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Unearthing the Secrets Behind Why Dogs Dig

Posted by Reedy Creek Vet on 17 November 2023
Unearthing the Secrets Behind Why Dogs Dig

If your backyard is starting to resemble an excavation site, you're not alone! Dogs have a penchant for digging, and it's important to uncover the reasons behind this behaviour. Dogs dig for several reasons including to find or bury food, to make a cool spot to lie in, for enjoyment and in some cases when they are anxious.

Here’s some tips on how you can stop your dog or puppy digging.

  • Implement a regular exercise program incorporating a walk at least once a day.

  • Freshly turned garden beds and new plants are often an attractive place for dogs to dig. Protect these areas with fencing or a barrier if possible.

  • Dogs often dig to make a cool spot to lie in, make sure your backyard provides a shady place at all times during the day. If they love playing in water, purchase a children’s plastic pool and half fill it with water. This becomes an additional water bowl and they can also play, splash, dig, sleep and have loads of fun in it!

  • If you catch them in the act, use a command such as “off” and praise them when they move away from the garden bed. Never punish your dog if you find a hole after it has been dug. They will not understand why you are punishing them.

  • If your dog is digging because he/she is bored, provide alternatives such as toys or games. Kong toys and biscuit balls are an excellent way to give your dog their breakfast. They can be stuffed with all sorts of food and treats. You can even freeze wet pet food which occupies them for even longer. Alternatively, you can make a gravy trail around the garden. Give them a scent to follow or hide treats around the garden for him/her to sniff out and eat! Unless you want a four-legged excavator, we don’t advise burying food as this only encourages digging.

  • Repellent sprays can be used to deter digging in specific situations but can have limited success.

If all else fails, you can compromise. Incorporate a children’s sandpit into your backyard. To encourage your dog to use this area, try burying their favourite toy or treats in the pit. If you have limited space, you can purchase a plastic sandpit (usually shell shaped) from a toy or discount store. Additionally if there are sections of your garden which are prize winning, install permanent barriers to keep your dog out.

Understanding Breed Characteristics: Tailoring Training to Your Dog's Instincts

Dogs come in various sizes and personalities, and each breed has unique traits and habits. Digging tendencies can vary widely among breeds, with some rarely digging while others, like terriers, are practically born with a shovel in their paws.

Why Breed Matters:

Understanding your dog's breed characteristics is essential when addressing their digging tendencies. Here's why:

Anticipate Their Instincts: Different breeds were originally bred for specific purposes, and those purposes often influence their behaviours. Terriers, for instance, were bred for hunting rodents, which required digging to flush out prey. By knowing your dog's breed, you can anticipate these instincts. If you have a terrier, for example, you won't be surprised when they start excavating your garden.

Tailor Your Training: Once you recognise your dog's breed tendencies, you can tailor your training approach accordingly. For breeds predisposed to digging, it's unrealistic to expect them to completely abandon this behaviour. Instead, focus on redirecting their digging energy to more appropriate outlets.

Training Tips for Different Breeds:

Terriers and Diggers: Terriers are renowned diggers. If you have one, consider creating a designated digging area in your yard filled with loose soil or sand. Encourage them to dig there and reward them for using that space. This satisfies their instinct without compromising your garden.

Guardian Breeds: Breeds like German Shepherds or Great Pyrenees have protective instincts. They may dig to create comfortable, cool spots to lie in while keeping an eye on their surroundings. Ensure they have shaded areas in your yard, or even better, provide a comfortable kennel or dog house where they can relax.

Sighthounds and the Chase: Sighthounds, like Greyhounds or Whippets, may dig out of frustration or boredom. Engage them in activities that mimic their hunting instincts, such as fetch or lure coursing. Mental stimulation and exercise can curb their digging tendencies.

Working Breeds: Breeds bred for work, such as Border Collies or Australian Shepherds, are intelligent and energetic. Keep them mentally and physically engaged to prevent boredom-related digging. Puzzle toys and obedience training are excellent outlets.

Remember, while breed tendencies provide insights, every dog is an individual. Some may exhibit less of their breed's typical behaviour, while others may amplify it. The key to successful training is patience, consistency, and a deep understanding of your furry friend's unique personality and needs.

Author:Reedy Creek Vet