Virginia Simpson and Chance

Desperate Landscapes

How to Prevent Digging and Destructive Behavior
in Your Yard

by Virginia Simpson, Unleashed Canine Obedience

I had a very exciting event happen this week at Unleashed Canine Obedience!  I was invited to be a guest speaker on a DIY show coming up in September called Desperate Landscapes to talk about troubleshooting poor doggie behaviors in the backyard.  Shooting was on Thursday and went well, but of course I left there and thought of all the ways I should have said some things and all the things I forgot to say that I should have said!  So, I will lay some of them out here for one of the items covered.

When I hear that a dog is tearing up the yard, I usually expect to find a young, energetic, highly intelligent, under-stimulated (bored), under-exercised and frustrated dog.  Sometimes though, if it’s been really hot outside, I might find an overheated dog.  Either way, I want to address the needs of the dog and then solve the specific training needs for good outdoor manners. 

Firstly, you need to find out why your dog is digging.  For example, is it hot out and they’re trying to find a cool place to lie down? Are they trying to dig out of the yard?  (Dogs that are not neutered or spayed are much more likely to want to wander the neighborhood)  Are there moles or insects underground they're trying to get at or are they digging just because it's fun and they have a lot of excess energy mixed in with a lack of something else to do?  Are they mimicking you when you are gardening?  In other words, what's the payoff for digging?  Got moles?  Get rid of them and you might solve your problem quickly!   Dog’s hot?  Provide shade, a cool place to lay and plenty of cold water.

If it is not a quick fix like getting rid of pests or providing cold water, you will need to manage the environment and your dog. You need to supervise your dog in the yard until you are sure they understand the rules of the yard; especially young and energetic dogs. You spend a large amount of time teaching your dog the proper rules in the house and limit their access to the inside of the home until you know they are ready for more freedom.  You have to take the same approach to the backyard.

Prevention strategies could include providing your dog with an appropriate amount of exercise; tired dogs don’t tend to dig or engage in other destructive behaviors as much and remember that dogs do not know that they need to run laps around their yard to get the juice out!  Exercise and mentally stimulate your dog by taking them on walk/runs or playing fetch with them; then after the dog is properly exercised for their particular breed and age, provide other things for them to do in the yard, i.e. toys, bones to chew, games to play.  Keep these items up out of view until you are ready to be outside and then present them to your dog.  That way the items will be more exciting and will keep their attention longer.

Other fixes might include, providing an approved digging area in your yard. You could also take them to places that are appropriate for digging and they can get it out of their system, like on trail runs or in creek beds; maybe a weekly excursion through a nearby woods or beach depending on where you live. “You cannot dig here, but you can dig here!”

You can also try an effective correction, for example, lava rocks in the holes, feces in the hole (except if the dog displays Coraphagia), Cayenne pepper/Tobasco sauce or chicken wire in the hole.  These things will make it unpleasant to dig and don’t necessarily require your presence like a squirt with a water bottle might.  But really, nothing beats supervision and redirection onto appropriate activities.  This allows you to actually teach alternative behaviors.

And I gotta say it!  A well trained and more obedient dog is just going to make better decisions when left on their own at times.  Set your dog up for success and take the time to train your pup and spay/neuter for a happy, fun and safe life with you!  Happy fall gardening this month!

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact me any time!


Virginia L. Simpson
Certified Dog Trainer
Unleashed Canine Obedience, LLC
IACP Member #3141
Phone:  513.317.7484