block sound as a barrier, such as large rocks, or closing the game between the fence and ground to lower sound entry.
To your canine, digging may be a thrilling task and is one way to ease boredom. Think of dogs as toddlers. Digging will seem exciting when left alone or outside with no one to interact with and with no toys. In the eyes of a bored dog, the soil seemingly flying from digging is like “playing back.”
Anything can become interesting when you are left with nothing else to do; this is also true for dogs. Leaving a dog alone with no toys is not a good idea. Perhaps, next time you should consider accompanying them, or if a human presence is not available, at least leave them with toys such as tennis balls.
Weather and Temperature
If you notice that your dog lies down in the holes they dig, as if it is their bed, it is a sign that your dog is digging to feel cool. Seeing holes near canopies from trees and water sources could tell your dog is trying to lower its body temperature.
Dogs with thick, furry coats have it worse when the temperature outside is high. They turn to find comfort in the soil they dug as the ground is colder than the rest of the areas outside.
You could bring them inside to ensure that your dog will not suffer from extreme heat. If it is impossible, you may build a dog house for digging. Do not forget to keep your pet hydrated—give them a water bowl. Just remember, anything extreme could be bad for your dog. If it is also too cold outside, make sure to provide a safe place for your pet.
Dogs are playful creatures. Some of them may even have their favorite toys. These so-called prized possessions are so valuable to them that they tend to hide them away from other animals and even people so that they can enjoy them themselves. Hiding these “treasures” can be a thrilling, exciting, and brain-stimulating activity for them.
If your dog carries its “treasure” to the area where they plan to dig, that could signify that your pet will bury its treasure there.
Solution: Your dog can still be playful and continue hiding its toys without destroying your lawn. You can do this by giving them a space to dig. You can also do reverse psychology wherein instead of your dogs choosing where and what to dig, you will make a sandpit with some buried toys. This will condition them to their new “digging zone.”
Conditioning: Another possible solution
If you have already identified what could cause your dog’s discomfort and followed the suggested solutions, but still to no avail, you may try conditioning. Conditioning is when your pet encounters a positive or negative response to action and may continue or discontinue depending on the received response.
Appealing to your dog’s senses
The most practical way is to put a physical barrier in the area where the dog keeps on digging. You may do this by fencing, using thorny shrubs to block the area, or partially burying rocks, netting, or plastic chicken wire in the digging areas. Just make sure not to use metallic objects as they may hurt your pet’s paw. However, if this is not possible, you may use other deterrents.
Dogs hate the smell of poop and cayenne pepper. If you notice that area is prone to digging, you may fill the holes with poop. If poop is too gross for you, you may try cayenne pepper. Other options are spraying citrus peels or vinegar in the area, as these smells are offensive to dogs. Dogs hate these substances and may escape the area when they catch a whiff.
Appealing to your dog’s emotions
If you do not like your dog to keep digging in a particular area, you can try giving them a little scare. Just do not overdo it and do not use harmful objects. You can scare your pet a little by burying balloons in the area where they frequently dig. Once the dog starts digging in that area, it will inevitably pop up the balloon. This will scare the dog and prevent them from digging in that area again.
On the other hand, if you want to direct your pet to a specific digging space, you can give them praises and compliments. Once they see you give them positive attention when they dig in specific locations, they will continue to do so until it becomes a habit.
Other reminders when dealing with your dog’s digging habit
- Do not allow your dog to bring toys outside unless it is used to engage and play, such as Frisbees and balls. Exemptions are when you closely supervise your dog or if the dog’s reason for digging is boredom.
- Do not punish your dog after digging. Doing so may make the dog feel they finally got the desired attention. In other cases, your pet’s anxiety and stress will also worsen, which could aggravate the act of digging. It will just worsen your dog’s habit, and the dog would not even understand the reason for the punishment.
- Remember that your dog will not grow out of digging. Digging is either because of nature, emotion, or physical symptoms. If it is the latter two, it will not go away unless the cause is addressed. If this is because of nature, the best thing to do is use positive reinforcement such as compliments and deterrents like the ones mentioned above—poop, vinegar, citrus peels, etc. You can even use mothballs as deterrents; however, they can be toxic to dogs when eaten.