How Do You Stop Dogs From Digging? Your Carmel Animal Clinic Explains Digging Behavior In Dogs

How Do You Stop Dogs From Digging?  Your Carmel Animal Clinic Explains Digging Behavior In Dogs

Why do dogs dig?   Digging is a normal dog behavior, but some dogs will become extremely destructive with their digging.  Dogs will dig destructively for many different reasons.  Breeds such as the terriers have been bred to dig for prey.  With their amazing ability to hear and their highly acute sense of smell, these dogs dig because of the odors and sounds from rodents beneath the ground.  On a very hot summer day any dog may dig a hole to cool off, but especially Nordic breeds like Huskies and Malamutes. Some dogs dig simply to bury or retrieve bones. Dogs also dig to escape from confinement or due to separation anxiety. Digging may also be an activity due to boredom where the dog is left alone with insufficient stimulation or attention. At our Carmel Animal Clinic, this is most common in puppies and in highly energetic dogs.  These dogs are digging simply as form of play and exploring their environment.

How can I stop my dog from destructive digging?

1.  Determine the cause of the digging.  One of the best way to reduce your dog’s destructive digging is to determine the underlying cause for the digging.  For example, if you dog is digging after rodents, removing the rodents is the best option.  If your dog is digging to cool down, take them inside the air conditioning.  If your dog is burying bones, do not allow them access to bones outside.  Dogs digging from boredom, anxiety, puppy investigation, etc… are more difficult to completely stop digging.

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2.  Increase Exercise, Play, & Engagement.  The most common cause of digging in dogs I see at our Carmel Animal Clinic is boredom.  This form of investigative play is best corrected by the following measures that provide both physical exercise and mental stimulation.  Leash walking your dog off the property twice a day after each meal.  Provide a variety of toys, games, etc… to keep your dog occupied when inside and outside.  Reward your dog with treats, bones, praise, etc… when playing with the appropriate toys and NOT digging.  Interactive food puzzle toys like Kongs and Busy Buddies can be used instead of dog bowls to feed meals.  These keep your dog both mentally and physically engaged in a fun task that is NOT digging.

3.  Teach your dog to settle on command.  Have  a dog bed or comfy area where they can rest.  Train your dog to come, sit, and lay down on the bed.  Then work on getting them to stay.  This should be done inside with no distractions and short distances at first.  Then, gradually work up to longer distances and progress to the outdoors if safe.  If you think your dog is heading over to an area where they like to dig, call them to the relaxation area and reward for calm behavior.  I always recommend telling your dog what to do first, rather than waiting for them to be bad and yelling at them all the time.

4.  Supervise and discipline digging behavior.  You can discipline them if you catch them in the act of digging.  This must be done within a few seconds of digging; punishment afterwards will NOT work.  The really anxious dogs who dig from stress (such as from separation anxiety) should NEVER be punished.  These nervous dogs I see at our Carmel Animal Clinic who are punished often become even more anxious and stressed with punishment.

5.  Do NOT allow your dog access to the areas he/she likes to dig.  Confining your dog away from the areas of digging, or covering up the digging areas often will stop the digging in that location.  These techniques, however, do not stop digging at other locations.

6.  Create an area you don’t mind some doggie digging holes.  If nothing else works, allow your dog access to a small area you don’t mind some digging.  To encourage your dog to dig primarily in this area,  bury some yummy smelling treats or bones shallowly with loose dirt.

Digging is a frustrating issue we see at our Carmel Animal Clinic.  If you can figure out why your dog is digging and address the underlying issue, everyone will be happier including your dog.  For more information on our Caring Hand Compassionate Hearts, click on this link to your Carmel Animal Clinic.