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Digging Dogs. I don’t dig them! Karen Phillips

A lot of questions that I get on Facebook each week are from owners desperate to find out how to stop their dog from destroying their backyard.  This can include digging holes in a favourite garden bed or perfect lawn as well as pulling and then chewing up plants.

The biggest problem for us is that dogs consider digging to be perfectly normal.  My own puppies dig for fun.  If one is digging, the other can’t resist joining in.  Riot digs in the cool sand under the plants in summer and him and his mates sometimes dig up the grass to eat the roots underneath.

My puppy is the worst offender for destroying plants.  By some miracle she’s never touched the pot plants under the back patio however I have seen her playing tug of war with a few of the native plants we have in our garden.  I ultimately end up with branches, sticks, rocks and leaves scattered all over the patio for me to clean up amongst her toys and bedding.

All my dogs have grown out of this by about twelve months of age therefore my choice is to wait it out as I’m happy for my puppies to explore and discover even if my backyard isn’t a pleasant sight while it happens.  I believe that one of the reasons it stops when they get to a certain age is because I provide my dogs with both mental and physical outlets which means that they don’t need to destroy things anymore to blow off steam.

Dogs often dig out of boredom.  Boredom for the suburban backyard dog can be a huge issue especially when owners are at work all day.  To help conquer the boredom start by increasing your dog’s exercise and where possible take them for a big run before you go to work in the morning.  A tired dog will always get up to far less mischief.

Another thing to keep in mind is that when you want your dog to stop doing something you will always be more successful if you replace it with something that you do want.  So for a dog that digs, purchase a plastic clam shell and fill it full of sand.  Then, bury delicious meaty bones each day in the sand.  To begin with show, your dog what you are doing and it won’t take long before the dog will head straight to the sandpit to excavate their treasure.

For dogs that are destructive using a variety of treat balls and chew toys will also help, particularly if you rotate them so that it is regularly getting something different.  My dogs spend hours rolling a treat ball around to get the treats out.  If these things still don’t prevent the plants from taking a beating, try some of the products available that you spray on to the plants that taste unpleasant to your dog.  Make sure to check that the product is not toxic to the plants or your dog.  Whether this works or not will be dependent on each individual dog.

The best prevention is almost always management of the situation.  If you decide to get a dog then proceed to leave the dog outside all day, the likelihood that you will have these types of issues will be far greater.  You must provide your dog with both mental and physical stimulation as well as things to do when you can’t be there.



Karen Phillips is the owner and trainer of Riot, the beautiful border collie that is the Better Pets and Gardens mascot.  Karen has had immense experience and success with her border collies as well as little Cassie, the very fast papillon, and is currently involved as a trainer with the Agility Club of WA.  Karen is also a regular expert on our Facebook page every Monday night.

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