Solving Behavior Problems

Digging

 

In order to solve a behavior problem, you must first understand the underlying cause.  Dogs will dig for a variety of reasons.  Once you know the reason for the digging you can correct the problem.

 

Reasons for digging:

·         Dogs will dig instinctively to cool off, keep warm, bury food (bones), and make a nest if pregnant.

·         Some dogs were bred to be diggers.  Terriers and other dogs bred for hunting fall into this category.

·         Some dogs, especially ones bred to dig, will mimic your behavior when you dig in the garden.

·         Dogs will dig to escape.

·         And most dogs will dig out of boredom.

 

Prevention:

            One of the best ways to deal with digging is to prevent it in the first place.  Don’t give your dog a reason to dig.  This way you are not setting your dog up for failure.

·         Digging to cool off - provide your dog with a well shaded area during warm weather.  Make sure the dog has plenty of cool water available.  A child’s small wading pool is a great place for your dog to cool down.  If the water level isn’t too high for your breed of dog you may find him lying in the pool most of the time when it gets really hot outside.

·         Digging to stay warm - provide your dog with a well sheltered area during cold and bad weather.  He should be able to escape from the wind and the rain.  If you are using a dog house make sure that the house is not too large for your dog.  The body heat from your dog should be enough to keep his house comfortable.  You can also provide some nesting material (wood shavings, straw, an old blanket or rug) for your dog.  This applies whether of not you use a dog house.

·         Digging to buy bones - allow your dog to have the bone for only limited amounts of time.  Take the bone away when he is done chewing and before he has a chance to bury it. 

·         Digging while pregnant - you need to provide your bitch with a whelping box. The whelping box acts as a den in which she can deliver her pups.  You should lay out sheets of newspaper and place some shredded newspaper on top of the sheets so that she can act out her instinctive digging with the newspaper.

·         Digging to mimic your behavior - don’t dig in front of your dog.  Put your dog some place where he is not able to see you digging.

·         Digging to escape, bred to dig, digging out of boredom - if you use an outdoor kennel or run for your dog make sure that at least the perimeter is concrete.  If you keep your dog in the house while you are away you should invest in a crate.  Dogs that are properly introduced to a crate love to use them.  In either situation you must provide the dog with something else to do other than digging.  A Kong ball and/or Nylabone chew toy are great for keeping your dog entertained and they are both safe to leave with the unsupervised dog.

·         Also, do not keep the dog confined for extreme lengths of time.  While you are at work is fine.  The dog should not live in the kennel or crate though.  If you spend quality time with your dog, proper and regular exercise and training sessions, you will find your dog to be less likely to want to escape from his “den” because he knows that it is a place for him to relax and rest.  And because you have given him the proper toys to play with while he is alone he won’t get bored. 

·         Your dog should not have free access to the entire backyard while you are not home.  There are just too many things that can go wrong and that your dog can get into.  You are setting your dog up for failure if you let the dog roam the whole yard while you are away.

·         You can set aside a part of your yard where your “bred to dig” dog can act on this instinct and stay out of trouble.  You can teach them to use this area for digging very much the same way you teach a dog to potty only in a certain part of the yard.

 

*        If you catch your dog in the act of digging you should use your command for NO.  Then call him to you and give him something constructive to do and reward the positive behavior.

*        If you find a hole, do NOT punish your dog.  He won’t understand what he is being punished for.  Simply fill in the hole with lava rocks, a brick, or dog waste and then dirt.