How to - Gardening Basics

Why is my dog digging holes in my flowerbeds?

Michel Pepin, a doctor of veterinary medicine, answers this common pet owner's conundrum

Question: Why does my dog keep digging holes in my flowerbeds? How can I keep him from ruining everything?

Michel Pepin, doctor of veterinary medicine answers: A number of things might be behind your dog’s desire to dig up your flowerbeds, vegetable garden or lawn. Your dog might be exploring new exciting territory, responding to predatory instincts, avoiding an uncomfortable situation, seeking more vigorous physical activity, or simply looking for treats.

Keep in mind, however, that it’s perfectly natural for your dog to occasionally kick up some dirt and grass with his hind legs after he does his business. And in case you’re wondering, he’s not trying to kick his droppings away—he’s just marking territory. A dog will sometimes dig to bury food, mostly bones. Using his front paws, he’ll create a hole for his tasty treats, covering it back up with his snout. This usually means that he’s had enough to eat, and he’s saving some for later. Unfortunately for Fido—and your garden—it also means that other critters with a keen sense of smell will also try to dig it up.

In summertime, in an effort to cool off, some northern breeds like to dig themselves a patch of fresh soil to lie in. Other breeds, such as terriers, engage in this behaviour instinctually while hunting rodents or investigating a scent. In order to change your dog’s behaviour, you’ll need to figure out what’s causing it.

If Fido’s trying to run away, be sure he’s neutered, check that he’s getting enough to eat and that he feels safe in his environment. To make the neighbour’s cat less fascinating, occupy him with a new pastime or game. If he’s burying his toy bones—never give your dog real bones—simply enforce an indoors-only policy for toys. As for kicking up dirt after he does his business, this problem is far trickier to resolve. Your best bet is to give him a patch of grass or dirt where he’s free to do as he pleases. Another option: two long walks a day (and don’t forget to bring clean-up baggies). Finally, if a dog is digging things up instinctually or out of boredom, it simply means he needs a little more attention: don’t leave him outside by himself for too long; go on more walks together. This will help Fido burn off excess energy. A thoroughly exercised dog is a very happy dog who’ll be much less likely to dig up his master’s garden. If he keeps it up, be sure to reprimand him while he’s in the act, so he understands that the behaviour must stop. The longer you wait to discipline him, the more likely he’ll think he’s invented a fun new game—he digs and you holler!

Article translated by Brendan Brogan


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