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How to keep dogs from digging up your garden beds

Keeping dogs out of your garden beds can be a bit of a challenge and there are many reasons why they could be digging up your garden beds and each dog will be different. Understanding why your dog is digging up your plants could be the key to solving the problem.

Here are a few scenarios where a dog might be tempted to dig up your garden and how to stop it:

Burying Objects: Dogs sometimes dig to bury toys, bones, or treats in the soft soil of a garden. They may bury rodents and birds they have killed and recover them later to chew on


Solution: Create a designated digging area in your yard using loose soil or sand. Show your dog this spot and encourage them to bury their toys or treats there. When they do so, praise and reward them.


Dog chewing on a bone
Dog chewing on a bone

Hunting Instincts: Dogs have a natural instinct to dig for prey like rodents or insects hiding in the soil.


Solution: To prevent this, provide adequate play and exercise to help satisfy their hunting instincts. Use interactive toys that mimic hunting behaviour. You can also use a deterrent like chicken wire buried just below the soil's surface to make digging uncomfortable.


Dog digging a hole
Dog digging a hole

Cooling Off: Dogs might dig to create a cool, comfortable spot to lie down on a hot day.


Solution: Ensure your dog has access to shade and water during hot weather. Create a designated shaded area for them to rest, and provide a cooling pad or damp towel for them to lie on.


Wet dog running out of the pool
Wet dog

Boredom: Dogs often dig when they're bored or lack mental stimulation.


Solution: Engage your dog in regular exercise and playtime. Puzzle toys, interactive feeders, and training sessions can keep their minds occupied. Provide a variety of toys to prevent boredom.


Dog sitting alone in a cement courtyard
Dog sitting alone in a cement courtyard

Territorial Behaviour: Dogs might dig to mark their territory with their scent.


Solution: Spay or neuter your dog to reduce territorial behaviours. Train them to mark their territory in appropriate ways, such as by lifting their leg on specific objects rather than digging.


Curiosity: Dogs might dig to explore what's beneath the surface of the soil. Solution: Supervise your dog when they're outside and intervene if they start digging in the garden. Redirect their attention to a more appropriate activity and reward them when they engage in it.


Curious dog watching as woman digs in garden
Curious dog watching as woman digs in garden

Remember that each dog is unique, and the reasons for digging can vary. It's essential to observe your dog's behaviour and tailor your approach accordingly. Consistency, positive reinforcement, and providing alternative outlets for their natural instincts are key to stopping digging behaviour in the garden.

The solutions mentioned above are gentle way to influence the behaviour of your dog and its definitely easier if you begin to train them when they are young. However, you can certainly teach an old dog new tricks with a bit of patience and discipline on your part.


If these 'soft' methods fail here are some more practical solutions:


Physical Barriers:

Use fencing or other physical barriers to prevent your dogs from accessing the garden beds. This can be effective, especially if the dogs are larger or less motivated to jump over or dig under the barrier.


Dog looking out from behind fence
Dog looking out from behind fence

Mulching and landscaping can also be deterrents if you use large and heavy mulch materials like large stones to cover the surface of the garden beds. Dogs may find it uncomfortable to walk or lie on these surfaces, which could discourage them from entering.


Planting agaves, cacti and other pointy plants is a good idea and hopefully that your dogs will learn quickly to avoid those areas. However, be aware if the plant you chose is not toxic. Euphorbia for example, is a plant group with a milky white sap which is common in gardens in Zambia but it is toxic to both man and animals. If your dog is likely to chew or fun into it, then just avoid these all together.



Crown of Thorns is a euphorbia that is common in local gardens
Crown of Thorns is a euphorbia that is common in local gardens


Natural Deterrents: Dogs are often sensitive to certain scents and textures. Consider placing natural deterrents like citrus peels, coffee grounds, cayenne pepper, or vinegar around the garden beds. Dogs generally dislike these smells and textures. Some people say dog poop is also a deterrent to dogs digging in that area if you bury they dogs own poop, in the area where they dog likes to dig, it will avoid that area in the future.


Dog sniffing out an area
Dog sniffing out an area

Water bottles: It is rumoured that dogs can be deterred by water bottles on the lawn. Admittedly this is not a method that we can confirm but we have seen people attempt to use this method to keep stray dogs from the verge. It is said that their distorted reflection in the bottle confuses or intimidates them so they then choose to stay back.


Plastic bottles filled with water
Plastic bottles filled with water

Remember that every dog is unique, and what works for one might not work for another. It might take some trial and error to find the most effective approach for keeping your specific dogs out of your garden beds.


Be patient and consistent in your efforts, and consider seeking advice from a professional dog trainer if needed.


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