A common question that many pet professionals, specifically dog trainers, will get is why does my dog dig and how can I stop the digging? Well there are a couple of answers to each and they may or may not be applicable and sometimes you may need to have a conversation with your vet.
Why does my dog dig?
- Because it’s fun. Dogs love to bury or recover bones, dig out prey like mice and rats, or make a nice cooling pit when the weather is warm.
- Too much time spent alone in the yard.
- Boredom and need some enrichment / mental stimulation. Here are some ideas on enrichment.
- If they are “digging” the nest in their bed or over where they went potty, it could be marking their territory with their scent from the glands on their paws.
Digging is normal canine behavior and, again, thoroughly enjoyable for the dog. If you have a digger on your hands, give him a place to indulge his hobby.
How can I stop the digging?
Step 1: Break the habit. Is your dog digging in all the wrong places? Put management in place by preventing accessing to the old “digs”. Your dog won’t learn new ways while he has free access to his old digs—digging is just too much fun! Prevention is better still, and easier. Don’t wait for him to discover how much fun it is to dig up your delicious veggies. Teach him where to dig from day one.
Step 2. Supervise. At the beginning don’t let your dog have alone time in your yard. Here is the perfect opportunity to teach your dog and allow them to learn where he is allowed to dig before you leave him out there unsupervised. Otherwise it is too easy for him to make mistakes. (If you need to leave your dog alone, use his confinement area in the house. Give him plenty of chew toys for company.)
Step 3. Create a digging area. Make a dig pit or use a large pot with loose potting soil. A dig pit can be a sandbox or a defined amount of area in your yard. Loosen about 2 feet of earth, and remove any nails or wire or such. A little sand mixed in helps drainage when it rains. Then:
- Let your dog see you barely hide a special treat, stuffed Kong or some other treasure that they will enjoy finding. Encourage him to find the toy and praise him when he does.
- Gradually cover the toys with more dirt every time. Keep praising.
- Alternate hiding old and new toys so that it is exciting to keep your dog coming back for more. Dogs get bored too, hence the inappropriate digging.
Step 4. Interrupt mistakes. Calmly stop any unauthorized digging, then lead your dog to his digging section. So yes, you need to be present when your dog is playing outside—at least until he knows where it is okay to dig and where it isn’t.