Allowing our dogs to have as much outside time as they want and need is not only important for their physical well-being but also their mental health. While dogs can live happily in apartment and small houses, it’s very important to make sure we give them ample hours outdoors, and if you do happen to have a garden than it’s the perfect, relatively easy solution. It also helps to prevent issues such as peeing on the carpet or destroying furniture. However as is almost always the case, there’s are a few potential negatives that can come with allowing our dogs free reign over the garden. Dogs have strong instincts telling them to dig, which means there’s a good chance they’ll take to digging in the garden. While they usually don’t mean to be breaking the rules or doing anything wrong, the result is extremely annoying because our gardens are often left utterly destroyed or at least a bit defaced. For those of us who keep flower beds, the situation is even worse. It can sometimes seem absolutely impossible to keep flowers and plants in tact, when our pups seem intent of ripping them up.
Just as when we addressed other behavioural issues, garden destruction is no exception, the rules are the same. It’s up to us to first address what the real problem is and then begin searching for potential solutions. The best result is that you are happy and your dog is just as happy.
1. Figure out what is causing the behaviour
Bigger breeds of dogs tend to be more prone to having a good go at the garden, but there are numerous reasons why your dog could be digging aside from their basic instincts. They could be searching for a cooler place to rest if it’s particularly hot, they could be looking for insects or small animals or they could quite simply be bored. Try observing your dog to figure out if it looks like any of these things could be the cause.
2. Build a fence
Beautiful open gardens may be the goal, but if you can’t stop the digging then you need to create a barrier. This, more often than not, will come in the form of a fence that will stop your dog from accessing the spots in which they like to dig. Go for a style that fits your overall garden theme and you may just be surprised at how much you like the look. Two birds, one stone! Better Homes and Gardens is all about the low picket fence, for example.
Okay so when we think of moats we usually think of medieval castles and protecting the realm from invaders, so it might seem a bit drastic to build one in your backyard. Try to think of your garden/flowerbed as a medieval castle and your dog as an invader and you’ll start to get where we’re going with this. A simple little garden moat is actually a pretty effective solution to this, and it looks beautiful. You can make one out of pine cones, for example, which your dog will hate stepping on.
4. Bury balloons.
This idea might sound just as crazy as the moat suggestion did – but stick with us. Blow up a few balloons to a medium size and bury them in a section of the garden in which your dog like to dig. They’ll get a rude surprise when they hit the balloon and pop it, meaning they most likely will not return or take any interest in digging anymore.
5. A spot just for digging
As we stated above, sometimes dogs dig simply because their instincts tell them to do so. If this is the case, the best thing for you to do is set up a space where they can dig until their little heart is content. It’s relatively easy to establish no go and green zones through training. You can even try burying a few appealing items in the green zone to entice them into the space initially.
6. Plan the pruning
If it’s one particular garden bed that your dog is targeting, it could be worth your while to add some types of flowers or plants that will discourage them. Nobody likes thorny stems or sticky sap, for example.
7. Use spices
A little weird but a very natural solution nonetheless. Much like cats, there are a few things that dogs hate to the smell of (but that cause no harm to them). Try sprinkling some mustard powder or capsicum around the areas in which they did and they should ease up soon enough.
8. Chemical options
Much like humans, dogs hate the smell of ammonia (that element in cat pee that makes us gag). If you don’t have a cat peeing on your plants to keep the dogs away, you’ll need to create the smell in another way. You can make an ammonia stink bomb by pouring the chemical into coffee filters and then laying them close to the popular digging spots.
It can be super annoying and time consuming but if the behaviour is at the point where there seems to be nothing you can do about it, you’ll need to stop letting your dog outside without supervision. If you’re watching, you can quickly intervene and stop them from digging, making it clear that it’s not acceptable (or perhaps on acceptable in the established green zone). If you’ve trained your dog to understand words or respond well to verbal and body language reinforcement, it shouldn’t be too difficult.
10. Tire your dog out
We’ve covered several times how important it is that your dog is getting enough exercise and that you’re finding new and exciting places to take them to ensure their happiness. If your dog’s energy is used up on worthwhile and interesting tasks/activities, they’ll be less likely to employ destructive behaviour. Sometimes it can seem that their energy is boundless and never ending, but with a good walk or run in the park, they’ll likely be less interested in your flowers.
What do you think of our solutions? Have you had any luck getting your dog to stop ripping up the garden?
Tiahn Wetzler is a journalist, writer, editor and animal lover. Follow her on Instagram @tiahnwetzler