Dogs dig because they’re dogs, and this activity is primal for them…they just can’t help themselves. It’s hardwired in their genes, it’s fun, and nothing feels better on a hot day then laying in cool, freshly unearthed soil. While digging is a natural act for them, it’s usually objectionable to the owner who prefers her own landscaping design.
Dogs also dig out of boredom. Digging is a stress reliever and it gives the pet something to do. If your dog is out in the yard all day, your property may soon resemble a cratered planet. If the dog digs and gets his desired relief, digging will soon become a learned, stress-relieving behavior. It is harder for a dog to unlearn a behavior than to learn a new behavior, so it’s best not to put him in a position where he feels he must dig to relieve anxiety. In cases such as this, spending more time with the pet and increasing his exercise usually resolves excessive digging.
Most pet owners try fencing off areas that are attractive to a digging pet, scolding the pet, using scent deterrents or keeping the pet out of the yard. While all of these actions may prevent digging, they don’t deal with the root problem of why the dog is digging in the first place. If the underlying problem is not addressed, and digging is no longer an option, the dog may adapt a new unwanted behavior to relieve his anxiety such as excessive barking.
Our dog trainers recommend sand boxes for dogs that dig. A small covered sandbox can be purchased at toy stores and at most home improvement stores. The advantage of a sandbox is that it allows the dog to fulfill a primal need in a safe area that you control. If the dog can dig in the sandbox, there’s no need for him to head for your flower garden.
For success, dogs need to be introduced to a sandbox. Most dogs, even the most advanced diggers, will not dig in front of you, so you must teach them that digging in this place is exactly what you want him to do. We recommend that you hide several new toys in the sand and help your dog find them to acclimate him to his new digging spot. Sit with him for five or ten minutes so that he understands that this is his play area and digging here is supported by you. Change the dog toys weekly to keep them stimulating for your pet.
The goal of all dog training is to provide peaceable solutions to everyday problems so that pets and their owners live harmoniously. Give that dog a bone and let appropriate digging begin!