By Karen A. Soukiasian
Dog digging is hardwired into the DNA of many breeds and nearly all dogs just love to dig.
In fact, dog digging is perfectly natural. Dogs have been digging for thousands of years, for a number of reasons, mainly survival.
Why Dogs Dig
At first, dog digging was primarily done to find and/or to hide dinner. Being predators, digging the leftovers of a previous meal out of a hole, was usually easier than chasing down a new one.
Burying scraps meant you didn’t have to finish that meal all at once; you could save some for a snack later on. Even today, many wild breeds, and even stray dogs have caches of buried food scattered around their territory. It’s like money in the bank. They have squirreled a little something away, so they won’t starve. A little dirt or rot just spices it up a notch or two. It’s all about survival.
Dogs from hot or wet climates learned they could escape from the heat and/or stay dry by digging a hole or a den.
Thick double-coated dogs, such as Spitz, Huskies, Samoyed, Chow-Chow and other breeds from colder climates, became experts at digging when they realized curling up in an inverted igloo kept them warmer than being out in the elements.
Digging a den became an essential part of continued existence for thousands of years. Moms and dens were shields against weather and predators. They learned it was easier to safeguard one opening, than have their pups scattered about, like an all-you-can-eat buffet, from other predators.
Mom also provided oodles of body heat in her den, to help keep her young pups warm and dry.
Man also has had a hand in the fine-tuning of the dog digging gene. For generation after generation, we bred the greatest diggers together, to create breeds that today are notorious diggers.
Hunters encouraged their dogs to dig prey out of holes. Hence, several breeds of hounds and other hunting dogs, would love nothing more than to tear up your garden in search of a hapless victim. They include Beagles, Basset Hounds, Bloodhounds, Fox Hounds, Rat Terriers, Jack Russell Terriers and even some Retrievers.
Farmers encouraged their smaller working dogs to dig and flush vermin out of their tunnels. The word Terrier comes from the Latin word “terra,” meaning, “earth.” That should give you a clue, as to what most breeds ending in Terrier excel in…naturally. Expect og if you have a Dachshund, West Highland White Terrier, Scottish Terrier, or Yorkshire Terrier!
Check out the legs and paws on certain breeds of diggers, such as Westies and Dachshunds. They are formed in such a way; you can tell they are “designed” to dig.
Today, most dogs dig for reasons other than survival. They include: comfort, boredom, scent tracking, copying their people and the routine their people dread most, escaping.
How to Discourage Dog Digging
To help discourage your pet from digging, keep them busy. This is especially important with puppies, so they do not acquire the unacceptable habit of digging.
Challenge them in ways to encourage new skills, mental and physical agility and good habits.
Supervise your puppy or dog. Don’t just toss them into the backyard and expect them to entertain themselves. Boredom leads to trouble. Interact with them.
Exercise! Walk your puppy or dog. A tired dog is a good dog.
Provide a shelter for them to get out of the weather.
Enroll in a positive reinforcement, punishment-free obedience class. It will help you gain the leadership skills you need, in order to help teach your pet boundaries and appropriate behaviors.
If you must have a kennel, make sure they cannot dig out, by either using a concrete floor or burying chicken wire so they cannot easily dig or slide out.
Bury your dog’s feces in their holes, particularly ones they keep going back to “remodel.” Most don’t like to find that surprise.
The same holds true for around your fence. Bury chicken wire, with a few feet of it rolled inward, toward your backyard. It will make it more difficult to dig out.
To prevent your little Houdini from digging out from under the fence, you can “hot-wire” the fence with especially made chargers for small animals. The wire should be low enough where it would touch their shoulders should they try to dig out under the fence. The “shock” is not strong enough to harm them, but the tingle will be enough of a surprise to deter all but the most unrelenting, single-minded dog.
Provide them with their own “sandbox,” or designated digging area in your yard. Some breeds such as Dachshunds have such an inherent need to dig; they become depressed or develop other behavior problems, when not given an opportunity to get that need to dig out of their system.
Don’t let them watch you dig. To them, it’s “monkey see, monkey do.” In their view, if the boss is doing it, it must be OK. You may have that “little helper” who thinks “Move over and let me help you.” Or the supervisor type, that watches you and thinks…”Humans, they don’t have a clue on how to do it right.”
Bottom line: If you don’t appreciate foxholes and dens as part of the landscaping in your yard, avoid breeds that are known to be excavators. If you have a hot-diggity dog, find ways to redirect and channel their need to dig in constructive, positive ways.
Keep them busy to prevent dog digging. Don’t isolate them. Don’t punish them, for what nature, history, and specific breeding has predisposed as their main purpose on the planet.
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