Get Ready for the Dirt…On Dogs Who Dig
Are you ready for some dirt? The dirt on dogs who dig, that is. 😉
Digging is both a complicated and an easy subject!
Getting to Know Your Dog
Dogs dig for all kinds of reasons.
Some dig for a multitude of reasons.
And, there are actually dogs who are bred and hard-wired to dig!
Sure, you can teach a dog to control his/her instincts, but you have to TEACH them when it is and is not appropriate. And for a great video series that shows you how to stop digging as well as other bad behaviors, click here.
Heavy Coated Dogs
Often, heavy coated dogs (like a Golden Retriever), or dogs that get overheated easily, will dig a hole to cool themselves.
Grass gets hot, and so does top soil, but dig a few inches down and the soil is cool and refreshing.
Think of pigs and wallowing in mud… Pigs aren’t dirty animals but they get hot and they burn, so wallowing in mud and digging up the ground with their snouts provides them with some comfort in the heat.
I have a long haired Dutch Shepherd who overheats easily. Not only will she fling herself into the tinniest puddle during hot streaks, she will also dig a hole to avoid heat stroke.
In order to keep her from digging, I limit her time outside in the heat and I provide her with a large “kiddie” pool filled with cool water and ice so that when we play, she has a place to go to avoid getting sick.
These are literally the dogs that were bred to dig for varmints.
However, if you think back in history, you will remember that diseases carried by rats wiped out a large majority of the human population so this skill was as important to former dog owners as having a fearless dog that could hunt bear or lions.
Do not discount their genetics!
These dogs can definitely benefit from having their owners build an acceptable digging area.
Find an area in your yard and mark it off visually for yourself and your dog with bricks or stones and dig up some dirt and add some sand. Next, lightly bury a few of your dog’s favorite toys and take him out to his new area and let him dig.
You may need to follow him outside for several days to ensure that he is digging in his pit and not just digging up the whole yard!
If he goes to dig somewhere inappropriate, use a verbal command to stop him. And then, redirect him to his digging spot.
If you have moles or other vermin in your yard that your terrier is trying to dig up, invest in a professional that will come out and get rid of them!
They smell the tracks of the critters that roamed your yard at night and they become increasingly interested in following those tracks.
These dogs are well known for digging out of yards so that they can follow the scent through the neighborhood.
After all, their nose is more attuned to their brain than the average dog!
The aforementioned breeds and dogs that are adept at using their nose are also the ones who can dig up and uncover old bones and treasures from the depths of your yard!
Males and females that are intact and unaltered (not spayed or neutered) are also infamous for finding a way out of fenced areas and digging out.
Procreating and spreading their genetics is a strong instinct (that can be cured with spaying and neutering).
Even a neutered male can smell a nearby in heat female and hurt himself by either digging out or trying to break through a fence.
But there are ways to avoid digging.
Much digging happens when dogs are bored.
The dog is left outside to his own devices, he begins to dig, for whatever the reason, and he learns how much fun digging really can be for him.
I have seen dogs dig up dirt, kick it as far backward as they can, and then chase the kicked dirt. This description and image is the epitome of boredom and lack of stimulation.
A tired dog, one who has been walked and played with, one who has been trained and mentally stimulated, would be too tired to think up this game.
I think leaving dogs outside is sad. Dogs left out, learn to bark incessantly and often dig up their yards simply because they are bored and frustrated.
It can also cause aggression.
I put my dogs out for one reason – to go potty.
And, I accompany them when it is yard play time!
Rarely do I leave my dog out for more than 30 minutes on his own!
This is harder than it sounds!
You must be motivated to help your dog make this change.
First, you can cover the holes he has already dug with his own feces and dirt; but, this won’t keep him from digging new holes!
If you have an adamant digger, you are going to have to take him outside on leash long term (several weeks to a month) to ensure he doesn’t continue this task and so that you can chastise him when he begins.
You can also break this habit by adding exercise, like retrieve games, while you are outside with him so that he is too tired to dig!
And, last but not least, is exploring the option detailed earlier about giving him a place to dig!
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.