Digging can be a major problem for pet owners. Pet owners reach out in our training courses frequently, wondering how to keep their dogs from digging under their fence or even just digging holes about the yard.
It’s not uncommon for dogs to dig. Though some pet owners never struggle with this behavior, many others frequently do. In fact, some breeds have digging in their very DNA! Let’s learn a bit more about why dogs dig, how to address that reason, and the most important aspects when it comes to digging dogs, and how to keep your dog from digging under your fence or around your yard.
Why Dogs Dig
Some dogs dig out of compulsion, while others tend to dig lazily out of boredom. Both types can have equally destructive results! Though any dog can struggle with this behavior, certain dogs actually have specially selected this behavior through breeding. Dachshunds and a variety of terriers hold their roots (pardon the pun) in digging.
Humans bred these dogs specifically for the purpose of taking to the ground and digging out rats, mice, and even game animals such as badgers. Even though these dogs don’t often have those jobs in the modern-day, the compulsive need to dig still remains despite the different living arrangements!
One of the best ways to address compulsive needs in any dog, regardless of what that behavior is, is by tackling their mental stimulation a bit more effectively.
On Mental Stimulation
While addressing the needs of training clients, and determining what goals they have for their pets, one of our first questions to the client is “what does a normal day look like for your dog?” In the vast majority of cases, pet owners fail to provide nearly enough mentally stimulating activity for their dog.
A dog that hasn’t had enough mental stimulation tends to go looking for trouble, so providing stimulation that is appropriate is the best way to keep dogs from digging! Even if that stimulation doesn’t directly satiate that need to dig, it still provides an outlet for your dog’s energy and their need to use their brain.
We can discuss focusing on that need a bit more later, but for now, it’s important to cover the most crucial step in keeping dogs from digging.
The Modern-Day Working Dog
Unfortunately, nowadays the vast majority of Aussie owners aren’t farmhands moving sheep across the pasture on a daily basis. Modern day to day life can certainly lead to an Australian Shepherd with behavioral problems. This arises from two primary causes; a lack of mentally stimulating activity for a very intelligent dog, and a lack of an outlet for their compulsive behaviors.
Let’s tackle those compulsive behaviors first.
Prevention and the Safety Element
Pet owners don’t want to hear it. They hate this step, and it’s frankly where most people go wrong in their training. However, when it comes down to it, you can’t stop an unwanted behavior without prevention.
Our training courses and various programs provide pet owners with an immense range of ways to address different problem behaviors, but you’ll always find prevention as one of the most important steps when stopping unwanted behavior. No matter the problem, there is no solution without prevention.
Preventing your dog from digging generally falls onto why your dog is digging in the first place, which often looks a bit like this. Your dog seems bored. You have a fenced yard, so you let them outside for a bit! Why not let them have a little fun?
The problem is, your dog isn’t going to go magically to have fun in the yard. Sure, they might get some zoomies out and dash around for a bit, or play with you, but left to their own devices they aren’t getting much more mental stimulation than they would lay inside. They’ll sniff around for a bit and eventually go lay in the shade.
If I had a dollar for every pet owner that over-utilizes their fenced yard instead of actually mentally stimulating their pet, you wouldn’t find me making training courses! Or better yet, I’d just focus on cute little puppy courses all day… Frankly, leaving your dog alone in the yard can be dangerous, particularly when your dog digs.
Even the slim chance your dog digs under the fence and takes a joyride around the neighborhood makes it worthwhile to only allow your dog in the yard while supervised.
When it comes down to it, it just isn’t worthwhile. Don’t leave your dog unattended in the yard for long periods, and if they start digging, bring them in and address their mental stimulation.
Focused Stimulating Events
For dogs more heavily on the compulsive digger scale, the ones who don’t just dig when they’re lazy but do so obsessively, you might need to put in a bit more effort on your mental stimulation. Addressing that need to dig in an appropriate outlet can do wonders for your dog, but only if you are also addressing all their other needs as well.
Creating a sandbox for your dog, or even using a snuffle mat to let them root around and find food or treats, can really help alleviate some of those natural instincts dogs use when they are digging.
Addressing Dog Behavior as a Whole
Overall, you cannot stop a problem behavior by addressing it from a single angle. Just giving your dog a sandbox isn’t going to fix the reason why they are off digging every twenty minutes in the first place. Nor will only addressing mental stimulation help the constant repetition of that digging that has become a habit for your dog.
Like we discuss in our training programs, the only way to work on problem behavior is to address all of the necessary avenues. You cannot simply look at the problem alone and try to stop that. The problem is a symptom of something wrong, and you need to address that, not just try to “cure” that single symptom.
With a bit of guidance and the right tools, you can keep your dog from digging, and stop any other problem behaviors as well. You simply have to have a bit of time, a bit of patience, and the will to work with your dog and learn why their behavior is going wrong in the first place so that you can properly address it.