20 December 2008


Digging is one of the top "issues" that I am asked about in classes and dinner parties. There is hope for diggers, even those that are genetically predisposed to trenching through your entire property. Most diggers have some things in common.

  • The dog is left alone too much, and many are the only fur-child in a home. This can cause loneliness, nervousness and anxiety. Increasing their time spent with you and inside the house should help overcome this problem.

  • The dog is left outside. Outdoor dogs tend to dig to create a shelter or den for cooling them of in the middle of the day. If this is the case at your house, create a shady spot and provide a shelter in a cooler location. A doggy door into the house or into a garage out of the weather often solves this issue. This is also an issue for dogs during the winter months looking for a place to stay warmer. Make sure you have adequate food, shelter and water for outdoor dogs.

  • The dog in not getting enough exercise. (This is common even in the non-digging dogs.)

  • The dog is two years old or under.

  • The breed is known for digging. (Terriers, pinschers, dachshunds and northern breeds are notorious for digging.)

  • The dog is punished for digging after the fact and probably receives some harsh physical punishment that increases stress levels and leads to more digging.

  • The dog's diet is junk-food and they are trying to find the needed vitamins and minerals in the backyard soil.

  • The dog has little or no obedience training.

  • The dog is overexposed to the sun.

  • The dog is very active and/or nervous.

  • Sex. Males often dig to find the neighborhood girl and bitches in heat often dig as part of the den mentality. Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce this urge. If you have a superior bitch that has earned her championship and is truly an asset to the breed, consider keeping her on a non-dirt area during her heat cycle.

For those breeds that love to dig, it is sometimes easier to redirect that urge to an appropriate digging area. You can buy or build a sand box for your digger. Fill it with clean dirt rather than sand and bury some toys and treats in it. Take you dog out to the new sand box and start digging with your pooch. Be certain to reward your dog for digging in an appropriate spot with praise, petting and treats. A good size digging zone for most dogs is: three feet wide, six feet long, and two feet deep.

To keep your dogs from digging in an inappropriate place, or to teach them off-limit areas in the yard, you will need to sneak around and spy on them from a hidden place. Think of it as a game of Mission Impossible. Let your dog out as usual. Grab your portable air-horn or other noisemaker that will startle them. (Your neighbors will be certain you are strange now.) Begin spying on your dog from an open window where you can see them anywhere in the yard. Keep yourself hidden from view, but keep the noisemaker pointed out the window. When the dog gets within three feet of the off-limits zone, sound the noisemaker. This will take more than one attempt, but repeated training sessions will teach your dog to think there is something watching that area and it is easier to avoid it than to try and get in there and root around.

You can "plant" plastic construction fence under your landscaped areas to prevent the dogs from digging. As they claw down into the dirt, their feet will hit the plastic and most dogs don't like the feel of plastic as they dig. It won't hurt their feet, but it will decrease the desirability of digging.

Need help training your dog? Contact me.

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