Dogs will be Dogs: Addressing digging problems

In this fifth installment of our blog series, Dogs will be Dogs, we will discuss digging problems.

Dogs may dig for many reasons, and like a lot of problem behaviors, it is a natural dog behavior. Some of the reasons why your dog may be digging up your yard or other areas include boredom, lack of attention or other constructive outlets, the desire to escape, trying to get at prey, or just a need to cool off and be more comfortable!

Cain enjoys some digging in an approved spot--on the beach!
Cain enjoys some digging in an approved spot–on the beach!

My dog Jasper LOVES to dig to find cooler ground in which to lie. He has done this from puppyhood, and we have allowed him to do it–in one spot. He has one spot that he chooses in our yard and that is his approved–and only–dig spot.

For a lot of cases, I do recommend giving a dog one dig spot (or some of my clients make a dig box out of materials they buy or out of a kiddie pool or something similar). This “compromise” of having an approved dig area can really be the most effective, and you can encourage him to dig in this one spot to help ensure it’s only one spot. I will praise, give treats or toys, whatever the dog likes, if he is digging in that spot to reinforce that is the place to do it. I will also even hide goodies in the dig spot for them to dig up–so much fun for the dog!

Another strategy for dogs who are seeking cool or comfort of some kind is to provide alternatives to address this: bring him in more often; have access to a water bowl, a wading pool, a softer surface or cooling pad on which to lie; provide a dog house or install items that can provide shade, etc., can all make your dog feel more comfortable and cool while outside.

If your dog is bored, or not getting enough attention or outlets, make sure you have alternate activities and enrichment for him, as this will be critical to success. Make sure your dog gets time to interact with you (walks, playtime, training sessions, having fun with puzzle toys or scent games), as well as provide other forms of enrichment (such as eating meals out of Kongs). Doing this daily can help tire him out in a more constructive way and lessen the likelihood of digging. Make sure to supervise your dog more closely while he is outside to ensure he doesn’t get the opportunity to dig, and engage him in other fun while you’re out there.

If your dog loves to dig to escape the yard, you definitely don’t want to leave him unsupervised until you come up with a long-term solution to fortify your fencing. You can make your fencing go deeper into the ground, or use rocks, chain-link fencing or chicken wire to prevent and discourage digging at the fence. Doing other activities and providing other outlets while he’s in the yard can also help him make a more positive association with staying in the yard. A tether can also be helpful, but we do not recommend EVER leaving a tethered dog alone unsupervised because they can possibly get tangled and hurt. If a dog is motivated and strong enough, he could possibly break it and still escape.

In some cases the dog may also be trying to get at prey–besides reinforcing your fencing and supervising per above, you may want to find ways to relocate the animals that are attracting him in a humane way. Seek help from a relocation professional if necessary. You can also work on a better come when called with your dog so when you are supervising, you can more easily call him to come to you in case a rabbit or other possible prey is tempting him.

If you are facing problems with digging or anything else, we highly recommend the help of a qualified professional who uses positive reinforcement techniques for the best success, and we would love to help. Contact us now!

Happy training!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

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