Paws Off the Petunias: A Guide to Managing Dog Digging Behaviour

| May 31, 2024

Dogs dig for a multitude of reasons: out of boredom, frustration, for entertainment, to hunt, or even to keep cool. While digging is a natural behaviour for dogs, it can wreak havoc on your carefully tended garden. Fortunately, there are effective strategies to curb this behaviour without discouraging your dog’s natural instincts. 

Engage Your Dog with Active Play

One of the best ways to combat unwanted digging is to ensure your dog is properly exercised and mentally stimulated. Here are some tips: 

  • Play with active toys: Use balls, flying disks, and other toys to engage your dog in active play as often as possible. This helps burn off energy that might otherwise be directed towards digging. 
  • Teach tricks: Spend 5 to 10 minutes each day teaching your dog new tricks. This mental exercise can be just as tiring as physical exercise. 
  • Take a training class: Enroll in a training class with your dog and practice the skills you learn daily. This reinforces good behavior and strengthens your bond. Toronto Humane Society offers affordable and a wide range of canine training classes. Click here to learn more and to enroll. 
  • Provide interesting solo-play toys: Keep your dog entertained with Kong-type toys filled with treats or busy-box dog toys. Rotate the toys regularly to maintain your dog’s interest. 

Designate a Digging Zone

If your dog loves to dig, consider designating a specific area of your yard where it’s okay for them to indulge this behaviour. Here’s how to set up a digging zone: 

  • Cover the area with loose soil or sand: Alternatively, use a child-size sandbox to create a dedicated digging spot. 
  • Bury safe items: Make the digging zone attractive by burying toys or other safe items for your dog to find. 
  • Reward good behaviour: When your dog digs in the designated zone, reward them with praise and treats. 
  • Redirect inappropriate digging: If you catch your dog digging in an off-limits area, interrupt the behaviour, then immediately redirect them to the digging zone. 
  • Make unwanted areas unattractive: Temporarily cover the areas where you don’t want your dog to dig with rocks or chicken wire. 

What Not to Do

It’s important to avoid methods that could harm your dog or make them fearful. Here are some things to avoid: 

  • Never use harmful items: Do not use substances or objects that could hurt your dog to discourage digging. 
  • Don’t punish: Digging is a natural behaviour for dogs. Instead of punishment, focus on positive reinforcement and redirection to teach your dog where it’s appropriate to dig.