How to stop a puppy from digging is a question that pet parents will ask at some point? Puppies are indiscriminate when digging – they dig out plants, dig tunnels under the fence, or dig out of sheer boredom.
The digging can also be an attempt to cool off or to stay warm, depending on the weather conditions. In winter, the dirt helps to insulate the puppy from the cold, and the pit provides a friendly place to lay down.
Digging is known to be a stress reliever for puppies as well as adult dogs, and the trigger can be boredom or separation anxiety, mostly if the dog spends time on its own.
Other causes of digging can be curiosity to explore sounds and smell underground, possibly produced by animals or insects, attempts to go outside or a dietary deficiency that drives the puppy to seek out a mineral or something else in the dirt.
Is it normal for puppies to dig? Yes, it is perfectly normal for puppies to dig, and it is a natural adaptive behavior carried over from the wild, perhaps born out of the need to hide food from other animals or prepare a nest in the case of females.
The instinct to dig is powerful in dogs bred to keep vermin away from farms or for hunting, such as the Dachshund, the Bedlington Terrier, the Cairn Terrier, the Beagle, and the Miniature Schnauzer among other breeds.
So, what is wrong with puppies digging, and why should you stop it? Well, to start with, digging if not checked can turn your beautiful yard or lawn into a scarred battlefield with unsightly holes not to forget the damage it can do to your plants.
Some pet parents may not like the idea of the puppy ingesting mud and other gross stuff during the excavation process. The puppy itself may end up getting dirty, necessitating a bath, and muddy feet can soil the furniture, bedsheets, and carpets.
Remember that you should not punish the puppy for digging as it can worsen the underlying stress or anxiety that is triggering the behavior. It is best to use tactics that discourage digging behavior.
Now that we know digging is an instinctive behavior and some level of digging is to be expected let us look at a few solutions on how to stop a puppy from digging. Here are 13 powerful tips for you to try right away:
Your puppy needs exercise equivalent to 5 minutes for every month of its age and twice a day. So, if your puppy is four months, it should get 20 minutes of exercise twice a day, and a 7-month-old puppy should get 35 minutes of exercise twice a day. However, if your puppy is reluctant to walk or play, then it is best not to force him.
Expending energy through exercise and play will help to reduce your puppy’s urge to dig. Taking your puppy out for a walk and allowing it to sniff tree trunks, logs and stones will also help to reduce the desire to dig up your yard in search of new smells.
When you take the puppy out for play or exercise, make sure that you allow your puppy to stop along the way and sniff whatever catches his attention if it is safe.
2. Use deterrents
The second tip on our how to stop a puppy from digging list is using everyday items to make digging less pleasant for the puppy.
You can use several deterrents to make the digging less attractive to your puppy, including:
You can block access to the area where your puppy digs frequently using garden fencing or any other suitable material that can act as a barrier.
Depositing large and heavy rocks in the places of recurrent digging can make the whole experience less pleasurable for the puppy.
Inserting chicken wire or netting under the soil adjacent to the fence can deter the puppy from digging. The discomfort of the feet touching the wire can discourage the puppy.
Citrus pieces or vinegar – Puppies may find the scent of orange, lemon or grapefruit pieces a bit too strong for their liking and so placing citrus pieces throughout your yard can make the digging unpleasant for your puppy. You can also consider spraying lemon juice as a deterrent. Another deterrent to try is vinegar. Dogs, in general, dislike the smell of vinegar, but spraying it directly on your lawn can damage plants. However, you can dip coffee filters in vinegar and once dry, cut into pieces and place them throughout your yard.
One of the tactics to deploy when focusing on how to stop a puppy from digging is to provide your puppy with an area where he can dig to his heart’s content, such as a sandbox.
Urge your puppy to explore this space whenever out in the yard. Burying treats in this area can serve as an incentive for your puppy to favor this new designated digging ground.
If you chance upon your puppy digging in any other area, say a firm “No” and guide him to the sandbox and reinforce the desired behavior with an appropriate reward.
4. Use toys to beat boredom
A bored puppy may start digging, and hence having safe toys lying around can help to keep the puppy engaged. Remember to keep changing the toys to keep interest alive.
Hard rubber toys and chew resistant types are good options. You can also consider those made of rawhide, bully stick, vegetables, etc., but you should be able to supervise the puppy to make sure that there is no choking hazard.
5. Keep your yard free of rodents
Ensure that your yard is free of mice or other critters that may tempt your puppy to go digging after them. If you see the puppy digging near and around tree or plant roots, it is likely on the trail of a rodent.
Don’t use any poisonous substances that can harm your puppy but try to capture and relocate the rodent. In case you are not sure, get the services of a professional.
Puppies or dogs, for that matter, tend to dig holes and rest in them to cool down in summer or warm weather. If the puppy is unable to find shelter from the sun, it may start digging to make a shallow hole in which to lay down.
If the puppy begins digging near the foundation of the house, a tree root, or source of water, the digging is likely an attempt to escape the heat.
Providing a kennel in the yard or a covered space can protect the puppy from the heat or cold and prevent the associated digging.
Remember, never let your puppy out without adequate protection in hot or cold weather and always provide water in a clean bowl that cannot be tilted accidentally, lest your puppy should be without water the whole day.
Another important tip on how to stop a puppy from digging is to remove everything in your yard that can tempt your puppy into digging.
Freshly tilled earth left behind after gardening is a big draw for puppies to start digging and exploring. Make sure to obstruct your puppy’s access to newly dug up soil.
You can also remove bones or other treasures that your puppy may have buried in the yard so that they are not tempted to dig; make sure to cover the hole. It’s best to remove these goodies when your puppy is not watching lest it should end up being a game of hide and seek.
Also, any digging in the yard should be done, preferably when your puppy is not watching lest it should follow your example; the sight of freshly tilled earth can be too much of a temptation for your puppy to resist.
Ensure that your yard or garden is well maintained and free of anything that can give off the kind of scent that may be attractive to a puppy.
8. Try averting attention to something else
As mentioned above, puppies sometimes dig out of boredom, so if you happen to chance on your puppy digging, try to divert attention with a toy, treat, or a game.
If the puppy doesn’t go back to digging afterward, you can be sure that boredom triggered the digging. As you explore ways on how to stop a puppy from digging, try to make your yard more entertaining and fun by adding a selection of toys.
9. Block access
If the puppy is in the habit of digging under the fence, it will be helpful to put up an obstruction under the fence, such as chicken wire mesh or poultry netting as part of your strategy on how to stop a puppy from digging.
You can also consider putting up some boulders around the bottom border of the fence to deter the puppy.
10. See if separation anxiety is a trigger
Puppies that get too attached to their owners, feel anxious when separated from them for some time. The puppy may start exhibiting undesirable behavior as a result of its anxiety, such as soiling the house, barking incessantly, chewing things around the house, and yes, digging.
If your puppy is digging due to separation anxiety, you need to train it so that it can tolerate being away from you for a while without manifesting bad behavior.
Puppies enjoy digging in soft earth, but if the ground is hard and unpleasant to your puppy’s paws, the digging will no longer be an enjoyable experience.
To achieve this, you need to cover the ground with something hard such as pebbles crushed gravel or wood chips. Make sure to lay a thick layer of whatever you are using as a cover so that the puppy doesn’t move the top layer and start digging out the earth underneath.
12. Keep an eye on your puppy
Another key tip on our how to stop a puppy from digging list is to keep an eye on your puppy every time you release it into the yard. Even at the slightest indication that your puppy is about to start digging, distract him with a sound – clapping, whistling, hitting a couple of cans together, etc.
After attracting your puppy’s attention, direct him to something more fun like playing a game or hunting for treats, etc. so that he forgets about the digging.
13. Train your puppy
Training should also be a part of your strategy as you explore ways on how to stop your puppy from digging. It will help to train your puppy to stay within barriers and not attempt to get out; this will help to counter the temptation to jump over or dig under the fence to get out.
You can start by putting up a pet gate at one of the doors with your puppy on the other side. If the puppy waits patiently on the other side, then reward good behavior with positive reinforcement. If your puppy, on the other hand, makes contact with the barrier, you can sound a warning by saying “away.” With consistent training, the puppy will learn to respect the barrier.
The most important requirement as you implement these tips on how to stop a puppy from digging is to be patient. You may not achieve results overnight but be consistent and overtime you will see the change in your puppy.