My dog makes me laugh. He usually has little interest in digging, until he sees me doing it. If I dig a hole in one area, I guarantee that if I turn around, he will be giving a hand somewhere else in the garden. So why do dogs like digging so much and why in some cases can this be seriously destructive and require corrective action?
Dog Digging – Why?
Our dogs early ancestors learnt the art of digging from an early age. They learned that burying food for later retrieval kept it safe from other predators. Dogs discovered that digging dens helped keep them cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather. They also learned to dig out prey that lived underground. So it should be no surprise to find that our domestic friends still have a significant digging instinct. Dog digging is a natural canine activity which they can find highly enjoyable and therapeutic.
In the case of the domestic dog, digging behaviour can be caused by a number of factors. One thing for sure is that they don’t dig your garden up out of spite, revenge or simply the need to be destructive. Dogs are not humans and they do not think like we do.
How do I stop dog digging?
Understanding your dog’s motivation to dig helps in determining the solution to stop or reduce this behaviour. Below are some suggestions to help correct digging behaviours. It is difficult to pin dog digging down to a single cause and to some extent most digging is motivated by boredom or the sheer fun of it. In all cases, punishing dog digging (particularly after the event) does not work and in all likelihood it will cause anxiety that may make the situation worse.
How to Build and Use a Digging Pit
Building a digging pit is often the most effective way of focusing your dogs digging habit. A pit of around 6ft by 3ft is usually ample and it should be around 18-24″ deep. Find an area that is out of prolonged direct sunlight and cold winds. One of the best methods is to build a frame from railway sleepers. Rest the frame level on the ground and dig out about 8-10″ of soil. This will give you a pit of the required depth, which you can then fill with sand. If your soil is fairly loose, you can just mix the sand with the soil and save having to remove so much soil.
Let your dog watch you dig the pit and praise them warmly if they give a helping hand. Encourage your dog to dig by making a fuss of burying his favourite toys in the pit and praising them when they dig them up. Start to introduce a command such as ‘digging pit’ and further develop the habit by hiding a dozen or so treats in the pit for them to sniff and dig out. If your dog does go to dig elsewhere, use your command ‘digging pit’ to redirect them to the correct location.