How to Stop a Dog from Digging

Does your yard look like a mine field? Or possibly a playground for gophers? What about the floors near your back door – covered in dirt? Or do you live in a wet part of the country so everyday you have to mop the floors after your dog to keep the house even remotely clean? How are your ankles? Fallen into any pits recently?

Sounds as though your dog is a digger and that means no matter how hard you try, your yard always looks like a war zone with multiple holes, dirt everywhere and no grass to be seen from one side to the other.

Dogs love to dig! It is great exercise, always exciting and does a great job in relieving pent up anxiety from their difficult day to day doggy lives. Some breeds are worse then others; Terrier comes from the Latin terra meaning earth so in actual fact your Jack Russell feels out of place anywhere but in the dark, cool recesses of a hole.

So how do you make a digger stop digging? In all honesty, you don’t. Once a dog develops the habit it is very hard to break without also breaking the dog’s spirit. What works better is to compromise – deem an area his to destroy as he sees fit and encourage him to dig only there. Meanwhile, the rest of your yard remains intact and attractive with no danger of twisting an ankle or falling on your derriere if you are not paying attention to where you are walking.

How you teach him where it is appropriate to dig and where it is not is a simple training and reward system. First off take the grass up from the land you have relinquished to King Digger as nothing looks worse the partially dug up grass. Instead, keep it either bare soil or if that does not bode well with the rest of the yard, cedar chips tend to float to the surface when filling holes and will look better then bare soil with some manicuring and work.

The amount of space you make his own depends on the size of the yard and the size of the dog – bigger area for bigger yards and bigger dogs. It is also handy to have fence on at least two sides as one of the tough parts of keeping the mess to the one area is the dirt spray that happens while he digs. A fence on two sides means that half the time he will be aiming to keep the soil in the designated area – less work for you in the long run.

Now loosen that soil up nicely so it easy for Terra Dog to do his damage – normally a dog will choose an easy spot to dig versus a difficult spot so he will gravitate to softer ground. Already you have made the area more attractive to your earth moving pooch but there is an easy way to convince him that this spot you have chosen is the bee knees of digging locations – reward him when he picks the right area!

Start by picking out a few yummy and/or fun toys and treats from the pet store. Rubber toys, Kongs, lacrosse balls and Frisbees work well for toys and for treats, buy a few bones and cow hooves. Now bury them in his area about a foot deep. Let him out and he will be in his hay-day digging up all the treasures.

Next time, bury them a little deeper. The digging will get easier as he continues to loosen up the soil so each time, go a few inches further down. How deep you end up burying them depends again on the size of the area and your dog. For a small dog like a Jack Russell, one and a half feet is far enough – you don’t want to make it so difficult that he is discouraged and ends up finding an easier, less deep area away from the ‘Digging Zone’!

Every day or two rebury the items he has dug up and pat the soil down well so there is a bit of a challenge to the digging.  Both the physical and mental exercise will keep him well stimulated and content to leave the rest of the yard alone.

And as an added bonus to the chore of all that shovel work, it will keep you in great shape – not a bad trade off from protecting your begonias from certain death!



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