Why do dogs dig?
behaviors of dogs are either the product of instinct, or a learned behavior.
Digging behavior is no exception; it is an instinct. In addition, there are
certain breeds, Terriers and Dachshunds, for instance, which were bred
specifically for their ability to dig out game, such as badgers, foxes, and
otters. They have an even greater digging instinct.
Dogs dig for a variety of
Dogs will often dig
out of boredom. If you leave your dog out alone in the yard for
any length of time, he may dig just for something to do. Play with him out
there, or provide him with chew toys or interactive toys like a Kong or Pet
Planet rubber toy with treats stuffed inside.
Digging is often
used as a means of escape. Your dog may want to leave a fenced
yard because there are so many more interesting things to do elsewhere.
If you have an intact (unspayed, or
unneutered) dog, he or she may be digging to escape
in order to mate with another dog. If you do not plan to breed your dog, a
good way to prevent digging for this reason is to neuter
him or spay her.
Since deeper layers of soil tend to be
cooler, your dog may be digging to find relief from
the heat. Always provide a cool, shady place for your dog to rest
when he is outside.
Dogs are great
savers. They will bury bones or other treats 'for a rainy day'
when they may need them.
If you use bone or blood meal to fertilize
your garden, the scent may be irresistible. A dog
may dig and dig trying to find that nonexistent bone.
Any dog may dig to
excavate a den. A female dog may dig in order to provide a nest
for babies, whether she is pregnant or not.
The trick to stopping any pet's unwanted behavior
is understanding it and then manipulating it into a behavior of which we
approve. There are obvious things you can do to prevent digging, some of which
are mentioned above. Here are other general solutions:
Give your dog a
place where he is permitted to dig and train him, with praise and
treats, to dig in that spot and not in an inappropriate place. A good place
is a sandy area, an area that has already been dug up and where the soil is
loose, or an area where there is a lot of shade. A sandy area has the added
benefit in that, sand is much easier to clean off than dirt.
Decide where this place will be, soften the
soil, and then bury a favorite treat there. Bring your dog over to the area,
say "dig!" and praise him when he uncovers the treat. Repeat until
the behavior is learned. If you catch him digging in an inappropriate area,
say "no!" and then take him over to the desired area and say
"dig," followed by praise if he digs. This training may take
Deter him from
digging in inappropriate areas. There are many different ways to
do this, including putting pepper, mothballs (not safe with children),
citrus or diluted ammonia on the inappropriate area. There are also
commercial products such as Keep Off, No-Dig, or Get Off My Garden. These
products work by creating a scent in the area which is repugnant to animals,
or which interferes with the animal's sense of smell. Some products can be
used directly on plants and grass, some cannot. This is probably the easiest
of the solutions. This will also work at repelling nuisance animals other
than your own.
Digging, although deeply ingrained, can be
unlearned. Be consistent and unwavering and you will be able to find a solution.