Keep Your Dog Out of the Garden With These 9 Home Made Repellents

With spring in full swing and summer just around the corner, you may be wondering how to keep dogs out of your garden. Are you in full garden mode? There is nothing more frustrating to me than seeing my immature carrots lying beside where they once were sprouting and a crater in its place!

Gardens are fun!!!  Digging is fun!!!  Digging in an already dug up garden is super fun for your dog!

I have said it before and I will say it again, to be a good dog owners, trainer, and handler you have to “Think like a Dog”. Not that thinking like your dog changes the fact that you don’t want him in your garden, but I think realizing that he sees things so much differently than we do helps us to plan ahead of time and hopefully prevent destruction before it happens.

Understanding WHY he behaves the way that he does leads to more ingenious ways to teach him and I think it helps to control our anger and steer us away from using physical force.

Hitting, kicking and other negative methods just teach our dogs that we have short tempers and can’t be trusted, I think most of the time they don’t even associate the behavior we didn’t want with the pain or sadness they incurred. Imagine a 2 year old child wanders into your garden and you yell, then you go out and punch him in the face… is that really a teaching moment? 

Nope, for the child it is just a terrifying moment and remember that your dog is like a 2 year old so it isn’t a teaching moment or learning moment for your dog either!

From Your Dog’s Point of View

Almost nothing is more fun than digging!

The ground smells AMAZING after you plant a garden or work the ground! 

You filter through different layers of smells that excite his nose and his instincts.DIY dog repellent

Don’t believe me? Dig a random hole in front of your dog and watch his nose twitch!

His nose with all its abilities is one of his strongest senses, his visual acuity pales in comparison to what his nose can do and what kind of stories the ground tells. I often tell people digging a hole for your dog is like reading a suspense novel for us; the problem is that it is not socially acceptable for most people to have their dog digging things up.

So, when you dig up new earth don’t expect your dog to just ignore it!  Understand what that means to his senses and how difficult it is for him to ignore it.


He sees you digging, right? So how is he to assume his digging is wrong?

To me, this is like yelling at your dog while he is barking… he thinks you are barking too, so why would he stop?!

Instead of resorting to violence (although I know how frustrating it is to have a garden re-dug), have some understanding.

Often times, people leave their pets out in their yard for long periods of time.

Again, imagine sitting outside in your yard for 8+ hours a day with no phone, no book, no ability to get inside.

Do you think after a few days, you would dig too? I know that I would! Bored dogs dig! Digging is like reading a book for a dog. Each new layer of dirt smells different and watching the dirt fly through the air is fun for a dog! It definitely beats boredom!

Digging is actually a good outlet for your dog’s energy, so if there is a suitable spot (preferably shady) in your yard for it, set up a designated digging area. This could become a favorite place for him to be while you hang out in the yard together. Help your dog get the idea by burying treats and toys for him to find in the designated digging area. Keep the soil moist (not muddy), so it is cooler and not dusty.

You can also use a child’s plastic sandbox. If your dog likes to bury bones, he will hopefully choose this spot. If you catch your dog digging in the wrong place, get his attention and redirect him to the right place where you’ve hidden some treats.

If your dog is one who likes to bury treasures in a safe place and he doesn’t use the designated place, give him less valuable toys that he won’t think are worth stashing. Save the really high-value things for when he is indoors in his crate.

Spring is the time of year when wild animals get busy looking for food and making dens to raise their families, and this makes for irresistible digging temptation. Sometimes moles can be controlled by treating your lawn for grubs, which are moles’ food source. Follow directions carefully for the safety of your pets.

Some animals won’t come into the yard if they know a vigilant dog is around, but others don’t seem to mind the risk.

coffee grounds in garden bedsMaybe you can make the designated digging area more tempting than a chipmunk hole, but if your dog is a terrier, it may be impossible to divert him. The only certain way to keep your dog from attempting to dig up these critters is constant supervision when in the yard.

Ideally, dogs should not be left outside all day while their pet owners are gone, even in a fenced yard. They are much safer indoors and less likely to become habitual diggers. If a dog gets anxious, he may dig under the fence to get out—then get lost or, worse, meet with a car.

If there is no other option but to leave your dog outside, install a smaller kennel in the yard that is dig-proof, with buried fencing or concrete under the fence perimeter. Surround it with shrubs and trees so your dog feels safe there and cannot see (or be seen by) passersby. When you leave him there, provide long-lasting chew toys or food puzzle toys.

There are also products available that are supposed to deter dogs from digging. Some are effective, and some dogs aren’t bothered by them at all. If it rains, they must be reapplied.

In reality, closer supervision and good management are the best ways to curb digging. If special flower beds are in your dog’s domain, try putting a decorative fence around them. If you have amended the soil here with compost, it’s extra tempting.

Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise, mental stimulation, and attention to prevent boredom. Now that good weather is here, a nice long walk every day is a good start for both of you.

If you don’t want your dog to dig, bring him inside and stimulate his mind!

So How Do You Keep Him Out of Your Garden?

Teach Him your Expectations!

I wrote an article about impulse control a few months ago.

I think one of the biggest “sources” of behavior problems that I see with dogs is their lack of impulse control.

They are used to getting what they want when they want it, or they are adept at rewarding themselves (by digging, stealing things, jumping up etc.).

And, when we allow our dogs to reward themselves or we reward them for their mere existence we are in turn creating little furry monsters. We think our dogs are so very cute no matter what they do, we spoil them a bit and we simply never teach them to control their impulses.

AND, they are dogs… so they don’t really see any need on their own to control their impulses! They jump when they want to jump, some of them go potty where and when they want, they chase the cat when they desire, they steal food when we leave it out… they do what feels good.

They don’t really have the ability to look back and think about consequences.  That is what separates us; we can think about what we will do tomorrow and reflect on what we did yesterday.  Dogs live in the moment.

So Let Us Teach Them How to Control Their Impulses!

Dogs with impulse control make much better pets.

And, although obedience is a form of impulse control, it is also delegated by command or cue when true impulse control comes from the dog’s choice.

First determine what kind of person you are; lazy or proactive?

I tend toward the lazy end of the spectrum so in that case I would fence it off. 

A fence is easy, and if you do it right it is fairly infallible. Fencing just keeps the things you want off limits; and there is a variety of garden fencing that is easy to put up, take down, and manipulate.

Plus fencing keeps other critters out! I know if we don’t fence our garden, I am producing produce for all the neighborhood deer, opossums, raccoons and anything else that likes veggies (which is usually fine with me, but not my husband when the deer ate his corn). You can even get invisible fencing for your garden if you want your dog to stay out of a certain area, or areas in your yard.


Simple Fencing Keeps Dogs and other Animals out of Special Places

You actually have to TEACH your dog what your expectations are, and one session is probably not going to cut it!

You will need to take him outside on a leash and allow him to see the area. Let him check it out, within reason; if you don’t allow him to see and get a little sniff of the area, he is just going to wait until he is alone to go back in.

I always use a rope that I stripe with tape to teach my dogs a boundary area, so that they can see it.  Like a fence, you need to put up some kind of boundary that they can see, a marked area that they learn not to cross.

Then, the dog needs to be taught that if he stays on the appropriate side of the rope he is rewarded, and if he crosses the line, he is not rewarded and then taken back to the other side of the rope.

First you start on the same side with your dog clicking and treating him for staying and not crossing the line and when he does you give a non-reward marker like “No” or “Eh” then bring him back to your side.

Once he figures this out step to the other side of the rope and he will likely follow, again use a verbal non-reward marker like “No” or “Eh” which means he gets nothing. 

He will learn to stay in his own space and where he gets rewarded. The next step is to do the same without a leash and then from different distances away.


This training will take several days if not a week or more and you MUST go out with him each time he goes outside no matter what time of day to ensure he doesn’t frolic through your garden!

Eventually he will learn, but he needs to be taught where to be and where not to be.

I want my dog to learn good impulse control and eventually learn to leave the garden, steak, chicken or liver, but I want my dog to be as successful as possible in the beginning. 

And, I think it helps the human to not become as frustrated!

So separate your high level treats and your low level treats in your pouch. I put my low level in the right side and the high level in my left. My right hand is dominant and will do most of the work with the low level treats.

I have my dog sit in front of me (if he can sit) if he can’t “sit” on command that is fine. This is also appropriate to do with puppies!

I put a small low level biscuit in my right hand. Next I open my fist to show my dog the treat. 99% of dogs lunge purposely toward the cookie or treat; this is normal and to be expected. As soon as this happens I close my hand around the treat.


This is critical.

We want the dog to make the choice on his own! 

If the dog has to rely on a command, he will still be more likely to steal food from small children and from others.  If we teach him to control himself, by his own choice we are teaching him a stronger behavior.

As soon as he stops actively nuzzling, scratching, poking, nibbling etc. for the treat and has given up, click (click on this link for why the clicker is critical) and reward with a higher level treat from the left hand and the left side of your pouch.

Dogs are smart. The dog will very quickly realize that you are giving him something more tasty and rewarding.

Continue doing this until he understands that NOT stealing the treat or rewarding himself is what you want and will get him rewarded.

The Next Step

The next step is to move the placement of the treat in your hand. Use your left hand. Hold the treat high.

Hold the treat low. Place your palm on the ground. Move your hand away quickly (think of jerky movements like children make).

Teach your dog that no matter what an open OR closed fist with treats is NOT HIS!

Other Tips:

Homemade Dog Repellent Recipes



  —  Mix equal amounts of powdered mustard with crushed dried peppers. Disperse the mixture around your garden beds and with luck, your dog doesn’t want to add more spice to his life!

      Please note, this method works better in dry climates with little rain, as water will reduce the potency and you will have to do another application.

  —  For a rain resistant homemade dog repellent, mix bitter orange oil with used coffee grounds. Bitter orange oil is heavy and resists rain far better than pepper and mustard.

      If you don’t have access to bitter orange oil, here is a recipe to make your own. As an added bonus, coffee grounds are an awesome fertilizer for your garden.

  —  No one likes to get stabbed by a rose bush, and that includes your dog.

      This tip is for the stubborn dog in your life (or neighborhood cat that decided to make your garden its litter box… you’re welcome).

       After pruning your roses, instead of throwing those beastly branches away, instead of mulching, cut the branches into 1-foot long sticks and surround your garden beds with the spiky twigs.

       But beware, these will stab your too!


Here are more recipes from


Citronella Oil Dog Repellent

It’s no secret that citronella is commonly used as an insect repellant. But did you know that dogs don’t like its smell either? Mix half a cup of citronella oil with 4 cups of water, and pour into a spray bottle. Spray the mix in places you don’t want your dog to go to for a week until the dog understands that it’s not allowed in that particular place.

Apple Cider Vinegar Dog Repellent

Why spend so much for ready-made dog repellent when most of these products use apple cider vinegar you can find at home?

Make your own apple cider vinegar dog repellent with just a fraction of the price of store-bought repellents.

For a stronger solution, just mix a cup of white vinegar with two cups of apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle. You can even use this to keep dogs off areas inside your home.

Citrus Dog Repellent

While we love the citrus scent, dogs surprisingly dislike it. Mix citrus juice and the zest or scrapings from the fruit’s outer layer in a spray bottle to make dog repellent.

You can also use citrus fruit peelings, cut them up into little pieces, and spread over areas in your garden you want the dogs to keep out.

As an added bonus, aphids and ants will also stay away from the soil and your plants, with citrus peelings to block them out.

Garlic and Chili Pepper Dog Repellent

Mix a quart of warm water, a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid soap, chopped onionsgarlic, and chili pepper. Leave it as is for 24 hours, then strain afterward. Pour it in a spray bottle.

You can also use the pieces from the strainer for the same purpose by spreading them in areas you want dogs out.

Mustard Oil Dog Repellent

Dogs dislike the smell and taste of mustard oil. You can use it as it is by spraying in areas you wouldn’t want dogs in.

Chili and Black Pepper Dog Repellent

For a more effective solution, mix chili pepper powder or black pepper in oil instead of water. Oil can help release the active ingredient in peppers called the capsaicin. It’s the very thing that dogs are averted to.

Coffee Grounds Dog Repellent

Don’t throw coffee grounds or leavings right away. They can actually be reused as an effective dog repellent. You just have to spread them over areas you don’t want the dogs to disturb.

 No matter which recipes you choose, your homemade dog repellent will be more effective with frequent applications, especially after the rain. One homemade dog repellent may not work every time, but you can always switch to another one until you’ve got the right repellent that will indeed keep dogs out of the garden!

As I mentioned earlier, digging is fun! But, digging is often a sign of boredom.

  —  He’s left alone in the yard unsupervised for long periods of time

  —  He has no playmates or toys.

  —  He’s a puppy and has more energy than he knows what to do with.

  —  He is a breed that was bred to dig such as a terrier.

  —  He’s an active breed who needs a job to be happy.

  —  He has recently seen you gardening or working in the yard. Come on, you can’t have all the fun!


Are You:


  —  Exercising your dog enough?

  —  Playing brain games?

  —  Working on obedience daily?


If you want or need to leave him outside give him something better to do; like chew a bone!  Most dogs would rather chew a great big bone than dig… just make sure you don’t give him enough time to do both!

Exercise!  If he is tired he isn’t likely to dig, so play with him, take him for a walk or a run before he is allowed access to the yard! As with any other behavior problem this issue takes patience and training to conquer!

Here are some boredom busters to get your dog out of the garden and doing what you want him to do!


And Remember: Dogs don’t come with a handbook or a way to download our expectations or skills; they have to be taught what we want!  So if you don’t like it, train for it!

Start Calming Down Your Over Excited Dogs Today!

Your First Lesson’s FREE:

Sign up below and we’ll email you your first “Training For Calm” lesson to your inbox in the next 5 minutes.


  1. Ellen says:

    Is it okay to have a designated digging place where you bury toys and treats?


    Minette Reply:



  2. shelly says:

    how do you get your dog to come to you after he has exscaped from an open door, he thinks it is fun to be chased


    Hilda Reply:

    Hi, I have had this happen with my puppy who is now almost 6 mths old. He ignores me when I just call his name and tell him to come. But let him hear a squeeky toy and he’s back like a shot. If your dog has a favourite toy that makes a sound or one that he recognises when you say it ike ‘ball’ or ‘bone’, that will probably get him back. Ideally, you have to teach with positive reinforcement that it’s good to come back to you, but the toy or play option works well in the meantime.


  3. Eva Titchener says:

    Are all of the repellent ingredients safe for use with potted plants?


    Minette Reply:

    Within Reason, if in doubt ask your vet!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *