According to animal behavior specialists, digging is a natural behavior that is commonly displayed in the majority of dogs. The behavior is especially common in retriever and terrier breeds. Besides being an instinctual trait, dogs dig for a variety of reasons. Sometimes understanding why the canine feels the need to dig provides a clue to stopping the behavior.
The Attraction of Digging
Dogs might dig under fences or other borders in an attempt to run free as a need to get exercise, or they might be in search of a mate. The behavior might occur after fertilizing the lawn. The smell appeals to some dogs. Canines might dig in an effort to create a den as a need to feel secure. They might also burrow to escape the heat on a hot summer's day by lying in the cool dirt. Their keen sense of hearing and smell may also alert them to amphibians, rodents or other creatures living and traveling beneath a lawn. Some dig out of boredom. Others may burrow into the earth because the behavior rewards them with attention.
Deterring the Behavior
There are many ways to counteract dogs from digging up a perfectly good lawn. However, tactics that work for one may not work for another. After determining a possible cause, reversing the behavior requires consistency. If boredom or a lack of physical activity is suspect, make a habit of taking the dog on walks daily or as often as possible. By providing the animal with positive attention, they will also be less likely to seek negative reinforcement. Engage them in invigorating games of catch or fetch in the yard. If the animal seems to have a wanderlust spirit, resist leaving them unattended outdoors.
Experienced dog owners use a number of successful techniques that discourage digging. Some pet parents find that canines readily avoid areas where owners bury the dog's fecal matter in previously dug holes. Others blow up small party balloons and bury them in the holes. If the dog returns to the same spot, the startling noise of a popping balloon often alleviates the problem. When a dog has no qualms about digging in the presence of their owner, a quick spray with the garden hose or a spray bottle filled with water accompanied by a stern verbal reprimand eventually gets the point across.
As even children enjoy spending time digging in dirt or playing in sandboxes, there are pet owners who devote a small area in their yard so that the dog can do what comes naturally. Fill the locations with loose dirt or sand. Train the animal to use this destination alone by burying toys or treats in the designated spot. In this way their dog has the chance to do what he or she enjoys without fear of reprimand.