Why does my dog dig in the garden?

dog with nose covered in soil

Many dogs love digging in the garden.

Do you have your own garden where you enjoy spending time with your dog? Great! But if your dog digs in the garden, this can soon spoil the mood for hobby gardeners. We will explain why your dog digs in the garden and how you can wean it off this.

Five reasons why dogs dig in the garden

Be it flower beds or lawns, most gardening enthusiasts want to protect both from holes. However, many dogs love ploughing through the soil with their paws. But why do dogs like digging in the garden? We have gathered the different causes of digging.

1. Dogs hunt mice

Numerous dogs have hunting instincts in their blood – and many prey animals live underground. Although it is unlikely that badger or fox dens will be found in your garden, there may be a few mice nests. Molehills also encourage digging.

Dogs first dig their nose into the ground to pick up the tempting scent trails, but they want to get closer. To clear the way for their muzzle, they have to – you guessed it – dig. Breeds like terriers and Dachshunds in particular like digging holes.

Hunting instincts can also complicate walks. Find out here about anti-hunting training.

2. Garden work? Teamwork!

Are you planting flowers in the soil? Of course your loyal companion wants to help you, or in other words, dig along with you! Your dog gallops through the garden with its chest swollen with pride and a delicate, dug-up seedling in its mouth – and you follow behind?

Take a deep breath! Gardening is a hobby that offers many attractions for dogs. When you dig in the soil, this encourages many dogs to join in. Freshly loosened soil is particularly attractive for digging. Teamwork like this is really fun – at least for dogs.

Regarding gardening related to plants, find out in this article about toxic house and garden plants for dogs.

dog in a garden
Gardening? Many dogs love to join in!

3. A bed in the flowerbed

Making a hole in the ground is one of the primal instincts of many animals. In winter, a hole protects against the cold when it snows, whilst it provides a pleasant cooling spot in summer. Some in heat or pregnant females are also prone to the desire to dig a nest. In all cases, the aim is to produce a natural area to lie down, courtesy of their own digging.

Has your dog built a hole to sunbathe in during summer? Read our tips on keeping dogs cool on warm summer days.

4. Hiding snacks

A dog that digs in the garden also likes leaving some supplies there. This need is often limited to certain chews. Some dogs bury bones after they have gnawed at them for a while. Others bury treats as soon as they receive to them dig them up again straightaway and chew on them with relish.

Some also hide in the garden snacks that they don’t particularly like. Often the initially unpopular snack becomes interesting with the right garden aroma: Weeks later they dig it up again to enjoy it then.

5. Dogs are bored

Unwanted behaviour often draws attention to another problem, such as boredom. Opening the door to the garden and letting your dog out isn’t a good idea when it comes to occupying your dog. Dogs that aren’t sufficiently stimulated entertain themselves.

Digging in the garden suits your dog well in this sense. It’s fun and the dog owner often gives their four-legged friend what they want: attention. Even if this involves scolding them, for instance. Digging due to boredom can of course occur along with hunting mice or hiding bones.

Biting objects and frequent barking are other types of behaviour that many dogs show due to boredom.

dog on soil with flowers
A painful sight for many gardening enthusiasts despite big puppy dog eyes.

How to wean your dog off digging in the garden

Consider first of all if your digging dog has everything it needs: A cosy bed, whelping box and sufficient stimulation.

Especially for gardening enthusiasts: Train together before gardening so that your dedicated four-legged helper is kept busy. You have two options when you start gardening: Consistently prohibit your dog from helping and let it lie down nearby, or put it on its lead.

The second option requires involving your dog in the job with tasks. For instance, practice little tricks occasionally or give your dog a digging spot (see below) all to itself.

Tips against digging in the garden

Its own digging spot

If your dog likes digging in the garden, its own digging spot is a good alternative for all dog owners. Set aside a sufficiently large digging spot in your garden. Whenever your dog starts to dig, always take it to its digging spot.

You can make this spot more attractive, for instance, by digging there yourself for a bit at the start or hiding a little chew, treat or food there for your dog.

However, there is no guarantee that your dog will accept the spot, but the chances are good with young dogs in particular.

No to digging

As soon as your dog starts digging in the garden, give the trained interruption signal like ‘no’ or ‘stop’ and put an end to its digging. However, you should forbid digging everywhere for long-term success, because even digging on walks, which is mostly for mice, encourages your dog’s desire to hunt in the soil.

Important: For this option, you have to show plenty of patience and consistence in training depending on the dog. This is because every sense of achievement, whether at home or out and about, stirs the digging instinct again. The same applies to digging in the garden as so often in dog training: Stimulated dogs learn quicker and more sustainably.

Protection for flower beds

If you would like to relax in the garden but have a keen digger, you can protect your flower beds with a fence. For some gardening enthusiasts, it’s less effort to put up a fence than to maintain prohibitions with a great deal of patience. Raised flower beds too are out of your dog’s reach and represent an alternative.

This way, you can snooze on the deck chair in your garden with your dog without worrying that your entire vegetable patch will have been dug up after your little nap.

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