Dogs love to dig
Dogs dig up plants, dig holes, dig tunnels, hollows and trenches. Why do they do it? Canines dig for a variety or reasons, most of which are completely natural to them. Dogs may dig to pursue prey, to escape, to stash a valuable treat or toy, or to create a cool, comfy spot to nestle into for summer’s day nap. Often dogs take up digging out of boredom or for the sheer joy of it. If your dog’s excavating has become problematic, you’ve probably landed on this site because you are seeking training techniques to stop the destructive behavior. First you need to figure out what exactly motivates your pet. If you diligently observe when, where and how Wags does his digging, the reason behind the behavior should become clear.
Selective breeding has produced expert diggers particularly in the terrier breeds. They instinctually go after varmints in the ground which may be a blessing if you have moles, groundhogs or other pests. Some dogs will scent a critter and never give up on digging for it. This behavior is very difficult to address, because hunting is such a strong and satisfying instinct for dogs. The best solution for prey digging is to find a way to eliminate the prey. Use humane traps or contact a pest control professional if the problem persists.
Another common motivation for digging is to create a nest or comfortable place to lie down; this is especially prevalent in hot climates. An obvious solution is to supply your pet with a bed in a cool, shaded outdoor spot. On or under a porch is an attractive spot for canines seeking relief from the sun, and a kiddie pool will not only keep Wags cool, but is sure to provide the rest of the family with plenty of entertainment. If, on the other hand, your pet is digging a spot to keep warm, you will need to get a doghouse or create another structure to protect him from the elements and be sure to provide soft bedding.
Digging as Safe Deposit
Some dogs dig to hide a valuable object such as a prized bone or toy until a later time when they will retrieve it. Again this is normal canine behavior, but it can wreak havoc on garden beds, destroy plantings and even attract other animals to begin digging up the treasures. The practical solution to this problem involves careful monitoring; if Wags doesn’t finish his bone, take it away. Give him toys only while you are playing with him or supervising his play. Take the toy away when the session is over or you see that he has lost interest in it.
Another excellent solution for dogs who like to bury their valuables, is to create a sandbox, or specific area, for him to dig in. This also is a great way to create entertainment for a dog who may be bored and digging just have something to do. Dogs left alone outside for long stretches often dig for fun. What else is there to do, right? If you should decide to create a pit for Wags to dig in, you can train him use it by burying his bone there (shallowly at first) and then praising him for finding it. Hidden toys and bones can make digging in the pet pit a fun game and usually works to keep Wags out of areas you’d rather not excavate at this time.
Digging to Escape
What if your dog is digging under the fence to escape? Usually dogs dig to escape because they are bored and want to explore, they are after prey or they may be looking for a date. Spending more time interacting with your pet and ensuring that your property is adequately fenced will solve the majority of these cases. Exercise your pet until he is satiated; a tired dog is a good dog, and a good dog rarely digs.
Escapist behavior could be caused by a number of other more serious issues, including separation anxiety or even fear of sounds or something in the yard. If you think anxiety or fear are motivating your dog to escape, consult a behavioral expert.
There are cases, and not only a few, where the above solutions either have not worked or are not feasible given your specific circumstances. Perhaps Wags is a chronic and indiscriminate digger who delights in transforming your lawn or garden into something resembling a war zone! Or maybe he is determined to get under the fence to the dog or chickens next door. What then?
Perhaps the most effective and immediate method of training your canine pal to stop an unwanted behavior is with the use of an electronic collar or E-collar. This type of training collar comes with a remote that triggers an electric stimulation to your dog’s neck. This may sound cruel at first, but in fact e-collars, when used correctly and responsibly are one of the most humane methods of addressing difficult behaviors.
The first step for training with an e-collar is to determine lowest level of stimulation that gets your dogs attention. Many dogs respond to minimal stimulation, but some dogs may require more. Pain thresholds vary; every dog is unique. In addition the degree of distraction will play a role as well. If your dog is distracted by other dogs, animals or scents you may need to adjust the stimulation.
E-collar Technique to Stop DIgging
Set Wags up with the E-collar on the lowest effective stimulation level and give him access to the area he tends to like to dig. Observe him until he begins to dig and immediately begin tapping on the remote. If he doesn’t respond immediately gently and gradually increase the intensity. The instant he ceases to dig, stop all stimulation. Do not interfere; do not praise or scold; simply wait to see if he starts digging again. This takes patience. If he does dig repeat the procedure (again starting with the lowest effective level) making sure you stop the stimulation precisely at the moment he stops digging. After two or three trials end the training session for the day.
Never give your dog access to the digging area unless you are ready to do another training session. Each dog is individual, some will need a few more sessions than others. Even if your dog responds well in the first session, It is important to continue observing him for at least a week. Each day put his e-collar on and give him access to the area. Repeat the correction when necessary
If you are unsure as to the proper use of the e-collar or are a first time dog owner with little or no training experience, consult a professional trainer before attempting to utilize an electronic collar as a training device.