Digging is a normal natural behaviour in dogs - it is just that in today's modern world we humans see digging as an unacceptable behaviour because the dog ruins our tidy gardens, parks and landscapes. Read this web page to find out why your dog digs, and how you can redirect their behaviour in a positive and constructive way - then both you and the dog will be happy!
Some dogs have very strong hunting instincts to dig, particularly Terriers. These dogs have been bred for hundreds of years to do a specific task for mankind - hunt by sight and smell for pests and vermin that would otherwise eat the human food and, if necessary, DIG these animals out of their hiding places.
Instinctive diggers such as these will perhaps smell the track of a mouse, squirrel, or other mammal and then nature takes over - they MUST dig! It is in their genes.... They need to have the opportunity to fulfill their working instincts every so often so that they can relax the rest of the time, happy in the knowledge that they have done their "work" in a satisfying and rewarding manner (see Digging Solutions below).
If a tidy garden is very important to you, we strongly recommend that you do not choose an Earth Dog breed as a pet. Yes, they are great pets and look very cute, but they are still "diggers" first and foremost. Therefore, BEFORE you buy a dog do your homework and research about the instincts of the breeds that appeal to you - not just the looks.
DIGGING MAY BE A SYMPTOM OF STRESS
Meanwhile some dogs use digging as a release mechanism from a build up of long-term stress. The frantic high energy digging helps to lower the high levels of adrenaline in their bodies, draining away their pent up frustration, boredom, or aggression in a rewarding and (to a dog) natural way. One of these rewards can be to escape to the freedom of the outside world!
The way to find out whether your dog is digging due to stress is to monitor your dog throughout the day and see if there is a pattern to its behaviour. Look at Stress Causes which will give you plenty of ideas on what to look out for.
Another reason dogs dig is to hide and store high value resources, such as a chew item. Some dogs "dig" in their bedding and hide the items there, while others (given the opportunity) prefer to dig holes outside and bury their "treasure" there.
Dogs bury items because -
Some "clever" dogs learn to get their human's attention and company by being naughty! For instance, if the dog digs in the garden their human will run out to try and stop them. The dog will be looked at while the human talks (or "barks" as the dog perceives it) and interacts with the dog - all of which are very high value life rewards for a dog that is ignored most of the time (when it is quiet and doing nothing "wrong").
HAVING A "MANICURE"
I know its sounds strange, but some dogs like to "dig" on hard floors or carpets so that they can wear their long nails down to a more comfortable length. If your dog seems to be doing this, can I suggest clipping its nails or taking it to the vets for them to do it.
I have personal experience of this particular type of digging as one of my Border Collies hates having his nails clipped and has worn loads of holes in the hall carpet! This devious little chap has learnt that this is a far more pleasant "alternative" than nail clipping, but it does make our house look extremely shabby when you walk through the front door!
Please do not be tempted to try a "quick fix" solution to digging by using an aversion technique (eg. Electric fencing, ultra sonic sound devices, spray or shock collars, unpleasant scent deterrents, training discs, etc).
Although some of these devices "seem" to work with some dogs, what is actually happening is that the dog becomes wary and stressed by the sudden unpleasant and unexpected deterrent - it does not know why it has happened, just that it did happen in part of its territory that it had always assumed was a SAFE PLACE.
Dogs who have been subjected to these aversion devices generalise in a variety of different ways (eg. Scared of going outside, barking at "bad" areas in the garden, avoiding similar triggers anywhere else it goes) and you are left with a dog with far more difficult behavioral problems to solve than you had in the first place! Keep your money in your pocket and use your brain instead by following the solutions explained below.
Whatever the reason your dog has to dig, you must understand that it is impossible (and I would say cruel) to suddenly expect your pet dog to ignore these instinctive or behavioural urges of its ancestors. You have to -
MANAGE THE DOG AND ITS ENVIRONMENT
so that it does not get the opportunity to dig in the "wrong" places.
HARNESS THIS INSTINCTIVE DRIVE
into acceptable digging behaviour that mentally stimulates it,
using and fulfilling the dog's working instincts while leaving
your home and garden tidy and relatively "hole free".
Here are some suggestions for both of the above.
Plus "Better" Alternatives
To begin with do not bury them
too deep otherwise your dog may
simply give up and go digging elsewhere!
GO ON DIGGING WALKS
As well as fulfilling your dog's digging instincts your dog will pick up your scent trail and be guided towards the treasure trove. Soon it will be ignoring any other potential hiding places but only sniffing out those with special areas that have a fresh and distinctive human scent.
INDOOR AND OUTDOOR DIGGING CHALLENGES
Here are other alternatives to digging in the garden that your dog will love -
This web site has been written by Sally Hopkins (unless the author of the web page is stated otherwise).
Dog-Games Copyright 2004 - 2015 All Rights Reserved