Dog Problems: Digging

Part of: The Most Common Dog Problems.

Digging is a natural behaviour for dogs.  They bury bones “for later”, hunt edibles by digging, and dig shallow holes in sand to lie in when it’s hot.  Of course, when they live in a human community, their digging can be inappropriate.

Causes of inappropriate digging may include:

  • Boredom
  • Isolation and confinement
  • Lack of physical exercise
  • Lack of mental exercise
  • Long hours alone
  • Self-rewarding amusement
  • Breed-related.  Many breeds (especially terriers) are bred to dig.

To help your dog, yourself and your garden … TRAIN, DON’T COMPLAIN!

  • If the dog digs in your presence, don’t punish.  You’ll simply create a dog who digs only when you’re not present.
  • If the dog digs in your absence, don’t punish.  The dog will not relate the punishment to the “crime”, and will learn to fear your “unprovoked” attacks.
  • Provide a sand pit or a specific part of the garden for “sanctioned digging”.  Praise/reward for digging in the pit.  If she digs in the garden, call her to the sand pit and reward.  Bury treats, toys and other delectables in the sand pit.  Play with her in and around the sand pit, so that it becomes a fun, fascinating place to be for her.
  • Spend some time in the garden with the dog, rewarding her when she is not digging.  When she digs, offer her an acceptable alternate behaviour – and praise/reward that one.
    • While you’re re-training, you may want to deny access to specific areas where the dog’s digging creates real damage.  Use temporary ‘fences’ – or, where practicable, lay chicken wire on the ground.  Dogs dislike the feel of chicken wire under paws.

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Gina & David

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