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8 Ways to Stop a Dog From Digging Up Potted Plants (Easy & Humane)

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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You may have experienced the frustration of walking away from your freshly planted pot plant, only to come back later and find it roots up on the floor next to a guilty-looking pooch. There is something about the smell of fresh potting soil that is irresistible to dogs, and just a few seconds is enough to destroy a freshly potted plant. Smaller plants that can be placed out of reach of your pooch are fine, but most of us want large plants decorating our home indoors and outdoors and need a more permanent solution to keep dogs at bay.

With a bit of patience, the habit can be stopped in its tracks relatively easily. If you are having trouble with your pooch digging up potted plants and need a solution, read on for easy and humane remedies.Divider 1

The 8 Best Ways to Stop a Dog From Digging Up Potted Plants

1. Training

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Image Credit: ABO PHOTOGRAPHY, Shutterstock

Proper training is the foundation of a well-behaved dog, as they will cease unwanted behavior relatively quickly, usually on command. Reward-based methods are best, as this will teach them commands quickly and humanely. A well-trained dog will stop digging in your potted plants the instant that you tell them to, and after being rewarded with a treat for stopping the behavior, they are unlikely to do it again.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, and some dogs may take a long time to break free of a habit once it has been cemented in.

2. Supervision

Even a well-trained dog will need supervision in the first stages of breaking a habit, and step two is keeping a close eye on your pooch when they are around your plants. Make sure you are close enough that they can hear and will respond to your commands, and again, reward them with praise or a treat for good behavior. You can then slowly begin hanging back a little to see if they keep up the behavior without your presence. This may take time, but hopefully, your pooch will learn that the potted plant is a no-go area after repeated commands.

3. Pinecones

Image Credit: nuraja, Pixabay

If your dog is still digging up potted plants when you are not there to supervise them, the next step is using a deterrent. There are many different types to try, but we’ve found pinecones to be the best remedy, especially for smaller dogs. Bury pinecones — the more, the better — just under the surface of the soil inside your pot plant. When your pooch decides to come and dig, the sharp edges of the pinecone on your dog’s paws should be enough to deter them from digging — hopefully!

This method is best for smaller dogs, as some larger breeds actually enjoy chewing on pinecones!

4. Clove Oil

If pinecones aren’t working, cotton swabs soaked in clove oil may do the trick. Dogs do not enjoy the pungent smell of clove oil, and it can act as a great deterrent. Soak a few balls of cotton in clove oil, and bury them just below the surface of the soil in your pot plant. Hopefully, the smell alone will be enough to deter them, but the taste after digging them up will deter most dogs! Be warned that all essential oils can be toxic to pets, so don’t do this unless you’re confident it will help your dog steer clear of your plants.

5. Temporary Fencing

dog with pottted plants-pixabay2
Image Credit: MrsBrown, Pixabay

A small fence around your pot plants is the next step to stop your dogs from digging in them, and while it may seem extreme and cost extra money, it should be enough to stop them. Also, you’ll only need to use them as a temporary measure while you are training your pooch or while you aren’t around to supervise them. You can create a small fenced area where all your potted plants are kept or put individual fences in each pot, depending on your situation.

6. Make a Dig Pit

One of the main reasons that your dog is digging up your pot plants is simply that they love to dig! Creating a separate spot in your yard where your dog can dig freely may help them stay away from your plants. Place toys and sticks in the dig pit to make it more fun than the potted plant, and praise them for digging in the designated spot. Your dog will love having their very own digging area!

7. Other Deterrents

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Image By: focal point, Shutterstock

There are other proven deterrents, and if your dog is still periodically dogging up your plants, these are certainly worth a try. In addition to clove oil, most dogs cannot stand the smell of vinegar, so you can try that as an alternative. Additionally, making a moat with an uncomfortable walking surface may be enough to deter most dogs. This could be a small circle of rough stone or pinecones — anything that will cause discomfort but not harm to your pooch.

8. Exercise

Lastly, some dogs dig simply because they are bored and under-stimulated. Giving your dog enough mental and physical stimulation throughout the day will prevent and cure many bad habits, including digging. Many dogs will dig to release pent-up energy, and regular, daily exercise should help relieve their boredom, and this should stop them from digging up your potted plants.Divider 5


If your dog is already in the habit of digging up potted plants, it will take a fair bit of patience and dedication to stop the habit. Prevention is always better than the cure, and proper training and plenty of exercise is the best way to stop your pooch from picking up the habit in the first place. In other cases, a simple deterrent should do the trick, and there are several that you can try to hopefully save your plants from destruction!

Featured Image Credit: StockSnap, Pixabay

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