If you find your back yard has lots of muddy holes dug into it, it’s not usually the work of a wild animal. It’ll probably be your dog! They do this for an array of different reasons, so it’s important to establish what these are in order to take action.
Whether it’s for attention, out of boredom or to try and cool themselves down, there are plenty of things you can try to reduce this behaviour.
Much like toddlers when they decide to have a tantrum in the grocery store for no reason, your dog may just be craving a bit of attention! This is particularly the case if your dog chooses to dig in your presence and doesn’t try to hide the fact they are misbehaving. It’s important to note that punishing your dog for this is not the best option, as even getting told off gets them attention. So instead, try giving them lots of praise when they are being good.
Additionally, try and allocate specific times throughout the day where your dog has your undivided attention. This can obviously be difficult with work and family commitments, but as a pet parent, your dog has to know how loved they are. So making time just for them could massively improve their mood and should reduce their digging habits.
This could also be your dog’s way of letting off some steam, especially if they’ve got lots of pent up energy! Your pup could potentially be bored, so taking them on longer walks and making sure they are properly exercised is key. This could be any form of physical activity, such as running, swimming, jogging or even playing fetch for longer periods of time. If your dog feels content with the amount of exercise they have had in a day then they are far less likely to be destructive!
Following on from the boredom point, it could be that your dog is getting enough exercise but may need something a little extra for their entertainment. It could be that they want a challenge or something different to do! Try introducing some fun new distractions into their day, such as rotating their toys, so they don’t get bored easily. You could also use a Kong to keep them entertained for a little while. These are great because they are a challenge for your pup, and they also get a tasty reward at the end.
Alternatively, your dog could be digging to cool themselves down or to shelter from any kind of bad weather. This is an instinctive trait that is totally normal in certain breeds. By diagnosing this as the cause for the digging, you could alter your outside space to suit them better. Your dog may be the kind that needs some sort of shelter to feel protected and safe. So installing a space for them to cool down could be an option if you notice this behavior, especially throughout the warmer months.
Also, if you believe they are doing this to try and shelter from the bad weather and the cold, they could be telling you that they wish to spend more time inside rather than outside. Some dogs absolutely love to run around in the rain and snow, but others are more inclined to a warm snuggle on the sofa! It would be beneficial to grant them easy access to both the inside and outside to establish which they prefer most, which could help phase out the digging.
If you feel the digging could lead to your dog escaping from the back yard, then try and put some blockers in place whilst you’re trying to understand the cause. They could be trying to do this to get to the dog or cat that lives next door, or it could be something as simple as they like the smell of your neighbor’s cooking! Either way, it would be an idea to possibly bury some rocks or fencing below the surface of where they are digging to ensure they don’t escape. This is only a short term solution whilst you’re figuring out how to eradicate the behavior.
Digging can be a completely normal, instinctive behavior for some dogs and therefore can be quite tricky to stop all together. Don’t worry if you believe you have established the cause of the behavior, but your methods are not doing the trick. You may need to try out a combination of these ideas before you see an improvement.
If the digging habits do not subside, then it might be beneficial for you to introduce a specific zone where they can dig. This could be in the form of a sandbox or an allocated area where they know they are allowed to dig. It could stop them from tearing up the rest of the yard!