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Digging is a natural behavior for dogs, but it can make us crazy if we let it. The first step in resolving your dog’s problem digging is to figure out why it’s happening. Punishing your dog for digging, especially if you find holes they’ve made after they’ve done it, won’t help. Instead, consider these specific causes for digging, then figure out the solutions from there. Some of the solutions are the same no matter what the cause.
If your dog is young and/or very active (like a dog of a herding or other working breed), is often left alone in the yard with nothing to do, or is of a breed type that was made for hunting (such as terriers or northern breeds), they may be digging for entertainment.
Particularly in hot or cold weather, your dog might dig to make a comfortably cool, warm, or sheltered spot to rest in. Signs to look for: your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, doesn’t have shelter that provides comfort and protection from the elements, or seems to lie in the holes they dig.
Be sure your dog has shelter that protects them from sun, rain, wind, and cold if you have to leave them outside. That may mean an insulated dog house or a bed in sheltered spot. Allow your dog to create a comfortable resting spot in a digging pit (see below).
Any dog may dig after prey, such as moles, gophers, ground squirrels, or even bugs, although some breeds are more prone to it; terriers have been bred for generations specifically to hunt, after all. If your dog’s digging looks like it follows the path of animals underground or is in an area that seems likely to have prey–for example, around roots–your dog may be following their natural predatory instincts. Use nontoxic, safe methods to rid your yard of your dog’s prey, or prevent your dog’s access to those areas when you aren’t there to directly supervise them.
If your dog digs under or along your fence line, they may be trying to get out. If this is the case, you’ll want to avoid leaving them outside unsupervised and check out our tips on escape artists!
Your dog can learn what works to get your attention–and attention, even when it’s negative, is very valuable to your dog. If your dog has learned that digging gets you to pay attention (whether the attention is the kind you think they’d like or not!), you’ll have to ignore them when they dig toget them to stop.
Make sure to give your dog attention when they’re doing what you like: not digging! Play fetch with your dog, spend time practicing tricks with them in the yard, give them exercise to get them tired.Then, if your dog begins to dig to get your attention, walk away. If the dog really wants your attention, they’ll eventually give up and follow you. If the dog continues to dig in the absence of your attention they’re probably digging for another reason.
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