You love them.

Both your potted plants and your dogs.

But it’s painful to watch the potted plants destroyed because your dogs are digging in them.

Dogs dig in potted plants because they are bored or they need exercise. They use it as a distraction and to relieve stress. Keep dogs aways from potted plants by keeping them at a height or using a physical barrier such as a cage or fence.

In this post, I’ll help you understand why your dogs are digging in potted plants. I’ll also give you tips that will keep the dogs away from your plants.

Let’s begin.

Why do dogs dig in potted plants?

1. Your dog may have bad behavior

One of the biggest problems that dog owners have with their dogs is bad behavior. Though dogs can learn to control themselves, their curiosity and determination can be difficult to curb.

While a dog is young, they should quickly learn what is allowed and what is off-limits to them. If they continue to misbehave even after they grow, the problem is probably not with the dog but rather their environment.

2. Your dog may be stressed out

Dogs are likely to be disobedient and problematic when they are experiencing high levels of stress. While they are generally even-tempered, there are a lot of things that might set them off.

Moving to a new home is a common change that can produce unexpected behavior in a dog. Other stress-inducers might include if the dog was left alone for a much longer time than they are accustomed to or if many new people were introduced into the animal’s environment.

Dogs usually dig potted plants out of frustration. If you compare it to what humans do, we can say that dogs use potted plants and gardens as their own gym. Such destructive behaviours can oftentimes happen out of boredom as well. That said, if you want your dog away from your garden and plants, you need to provide them with exercise, play activities such as fetch and socialize them with other dogs. – Dr. Sabrina Kong, DVM, We Love Doodles

Once the dog feels more stress than it can handle, it is a short jump for them to start tearing things up or digging into your potted plants.

If your dog is perpetually stressed and there doesn’t seem to be a clear cause that you can analyze, consider that dogs were originally bred and trained to be working animals. Dogs have lived alongside humans for hundreds of years, working as hunters, trackers, vermin killers, guard dogs, and even beasts of burden.

3. Your dog may need some activity

Most dogs feel an innate drive to work or to do something useful with their lives. If they spend all of their time lying around with nothing to do, they will feel unbalanced and stressed, which could lead to any number of problematic behaviors.

There are three main reasons dogs dig potted plants. The soil is much softer than the hardened outside soil which makes it really easy and rewarding to dig up. This happens more with terriers (who usually are born to dig!) but they’re not the only culprits. They’re bored and finding their own stimulation/mischief. Some little critter has taken up residence in your pots… and they’re helping you get it out. – Ali Smith, Positive Puppy Expert, Rebarkable.

How to keep dogs out of potted plants

1. Move the potted plant to a higher location

The best way to keep your dog away from your plants is by keeping them out of reach. You can move the plant pots to a location that is not accessible to the dogs. You could use a hanging planter or keep the plants on a table.

If the plants are outdoors, you could make use of a plant stand. You could consider using tall pots or heavy pots that the dogs cannot get into.

2. Use a fence to keep dogs away

You can make your own fence around the plant pots using chicken wire or a tomato cage. This will keep the dogs away from the potting soil.

If you have many plant pots, you could consider fencing the entire garden to keep your dogs away.

3. Put mulch on top of potting soil

Mulch is an excellent thing to put on top of potting soil to regulate the temperature. However, organic mulch such as straw, wood chips, and dried leaves may attract dogs to the soil.

You could use mulch that repels dogs instead. This could be clippings from prickly bushes such as rose plants or juniper trimmings. Pine cones are another option to use as mulch.

Dogs don’t prefer to tread on potting soil with such mulch because it makes their paws uncomfortable.

Pieces of aluminum foil are also a mulch alternative that will keep dogs away because they don’t like the feel and sound when walking on them.

4. Use a deterrent to keep dogs away

You can use a dog repellent, which works well to keep dogs away from potted plants.

Anything organic with a strong scent works well to do this. You could dip a cotton ball in clove oil and place it on the inside of the rim of the pot.

Some organic things dogs stay away from include hot peppers, black pepper, orange, and lemon peels. You could powder these materials and sprinkle them on the potting soil.

Alum powder works well to keep dogs away. It has a bitter smell that they don’t like. You can sprinkle alum powder on the potting soil.

Dogs don’t like vinegar, so you could spray some vinegar. But it can harm your plants as it’s acidic. You can create a vinegar spray by mixing vinegar and water. Then spray it near the pot rather than directly on the potting soil or the plant.

5. Use training techniques to keep dogs away

You can train your dog to stay away from the potted plants. But this is a slow process that takes time and patience.

When you catch your dog digging in the potting soil, you can tell them a firm no and take them away from the plant. Keep doing this several times, and there’s a good chance the dog will stop this behavior.

If the dog does not listen to your words, you can try spraying a little water on them to warn them about their bad behavior. 

When the dog starts listening to your no, you can reward it with a treat to indicate that this is good behavior.

Understanding the reason behind this is a great place to start to figure out how to resolve it. Train a great recall will help because you can avoid a lot of damage by recalling them when they go near your pots. Top your plants with decorative stones (that will make digging harder and a lot less rewarding!). Make the pots unavailable by elevating them or placing them behind a playpen. Give them an appropriate outlet for their digging desires and provide an area in that garden where your dog is allowed to dig! Keep the soil fairly soft, and hide some rubber or hard toys in there and make it really fun for them! If this isn’t an option? A kiddies ball-pit might work wonders for them. – Ali Smith, Positive Puppy Expert, Rebarkable

How to keep dogs stress-free

The best thing you can do to help your pet stay stress-free is to keep your dog from getting into too many stressful situations. Try to maintain balance in your dog’s life, and do what you can to brace your dog for significant changes.

After all, an ounce of prevention is said to be worth a pound of cure. However, trying to prevent everything that could be stressful is a near-impossible task, and it might cause you as much stress as it saves for your dog.

Thankfully, there are many things that you can do to help your dog relieve stress and function normally. The most common thing that you can provide for your dog is exercise. Whether you take them on a walk or a run, they will get the opportunity to enjoy a change of scenery and to stretch their legs. Another option that dog owners can use to provide exercise would be swimming. Some types of dogs have a long history with water, which can be a great way to tire them out.

If exercise doesn’t provide enough stress relief, find something that your dog can do that will help them feel like they are working and contributing. Teaching them tricks is one way to go about this. You can also teach them to serve as guard dogs or to keep squirrels out of your yard. If they have a place to dig, they will be more inclined to leave your plants alone. Once the dog’s urge to dig has been satisfied, your potted plants will be much safer.

Another common way for dogs to be put to work in suburban environments is in the field of dog sports. There are sports out there for every class and breed of dog. Training for sports like agility competitions or something like dog dancing will help your dog feel useful. In turn, this will help relieve their stress.

Finally, the most reliable way to help your dog lower its stress levels is to spend time with them. Dogs crave companionship, and being around their owner will always bolster their confidence and their security. If a dog doesn’t spend much time with its owner, it will undoubtedly feel the adverse effects. This isolation could lead to the very same bad behavior that you are trying to prevent.

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