Finding Ways to Coexist
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that digging is a natural instinct for dogs. It’s also worth remembering that not all dogs find as much joy from this behavior as others. However, whether your dog has peppered your backyard with holes or simply digs in the garden from time to time, there are ways you can happily coexist — and feed their natural instincts to dig at the same time.
First, it’s important to recognize that digging instincts can run deep, especially with certain dogs like Terriers. In fact, people even refer to these dogs as “earthdogs” because of their determined pursuit of prey into tunnels underground, even if they have to dig their way into them. This behavior was even deemed so desirable that humans intentionally developed breeds with pronounced digging habits.
But not all digging is about pursuing prey. For some, it may making a shallow bed in the cool dirt on a warm summer’s day. Others like to bury things, a caching behavior that goes back to their wild ancestors. More risky digging habits involve those who try to escape their yards in pursuit of exciting adventures or mates – or because of anxiety or fear.
No matter why your dog digs, there are ways to curb the behavior so you don’t have to worry about breaking an ankle every time you walk into your yard. And you can still find fun ways for your dog exercise their natural instincts.
1. Beat the Boredom
To start, try to identify what’s behind your dog’s digging. Are they bored? Anxious? Under exercised? The best remedies for this digging include:
- Mental stimulation, like licky mats, stuffed Kongs, and puzzle toys
- Physical exercise, like flirt poles, fetch, walks, and doggy daycare
- Training activities that boost confidence, put their brains to work, and strengthen your relationship
When the weather permits, you can bring these activities into the backyard so your dog can engage in something more rewarding and fun than digging.
2. Provide Protection
Does your dog seem to dig to hide or stay cool? It’s time to increase their comfort. Try bringing your dog inside more often or giving them an outdoor shelter where they can escape the weather. If your dog seems afraid or trying to escape something, evaluate their environment to make sure it’s safe and appealing.
3. Channel Their Instincts in Positive Ways
If your dog loves to dig no matter what you do, embrace it and come up with a more positive solution. For example, create an approved digging spot in your backyard, like a sandbox. You can even amp up the experience for your dog by hiding toys and treasures for them to find while digging and exploring — that will also encourage them to explore this part of the yard instead of others.
Finally, don’t leave your dog outside unsupervised and alone for long periods. This can increase their stress, anxiety, and boredom, which increases their chances of digging. Instead, find ways to spend time outside with your dog that creates a positive experience for both of you and keep digging to minimum at the same time.