Let’s Talk about Digging
Thanks to Inland Social for the Photo
I get questions about digging, A LOT; so I figured it was time to tackle it with an article.
It seems there is a lot of digging going on out there!
And, I can understand that digging is a bad behavior. And for a great video series that shows you how to stop digging as well as other bad behaviors, click here.
Plus it doesn’t take long for a little bit of digging to end in a HUGE hole!
And if you aren’t careful and don’t take control right away one HUGE hole turns into several HUGE holes and then you and your company are breaking ankles every time you go outside!
Let Us Understand Our Dogs
By understanding your dog, sometimes, it can help you to find a solution!
First it is important to understand your dog or his/her breed.
I am not one for judging dogs by their breed, but some breeds are genetically predisposed to “go to ground” and dig up their prey.
Jack Russell Terriers and a lot of other terriers have been bred by design to be “ratters”, there are even competitions called “Earth Dog” competitions that test the workability and instincts of short legged dogs such as Dachshunds and other terriers that were bred to hunt vermin that live underground.
If their instincts are still so strong that there are competitions that revolve around their “dig-ability” then you know there is still a very strong instinct you are dealing with and trying to overcome!
Some of these little terriers need a space of their own to dig in (this can work for other bigger diggers too).
A sandbox of their own is sometimes a way for them to let their digging needs be fulfilled while saving your yard.
Afraid Your Dog Won’t Understand a Sand Box?
Lightly bury some of his toys in his sandbox and take him out there on a leash and teach and encourage him to dig, but only in that one spot!
You can even get in the sand and dig WITH him! Praise him when he digs in the right spot!
If you are afraid he will continue to go outside and dig in the wrong spots, go outside with him and tell him NO or discourage him if he begins to dig in an inappropriate area. You may need to go out with him for a few days or weeks.
So often we expect our dogs not to show certain behaviors we consider bad (like digging) but we don’t spend a lot of time or ANY teaching them! We just expect that they should know better or know that we love our yards.
Digging is FUN
Ever watch a dog dig for a few minutes? Not only is he stimulated by the smell of the ground, it is also great fun to watch the dirt fly.
I once worked with a German Shepherd who would dig, and then chase and try to bite at the dirt she threw; for her this was a game.
Plus, knowing dog noses I am a firm believer that all the layers of the ground smell different. You dog may be smelling the remnants of another dog’s smell from 20 years ago or more!
Because it is fun, this is a self-rewarding behavior; meaning that it is probably not simply going to go away if you ignore it. Your dog doesn’t need you to reward the behavior or even inadvertently reward it, he gets rewarded by the act itself.
Like I described above, digging is fun and is usually brought on by boredom!
Most complaints of digging comes from dogs that are left outside all day or for very long periods of time.
A well stimulated dog or one that is tired from exercise is much less likely to dig.
If you are bored and have nothing else to do; then chances are you are much more likely to discover the joys of digging.
How To Keep Your Dog or Stop Your Dog From Digging
I just spent a week with family. Their kids are young, they live in a big city and they want to keep them on the right track. Add to that the fact that dad is a police officer and you can imagine how important it is to them that their kids grow up to be beneficial to society.
They believe in sports and teaching their kids to work hard; and I totally agree. It’s not that you CAN’T get in trouble if you are involved in sports, but chances to find the time and opportunity are much less.
I think of this kind of psychology with my dogs too.
If I provide my dogs with enough mental stimulation (training) and exercise (more on what I mean by exercise click here) they don’t really have the time to discover digging.
Don’t leave your dog out for excessive periods of time. After a while being outside is boring, your dog is likely to learn to dig and bark and maybe even try and get out of your yard.
I personally like to let my dogs out to go potty and then let them back inside. They enjoy being outside when I am outside with them, but they don’t like spending a lot of time out there on their own.
If I want my dog to be outside longer than usual I provide him with something better to do!
Imagine I want to cook dinner or I have someone over to the house and I want my dog to be happy outside without getting into trouble; I would give him a big cow bone or something great like that to chew that will take a long time for him to enjoy.
A bone to chew on is much more fun than digging!
If I am going to be gone from the house I prefer using a crate to keep my dog and my yard and everyone else safe.
Short Term Tip
If you are trying to curb a problem you can put some of your dog’s feces into the hole or holes and fill it up and he is much less likely to dig in there.
However if you don’t give him something else to do, somewhere else to dig, or make sure he is tired he will just dig new holes!
Remember dogs need stimulation if you can’t or won’t provide it he will provide it for himself but chances are he won’t do that in an appropriate way!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.