Dogs dig for a number of reasons; they dig cooling and warming pits to lie down in, they dig to bury things and to find things, they dig to escape, and many just dig because they like to, it was what they were bred to do. It can also be a socially facilitated behavior; dog sees you digging in your garden and decides you need some help, and then uproots all your hard work.
Dogs are more likely to dig if they are bored and do not have enough to do. Digging can and often does, pacify many dogs. The more common, recommended solutions that clients have told me they were told or read for digging, range from filling the hole with water and stuffing the dog’s head in it, installing a dog run/kennel, cementing the area, to putting pinecones and/or poop in the holes, etc. These are meant as deterrents, and can be very random, at best, in their success. They do nothing to address the possible, underlying cause(s) of the behavior.
What to do:
If your dog is redecorating your yard, you must prevent him from having access to areas you do not want dug-up, period. You certainly DO NOT want the dog to be able to practice the behavior you want to get rid of! Try to understand why the dog is digging in the first place. Consult with an experienced, qualified, Behavior Specialist, Behaviorist and/or Trainer in your area. In the meantime, if your dog is digging, I suggest the following:
1. Increase the level of good physical and psychological exercise your dog receives daily by ten to twenty percent (or more if you are dealing with a high energy doggy.) 2. Increase the time spent on obedience training (although, digging is not an “obedience” problem per se, training can provide some structure in the dogs life.) Train, using Positive reinforcement methods to ensure that you will not make the digging problem worse. Important especially if the dog is digging out of some latent stress or anxiety.
3. If you’re dealing with a dog that is genetically predisposed to dig (Terriers, Dachshund and the like) provide them appropriate outlets for their digging. Which leads me to my favorite solution,
4. Provide your dog with a digging pit (thank you Dr. Ian Dunbar). This makes the most sense. If your dog likes to dig, just teach him where to do it. Teach him that digging in that area is the best place (bait it with goodies and go out and show him that digging there and only there is the greatest), and let him dig to China. Remember not to let the dog in other parts of the yard that you do not want dug-up until you are confident in the training you have done.
If keeping your dog away from areas that you don’t want him digging in is not possible, then you must try to prevent the digging by other means; blocking off the garden, or flower bed areas for example. Setting “booby-Traps” may be another option. Obviously, the trap should not endanger your dog. However, bear in mind, dogs are great discriminators; the digger may just find another place to dig. We also need to be aware of displacement behaviors, you suppress the digging, but then what does the dog have to pacify or keep himself busy? How about barking, pacing, fence jumping, etc. Now I’m not saying that this will happen, I’m just saying it is possible, and should be taken into account whenever you are trying to modify/change a behavior pattern that may in many instances have a strong reinforcement history.