Digging is a normal and natural behavior for dogs. Wolves and wild dogs dig to bury food as a reserve, to chase small animals, to find cool earth to lie in and a safe place to birth their pups, and as a way to mark territory by scenting the ground with their paws. Pet dogs may also dig to escape an enclosure or simply because digging can be fun. So, don’t be surprised that if you leave your dog unattended in the yard there is a good chance he will dig for one reason or another reason.
As digging is a normal part of dog behavior, and since so many dogs find such great joy from indulging in this activity, it is generally best to focus on redirecting your dog’s natural instinct to dig, rather than trying to completely eliminate it from his or her behavioral repertoire.
In this case, choose a special digging spot for your dog. Ideally, this should be a clearly delineated area, much like a child’s sandbox. Show your dog you are burying some toys there and encourage him or her to come over to investigate and dig. Praise when he or she does.
In order to prevent your dog from digging anywhere in the yard other than the newly designated special digging spot, simply don’t leave your dog unattended there. Doing so would mean you are essentially setting them up to fail as they may dig when left alone, and you may be quite upset to find your dog has redesigned your garden landscape. Furthermore, leaving your dog alone in the yard leaves them susceptible to many dangers, including escape, attack by another animal that intrudes in the yard, or harassment by passerby. So, the solution to unsupervised digging in inappropriate spots? Don’t leave your dog unsupervised in the yard.
If you catch your dog digging in the wrong spot, be sure not to yell or otherwise reprimand him or her as this is likely to frighten your dog and damage your relationship.If you are supervising your dog in the yard and notice that he or she is inclined to dig in spots you don’t approve of, try keeping a leash on for a while so you can prevent this behavior from being practiced. You can start by holding the leash, and then let it drag behind your dog so you have a gentle means of getting a hold of him or her if necessary.
Before allowing your dig happy dog freedom to roam freely in your yard, be sure you have practiced teaching a reliable recall (that is, to come when called). This way, if your dog does dig in the wrong spot you can simply calmly call him or her to you and then redirect towards an approved of location (if you choose to provide one, otherwise focus your dog on another activity such as playing fetch). Consider that the more time your dog gets to spend in the yard with you playing fetch and other games (as well as just hanging out by your side and relaxing) the more opportunities he or she is getting to practice behaviors you approve of (as opposed to inappropriate digging). It also means you guys get to have fun together!
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