Why does my dog dig?
It is important to understand the motivation behind digging in order to stop this behaviour.
- To escape; one common reason for dogs to dig is due to separation or generalised anxiety.
- To mate; intact dogs will often dig to escape and find another to mate with.
- To keep cool; some dogs like to dig a shallow hole and lay in it throughout the heat of the day
- In response to hearing something under the ground such as running water in pipes.
- Dogs dig to bury or retrieve valued items, such as a bone.
- For fun or out of boredom; often seen in puppies, or if you reduce the amount of attention your dog is used to.
How Do I stop my dog from digging?
Once you figure out why your dog is digging, you can work towards stopping or controlling this annoyance.
If your dog is digging to escape due to anxiety, this needs to be addressed and sometimes medications are needed to treat.
Signs of generalised anxiety (please note there are many);
• Tucking tail under their bodies.
• Trembling, pacing and panting.
• Hiding away and exaggerated reaction to noises.
Some signs your dog may have separation anxiety;
• Your dog always keeps you in view.
• Will follow you closely when you are preparing to leave the house.
• Are over-excited to see you return home.
If your dog is digging to create a cool spot to snooze, provide them with a half-shell pool filled with sand or soil in a nice shady spot.
If your dog is digging to escape due to wanting to breed, get them neutered.
However, if you would like to breed in the future, keep female dogs confined while they are in season. Use a secure outdoor enclosure or supervise all outside access.
If your dog is male it is more difficult to control the times that he will dig to escape. You may need to modify your fencing, incorporating an underground section.
If there is a pattern to where your dog is digging, or you know that they are digging where pipes run under the ground – provide a safe place for your dog to dig or use aversive techniques (see later).
Most dogs love to dig. Once they start one day, they are likely to continue to dig. Once you have ruled out anxiety or hormonal reasons behind digging, create a space that encourages your dog to dig where YOU want them to.
A sandpit is a great way to provide an outlet for dogs who love to dig. Bury toys and treats in this area to teach them to use this space.
To reduce digging, make sure your dog has plenty of mental and physical stimulation. Ideally, you should spend 20 minutes, twice a day interacting with your dog. This can include walking, obedience training, throwing the ball, tug of war, etc. Try to vary the activity each time.
If your dog is obsessed with burying bones or treats and you want them to stop; you simply need to not give these objects to your dog.
If you have provided your dog with extra attention, given them their own digging space and they still continue to dig in undesirable places, try the following;
Bury a blown-up balloon in their favourite digging spot. Next time they go to dig their claws should burst the balloon and the surprise should stop them from digging there again.
Or, bury a layer of gravel in the area where your dog is digging. Your dog will not like the unpleasant sensation of the gravel when they dig.
Punishment does not work!
If you punish your dog with the hose or verbally while they are digging, they will learn not to dig while you are at home.