How To Stop Dogs From Digging


walking your dog on the beach

Dogs are notoriously known for digging when the opportunity arises. This behavior can be unbearable for owners, who want to keep their gardens and flower beds intact. This article gives you some proven methods on how to stop your dog from digging up your garden.

In order to stop dogs from digging, you will have to use a deterrent. This can be anything from smells your dog hates, to distractions such as sandpits. Below are 5 proven methods to stop your dog digging. 

  1. Smells Dogs Hate
  2. Sand Pit 
  3. Fencing 
  4. Mental and Physical Stimulation
  5. Dog Deterrent

Smells That Stop Dogs Digging

Most owners will know, their dog’s sense of smell is many times greater than humans and so smells that dogs hate will ultimately be unbearable for your dog. Deterring your dog from not only digging but other behaviors can be done through the use of smells. I carried out some of my original tests with my own dog, you can check out the results of this here. “6 Smells Dogs Hate Tested”

There are certain scents that dogs are known to dislike, however, your dog may only hate certain ones. Below are a few of the best smells you could use to stop your dog from digging.

Can Coffee Grounds Stop Your Dog Digging

It must be said that coffee is not a substance you want your dog to ingest. Dogs react differently to caffeine than humans and often it will make them ill if too much is ingested.

Before using coffee grounds in your garden, you will want to make sure your dog really hates the stuff, this way he won’t be tempted to eat any of it. If you are concerned, using de-caffeinated grounds can still be effective in keeping your dog away.

Although coffee grounds is a smell that dogs tend to dislike, in my own testing I found that my dog wasn’t that bothered by them. I even tried diluting the coffee grounds in some hot water, this seemed to work better with the smell traveling upwards with steam.

Can Vinegar Stop Your Dog From Digging

Vinegar is a smell that most dogs hate, even during my testing I found my dog disliked the smell so much he walked away from the test area and into another room….not impressed.

Although vinegar works well as a deterrent, your grass will most likely also hate vinegar. If you pour too much vinegar onto one spot in the garden the PH balance of the soil will change and your grass may die or be compromised. This is the same situation for flower beds.

If you can find a way of placing vinegar down in the area where your dog digs, then you should be able to deter them. This can be a great smell to use, just be careful when using it on plants or grass.

Can Lemon Juice Stop Your Dog From Digging

Lemon juice is my top recommendation when attempting to deter a dog from certain areas. Dogs hate the smell of citrus and most dogs will turn the other way if they smell it. Lemon juice has one of the highest levels of citric acid and if you have ever eaten a lemon you will understand this to be true.

One of the best things about lemon juice is that it is natural, unlike lots of off-the-shelf dog deterrents. Unfortunately, you cannot use lemon juice directly onto plants, as the high acid content will most likely kill any plant. If there is a particular spot in your garden that your dog tends to dig, place a bowl on the ground in that area to deter them. It is possible to just use a lemon, meaning you may not have to even squeeze it, this may also look a bit nice placed around flower beds.

smells dogs hate

Sand Pits Can Stop Your Dog Digging Your Garden

There is a big difference between destructive digging and constructive digging. Owners must remember that dogs enjoy digging as it’s such a natural behavior for them.

Installing a sandpit can stop your dog from digging holes in the garden. This process works by focussing your dog’s desire to dig on something that won’t get destroyed that easily. As an owner making the sandpit the preferred choice involves positive reinforcement, whilst redirecting them back to the sandpit every time they try and dig somewhere else.

Making A Sand Pit For Your Dog

Sandpits don’t have to be big box structures with sides. It is just as easy to dig your own pit and make it look like part of the garden. Below are some steps on how to create the perfect indented sandpit.

  1. Choose an area of your garden which will not only look great but your dog will also love. If possible it’s easiest to choose the area your dog has been digging in already, as this area will most likely need some TLC anyway.
  2. Think about the shape you want your sandpit to be. Remember if you’re not using the box method, it’s easy to create fun shapes that look great. These can involve curves that conform to the shape of your garden.
  3. When it comes to the depth you want to think about how deep your dog could dig. The last thing you need is your pooch messing up the sandpit by digging a load of dirt into it.
  4. Lining the bottom of your pit with a weed barrier will help prevent plants from coming through. However, if you want to go for a more rustic look then let the weeds grow and pick them out when needed. A couple of things to remember if you decide to leave the weeds to grow. Firstly there are some weed types that can be harmful to dogs so learning the ones that grow in your area and keeping on top of these is important. Secondly, when you go to pull the weed out you may bring up some dirt. Of course, weeds can grow within the sand too.
  5. Once you have decided on how deep you want the pit, the next thing to do is secure the borders. You can do this any way you want. However, thinking about sand spilling onto your garden every time your dog accesses the sandpit is important. Your borders don’t need to be high but making your sandpit deep enough so the border is almost level with the garden but the sand is below the border can help. Something like large decorative stone can create a wonderful effect and make the sandpit look like a decorative feature, think Japanese zen gardens.
  6. Choosing the right sort of sand is important. Although this is a dog we are talking about and they will dig pretty much anything some sands can create stains on your dog’s fur and are toxic. In the case of a sandpit children’s sand is probably the best option as this has been approved as nontoxic and stain-free.
  7. Fill the sandpit up as far as you think is necessary and use a rake to flatten out the pit. Keeping a rake handy will help tidy the pit up after your dog has been in it. You may also want to keep a bag of sand handy for refilling whenever needed.

If you need some extra guidance to check out this article by Cuteness, which goes through building a sand box for your dog step by step.

walking your dog on the beach

Can Fences Stop Dogs From Digging

One of the most reactive approaches to unwanted digging is to use fencing to stop dogs from getting to their favorite location.

Fences can stop dogs from digging in a particular location but they may not prevent the digging behavior. This results in alternative locations being sought out by your dog or even around the location of the fence itself.

If you want to prevent your dog from getting to a particular location then fencing can be a quick way to do this. Depending on the size of your dog you will want to consider the type of fencing you put up, anything from small picket styles to larger permanent structures.

Generally, if your dog is unable to see the location then it won’t attempt to get past the fence. On the other hand, if they can see the location and desire it enough, jumping a small fence can be pretty easy for a dog. Check out our article on “How High Can Dogs Jump”, this gives some great information on the types of dogs that jump the highest and what you may need to consider when putting up a fence.

My own advice would be to start with temporary fencing, which you would normally use when training your dog. This fencing is normally found as foldable sections or even rolled up. The foldable versions are most sturdy and can stand on their own. The fencing found in a roll will need securing so bear this in mind. Most dogs will get the idea that they cant pass the fence and so you most likely won’t have to worry about jumping.

If there is one thing to remember is that fencing may encourage your dog to dig around the fence parameter. This is a common behavior when it comes to dogs that love to dig. Most of the time owners will plant bushes or trees by their boundary fences as their dog will most likely try to dig under the fence to get through. Be sure to watch for this behavior and put a stop to it. Using the smells dogs hate method mentioned earlier can help a lot when combined. Spray some lemon juice of vinegar onto the fencing to keep your dog away.

Shop Bought Deterrents

There are many deterrents available on the market but with so much to choose from it can be hard to decide. Popularity will often be the deciding factor, try talking to other dog owners with similar problems get onto some forums, and see what worked for owners with a similar dog to you. Remember all dogs are different and some breeds are more repulsed by those things they don’t like.

As a recommendation bitter apple spray was something we used when Cooper my golden retriever was a puppy. He had a tendency to bite the lead on walks and so before we went out we would spray this onto his lead. Each time he started biting he learned the taste of his lead was not good, eventually, he stopped, it was amazing. There are many recommendations to use bitter apple spray on areas of your yard, however, be careful not to kill any plants. It is best to use practice spots before using products like this.

Mental and Physical Stimulation

When it comes to destructive behavior, the likelihood that your dog is being destructive out of boredom is high. Most of the time dogs will dig up your garden through boredom or frustration.

Mentally and physically stimulating your dog can do wonders towards stopping them from digging. not only does this reduce digging but other destructive behaviors too. 

Your dog’s energy levels will depend on various factors, below are some of these different variables.

  • Breed – This is going to be one of the hardest factors to get used to. This is because your dog’s breed is set, if you have an energetic breed such as a border collie or springer then you won’t be able to convert them to a more docile breed like a basset hound. This is why I always tell people before they get a dog, “consider your own lifestyle”, you may love border collies but if you live in an apartment with no garden and no convenient off lead walks nearby then it’s probably not the best breed to get. Check out our article on “Managing Your Dogs Energy Levels” for some great information.
  • Environment – Unfortunately this is another factor that tends to affect all dogs. Dogs are stimulated by a variety of different things, all these things make up their environment. Most people have full-time jobs and are required to be away from home for a large portion of the day. If your dog is couped up inside all day with nothing to do, as soon as you get home and let them out they can become destructive. This is their way of letting all the frustration and energy that built up whilst you were away out.
  • Daily Routine – Sometimes owners forget that dogs love routine and if this routine is altered they can become frustrated and act out on your garden. Frustrations can stem from not going for a walk at the correct time, not seeing their best mate on the weekend, or even alteration to your garden.
  • Energy Levels – As previously stated too much energy can lead to destructive behavior, whether this is due to not being walked, the breed type, or other environmental factors, keeping your dog stimulated mentally is just as important as keeping them stimulated physically. Dog’s energy levels can also increase due to excitement, owners often find that after a bath, walk, or even just before bedtime dogs become crazy with bursts of energy, this is known as FRAPS (Frenetic Random Activity Periods). To learn more about why dogs suddenly go crazy and what FRAPS are then check out our article on the Zoomies “Why Does My Dog Go Crazy After A Walk”.

walking a dog in winter

Keeping Your Dog Mentally and Physically Stimulated

The first thing you need to remember before managing your dog’s energy is that dogs need mental stimulation just as much as physical stimulation. Often owners will complain about how much energy their dog has, however they only took them for a walk on the lead. With no mental stimulation, your dog will become destructive and start digging up the garden. Below are some proven ways to reduce energy levels and frustration all in one.

  • Scent – This is my biggest tip and one that works wonders. Think about what your dog’s strongest traits are, you should be saying their sense of smell. If you did say this then you are correct. Both humans and dogs both have an area of the brain that processes smell, in dogs this area is many times larger than in humans. This tells us that dogs use a large portion of their brainpower on scent, creating a fuller picture of an event through these smells. When taking your dog for a walk try letting them smell things for longer, don’t think about getting the walk done in the quickest time possible, let your dog process each smell until then no longer want to. This type of walk is called a scent walk and as an owner, you can even leave treats along the route for your dog to pick up, of course, make sure it’s the treat you left that they are eating.
  • Off Lead Walking – It may not always be possible but letting your dog run off lead can be one of the most beneficial activities to your dog’s energy levels. Dogs will run everywhere off lead using many times more energy than if they were on lead and walking at your pace. You may even meet some other dogs on your walk playing off the lead which will mean your dog can run around with them adding in a social side that reduces even more energy and keeps any frustrations at bay. Take a look at our article on walking your dog off lead, “How To Walk A Dog Off Lead”.   If this is your first time walking a dog off lead then have a read of our first-timers article “What Age To Let A Puppy Off The Lead”.
  • Playing Games – Playing games with your dog is one of the best ways to reduce the amount of frustration that builds up and subsequently the digging that follows. Remember that playing with your dog either in the garden, in the house, or even out on a walk can help. Playing whilst walking is going to be the most effective activity, although thinking about what games to play can be hard. That is why we have compiled a list of some great games to play whilst walking your dog, “9 Games To Play While Walking Your Dog”

Whatever you decide is the best method for your pooch, this is a really important aspect when it comes to stopping your dog from digging. Even deterrents like the ones discussed above will only focus on the digging behaviors and would look at reducing all-around destructive behavior. That is why keeping your dog happy and reducing their frustration should be combined with any technique you use to stop your dog from digging.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article has given you so much need advice and tips on keeping your lawn hole-free. My number 1 takeaway from this should be to make sure your dog is well entertained and has no built-up frustration and energy. Once you have ensured that this is true then each one of these deterrents will be much easier to implement.

Dean Lissaman

As a child I grew up around dogs and have loved them ever since. I now have a beloved Golden Retriever who enjoys exploring the outside world. Being an outdoor enthusiast has inspired me to create the ultimate resource on relating both dogs and the outdoors. For more information on me check out my about page.

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