Prize flower beds in a mess? Lawn looking more like the surface of the moon than a cricket pitch? Don’t you just love those digging puppies… not! Here at Zigzag, we get asked all the time.. ‘how do I stop my puppy from digging?’.
Truth is some puppies just can’t help themselves, can they? Not only are they in your flower beds, but some will dig holes in the lawn and of course all that soil then ends up dragged inside and all over your cream carpets – not ideal. Some puppies dig other things, sofa cushions, corners of carpets, you’ll often see them digging in their own bed too. It really is a good job they’re so cute!!
Have you ever wondered why they do it, but perhaps more importantly how to stop a puppy digging in the garden?
Well, read on because we’re here to help. In this guide, we’re going to be teaching you
- The reasons puppies dig
- How to stop a puppy from digging in the garden
- Puppy breeds that are more likely to dig
Why do puppies dig?
To figure out how to stop a puppy from digging, we need to look at why they dig in the first place.
Puppies dig for the following reasons
To relieve boredom
A bored puppy will dig to give themselves something to do, bonus points if it gets their owners to notice them and the puppy receives some longed for attention. Attention is attention when you’re a pup, good or bad it’s all the same.
Some breeds of dogs are genetically predisposed to dig. Dachshunds and Terriers are an example of dogs who have been bred to dig out vermin and other animals. They almost LIVE to dig (and often bark!).
To cool down or warm-up
On a hot day many dogs will dig a hole to lie in as the soil underneath is cooler. On a cold day, they may seek shelter by digging a hole.
It’s become a habit
If your puppy has started enjoying the digging then it can become habitual and just something they do without thinking about.
It relieves anxiety
Many dogs who dig do this as a displacement behaviour, in other words, it makes them feel good about a situation. This is commonly also seen in dogs with Separation Anxiety.
How to stop a puppy from digging in the garden?
So now we’ve figured out why your puppy is digging in the garden, we expect you want to learn how to stop a puppy from digging, as holes and earth everywhere isn’t exactly a good look is it?
We’re going to teach you how to stop a puppy from digging in 3 easy steps. Firstly we’ll go through removing any stressors, look at management and alternative outlets, as well as what to do in the moment when you catch your puppy digging.
Step 1 – Removing Stressors that are making your puppy want to dig
Have there been any changes lately which may have made your puppy more likely to feel anxious and be using digging as a soothing behaviour?
Make sure your puppy’s emotional needs are met and that they’re getting appropriate amounts of:
Mental and physical stimulation; so plenty of stimulating walks, and enrichment activities. Bored puppies are more likely to dig so use puzzle toys to keep them occupied.
Chews – chewing is a great activity for puppies, they need to do a lot of it!
Food – Correct puppy nutrition and eating a balanced and age-specific diet will make sure your puppy is on top form.
Step 2 – Management and alternative outlets to stop a puppy digging
Block off areas in the garden that your puppy loves to dig, or take them out in the garden on the lead so they don’t get a chance to go self-employed when they’re out there.
You can use fencing to stop them from getting to certain areas of the garden. You can also use fencing to give your puppy a designated digging spot.
Alternatively use a children’s sandbox to create a specific digging pit for your puppy, hide toys and treats in there and let them go to town!
If giving your puppy a digging spot outside isn’t going to work for you, then create an indoor one. Use a cardboard box with the sides cut down a little, then fill with screwed up newspaper, and safe packaging materials, then sprinkle kibble in.
Also, consider taking your puppy to the woods or to a beach where they can do all of the digging they like – woohoo!!
Step 3 – How to stop your puppy digging in the moment
Have you let step 2 pass you by and your puppy is digging a hole AGAIN? Ok time to get them away from there quickly, without shouting, yelling or conflict.
Let’s teach a positive interrupter AKA the emergency recall AKA I need to get you away from that thing pronto, but I want you to do it super fast and willingly.
- Grab a pot with some tasty treats
- Get your excited voice going on, and say ‘what’s this?!’ with great enthusiasm, and toss some treats under your pup’s nose onto the floor. (they don’t have to do anything for it – we’re just building associations and that word = yummy food)
- When they finish the treats, do the same about 10 times more with about 5 to 6 treats or bits of kibble. After that, have a break, and repeat later in the day.
- Repeat every day 10 reps for a week. In that time ‘what’s this’ will have become like the ice-cream van music – and your puppy will start to respond to it like magic!
- After a week, practise outside, then use it to redirect your puppy from digging and get them to do something else. (while you do more work on steps 1 and 2!)
Puppy breeds that like to dig more than others
When thinking about how to stop a puppy from digging we do need to look at the breeds which are more prone to digging.
Breeds of dog that are likely to dig are
Jack Russel Terriers – bred as ratters these guys genetically programmed to dig out vermin, and a great job they do of it too! Don’t forget you can find out more about training your Jack Russel with our article.
Dachshunds – bred to go tunnelling and seek out badger setts and then shout until the hunter comes, they have little powerful legs and long bodies that are excellent for digging.
Beagles – these hounds dig to find animals that may have dug themselves in, or to dig up scents. Beagles don’t do much by halves and they are determined diggers!
Siberian Husky – these snow dogs typically dig holes to either cool down in the summer, or keep themselves warm in the winter. They will gladly do this to your flower beds so let them loose on a beach to dig!
Alaskan Malamute – while being a bit heftier and perhaps less agile than their Russian cousins they will give digging holes in your garden a good go!
Herding and working breeds – perhaps many of these dogs are not bred to dig, but they are bred to be busy. Boredom will play a big part in these dogs’ willingness to dig when they’ve got nothing better to do. Give that dog a job, we say.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading and have learnt some tips on how to stop a puppy digging, if you have specific concerns why not reach out to the Zigzag puppy training experts team, they’ll be happy to talk to you about your puppy digging, or any other concerns you have,
Fancy a bit more reading? Why not check out Getting a new puppy checklist, training tips and prep.