How do you stop dogs from digging?

DrPaul -

How do you stop dogs from digging?

We all want our pets to enjoy outside space at home but this doesn’t include digging up the spring flower beds that have just come into bloom.  So, how do you stop dogs from digging because most dogs love to dig?  

Some breeds are more predisposed than others, and all dogs dig for a variety of reasons: fun, boredom, comfort or natural instinct and that patch of freshly weeded garden with its newly tilled earth will be practically irresistible.

Whatever the cause, we’ve provided some useful tips to help prevent this problematic behaviour.


There are a number of steps you can take to prevent your dog digging where they’re not supposed to and making your flower beds undesirable or inaccessible is the first place to start.

Dogs are especially attracted to freshly turned soil, like that patch you just carefully weeded.  A good option would be to consider weed suppressant gardening techniques, such as a membrane and a mulch or grit covering.  This has the benefit of creating an unappealing surface for your dog that’s harder to dig into, while also saving you time gardening.

If there’s a particularly precious area of garden you need to protect, prevent access by using large stones or erecting fencing.  There’s a wide selection of materials and styles for creating garden borders and if you don’t want a permanent feature, you can use a temporary border as a method of training your dog not to dig in that part of your garden.

Reduce the use of animal related fertilisers like manure or blood and bone mix, the contents can be very attractive to your dog.  They might be good for your roses but can encourage digging and also cause health problems for your dog if consumed in quantity.


Depending on the size of your garden, you might like to create a dog friendly zone.  This will benefit your dog in many ways including a space to play freely and encourage feelings of safety and comfort outdoors.

There are a number of features you can include to entice your dog, for example providing a shelter from the sun, wind or rain will encourage them to use this part of your garden and to recognise it as their own territory.  Many dogs dig holes because they are too hot but by providing a cool, shaded area with clean drinking water you’ll offer a more appealing solution.

Planting a sensory garden with dog-friendly plants such as lavender, mint or rosemary can create a pleasant experience for both you and your dog.  Choose plants that have a strong scent to draw your dog to the area and increase the aroma by grouping multiple plants together.  It’s important to check that any plants you use are safe for dogs.

If you have space, you might want to embrace your dog’s digging habit by providing him with a designated area for this activity.  A child’s sand pit filled with either loose soil or sand is a very simple method but remember to use sand that’s safe for children rather than builders sand, which can harm your dog.  This technique is particularly useful if your breed of dog has a very strong instinct to dig.  Burying suitable toys in this area will also encourage your dog to dig in this specific place, as well as keeping them entertained.


Whether you can create a dog-friendly zone or not, distracting and engaging your dog while in the garden is one of the main ways to prevent him from digging.

Interesting items such as toys and dog puzzles are a great way to distract your dog away from your flower beds.  Most pet shops provide a wide array of items designed specifically for outdoor play.  Dogs can be known to bury a favourite toy for safekeeping, but having a selection that is rotated regularly can potentially prevent this behaviour.

Dogs love to spend their time with their owners and creating fun activities for you to do together in the garden, not only strengthens your bond but will keep your dog engaged and focused on you instead of digging.  If your dog has a lot of energy then you might want to look at setting up agility exercises or if your garden is small, a simple game of tug-of-war can keep your dog entertained while tapping into a different natural doggy instinct other than digging.


Once you’ve managed to prevent your dog digging or moved it to a designated place, it’s important to reinforce the new behaviour.

Reward your dog when they use the dog-friendly area in your garden or stop digging on command with lots of verbal praise, food such as dog treats and physical contact.  Dogs love to be rewarded and fortunately it doesn’t take much.

If you already reward your dog regularly you’ll know what works best but if you don’t use positive reinforcement with your dog, it can be one of the most powerful techniques to encourage a change in your dog’s behaviour.

There are a variety of techniques and types of rewards and it’s important to remember that it might take some time for your dog to overcome their habit of digging.  Patience is one of the most important requirements.


Most dogs love to dig and it can be frustrating and upsetting for owners when this occurs in a well cared for flowerbed or garden lawn.  Luckily, there are various techniques you can try to encourage your dog to focus this activity in a more suitable part of your garden, or to stop digging altogether.

It might take time for this behaviour to be corrected but it is possible with a few simple adjustments to your garden and changes to your dog’s activities when enjoying your outside space.

Paul Manktelow

Veterinary Surgeon

Dr Paul Manktelow is a vet who's worked for almost 20 years on the front line in some of the UK's busiest veterinary hospitals. Paul also appears regularly in the media as a TV and radio presenter, writer, public speaker and podcast producer.