by Jenny Turner
Digging is an instinctive behaviour. Dogs dig for a variety of reasons, most of which are listed below:
Boredom: This is the most common reason for digging. If you leave a dog alone for a period, he will usually dig, chew or bark, just for something to do. The answer is to play with him, exercise him often, and provide him with chew toys or interactive toys like a Kong or Buster Cube, both of which you stuff with treats. Better still, buy 2 kongs and feed your dog his whole meal stuffed into a kong – half in the morning and half in the evening. During summer you can freeze the kong overnight and give your dog a kongsicle! A dog that spends 2-3 hrs each morning and evening getting his meal out of a kong doesn’t have a chance to dig, bark or chew.
Means of escape: Your dog may be trying to leave the yard because the world outside is much more exciting. If you suspect that this is the dog’s motivation, be sure to dog proof your whole yard regularly, and improve your dog’s environment so he has something to do while you’re gone.
To mate: If you are not a registered (qualified, responsible) breeder, we suggest that you neuter or spay. This will reduce the dog’s desire to escape and reduces the risk of contracting testicular and breast cancer.
Relief from heat: Deeper layers of soil tend to be cooler, so your dog may be digging for a cool place to sit. Always provide shady areas for your dog to rest when he’s outside. Note: the kennel does not count as a cool enough area. Even though they provide shade, they store a lot of heat.
To bury bones: If you give your dog a bone when he’s not hungry, he’s likely to bury it for a “rainy day”.
Blood and bone fertiliser: The scent may be irresistible and the dog might dig to try to find that non-existent bone.
To excavate a den: Even if a bitch is not pregnant, she may dig in order to provide a nest for her babies – real or imagined.
Apart from the solutions listed above (chew toys, providing shade, spaying or neutering, more exercise) the best thing you can do for your dog is to give him a place where he is permitted to dig and encourage him to dig in that spot. The best material to use is sand, as sand is much easier to clean off than dirt. Make sure the area is in the shade and bury some toys and treats in the sand. That way when your dog digs in the area, he is rewarded by finding the treats.
It is not recommended that you fill the holes with your dogs faeces, or use corporal punishment on your dog. These techniques may only cause your dog to eat it’s own faeces. Or the dog may become aggressive, or at the very least, afraid of you for punishing it. Also, do not further isolate your dog in the yard. It is much easier and kinder to housetrain your dog and teach him basic obedience rather than keeping him in the yard, which only contributes to his anxiety and boredom.