Digging is a normal behavior for many dogs, and may occur for many reasons including entertainment, comfort or protection, escape, prey, or attention.
A behavior issue such as digging may not necessarily affect your dog’s ability to perform as a therapy or service dog, however it can surely be a challenge to deal with so please be sure to direct any questions to All Stage Canine Development in order for us to help you to the best of our ability. Obedience training and behavior modification can help you with many behavioral issues or concerns. Should you have any questions or would like more information on training, please contact All Stage Canine Development.
Dogs may dig as a form of self-play and can learn that roots, soil, bugs, or rodents play back. Your dog may be digging for entertainment if they are left alone in the yard for long periods of time without interaction, or if they have a bare environment with no playmates or toys. Digging can also occur if your dog has recently seen you “playing in the dirt”, or gardening. This is a form of mimicking.
- Walk your dog regularly. It is good exercise, mentally and physically for both of you.
- Teach your dog some new commands or tricks. Practice these every day for five to ten minutes. Mental stimulation always helps eliminate behavior issues.
- For dedicated diggers, provide an acceptable digging area. Choose an area of the yard where it is appropriate for them to dig and cover the area with loose soil or sand. Burying treats and toys can help make this area fun. If you can catch your dog digging in an unacceptable area, interrupt the behavior with a loud noise or another form of distraction, and take your dog to their designated digging area, then reward them with praise.
In hot or dry weather, your dog may naturally feel the need to dig holes and lie in the moist cool dirt. They may also dig to provide themselves with shelter from the wind, rain, or to even find water. Your dog may be digging for protection or comfort if the hoes are near foundations of buildings, large shade trees, or a water source. If your dog does not have a shelter, or their shelter is exposed to extreme weathers, then you may notice them lying in the holes they are digging.
- Provide your dog with other sources for the comfort or protections that they seek. This can include an isolated doghouse for weather protection, a blanket or bed to keep them warm, or a water source that cannot be tipped over and spilled.
- Try to prevent your dog from having access to standing water as this can actually cause harm to your dog. Bacteria and parasites multiply in standing water.
- Extreme weather can affect areas of the body such as skin, coat, and the pads of their feet. Be sure to offer a solution if any dry or cracked skin or pads are noticed.
Dogs may escape to get to something, to get somewhere, or to get away from something. Your dog may be digging to escape if they are digging along the fence line or under a barrier.
- It is first crucial to determine the reason behind them wanting out of your yard. This could be anything from an intact male looking to mate, to seek attention from some children walking by. Once you have determined the reason behind this behavior, partner closely with your behavior specialist at All Stage Canine Development for further assistance.
- After addressing the “why” of the behavior, you can apply a few things to make the digging behavior uncomfortable for your dog such as placing large rocks along the bottom of the fence line, bury the bottom of the fence one to two feet underground, or lay chain link fencing on the ground to make it uncomfortable for your dog to walk near the fence.
Any behavior can become attention-getting behavior if your dog learns that they will receive attention for engaging in it. Keep in mind that negative attention is better than no attention. Your dog may be digging to get attention if they dig in your presence, or if their opportunities for interaction with you are limited.
- Make sure your dog has sufficient time with your on a daily basis, so they do not feel the need to resort to misbehaving to get your attention.
- Do not reprimand for digging as noted above that negative attention is better than no attention. Simply ignore the behavior, give them a new behavior to perform such as an obedience command, then give lots of praise for the new behavior. Your dog will gladly choose positive attention over negative if it is an option for them.
- Often times using a natural deterrent in the holes will help prevent as well. Using your dogs feces in the holes can often be a simple fix along with other outlets for attention.
Dogs may try to pursue burrowing animals or insects that live in your yard. A good example of this is if your dog were to dig in a very specific area, usually not at the boundaries of the yard. Your dog would often return to the same area and dig frantically.
- Search for possible signs of pests that could be in the yard. Rodents often hide in holes, crawl spaces, and sheds. Insects can vary so be cautious when searching and be mindful of eggs and nests.
- When treating for your findings, avoid methods that could be toxic or dangerous to your pets.