There are many good reasons why dogs dig. The most common reason is simply that it is fun! When it is warm outdoors, many dogs will dig to create a cool area on which to lie. Dogs dig to bury or unbury treasures. Certain breeds are more predisposed to digging – it is hard-wired in their genes and they come equipped with rodent hunting skills. Because digging is often a natural instinct, it is better to re-direct the behavior, than try to suppress it through punishment.
In an attempt to curb your dog’s digging routine, you may consider other means of stimulation such as various interactive toys – Buster Cubes; Kong Toys filled with treats hidden in several locations; Long knotted rag bones; Etc.
Another alternative would be to allow your dog to perform this “natural” behavior but to control where it occurs. You can create a ‘Digging Pit’ — an area away from the main yard, and with a different surface than the rest of the yard. Bring your dog to this area and within his view, bury a toy or bone in a very shallow area, or even sticking out a little bit. If your dog seems reluctant to dig because he may have been reprimanded in the past for that behavior, YOU start digging so he may observe it. Add a cue word such as ‘Dig Pit’ or ‘Pit’ to associate that word with that behavior and location.
When you are in the yard with your dog at any time and see him sniffing or preparing to dig in a ‘No Dig Zone’, immediately disrupt the activity and then follow it with a command of ‘Dig Pit’ or ‘Pit’ (whatever cue word you have assigned), and if necessary, bring your dog to that area. You can provide further incentive to dig in that area by periodically ‘planting’ treats in the Dig Pit. Be sure to give positive reinforcement whenever your dog gets it right!
If you offer your dog an approved ‘Dig Zone’ rather than attempt to stifle the natural desire altogether, you will probably have a happier dog and a yard without holes! Dogs learn more effectively when you work with their motivations instead of relying on punishment.
Please feel free to call the shelter (208-788-4351) or email us with any additional questions or comments.