My Dog Digs

Dog Behavior: Help! My Dog Digs

“Stop my dog from digging!” was the cry on the other end of the phone. I heard the frustration in her voice. Are you as frustrated with your dog who digs as this dog owner? Are you at your wits end? You are not alone.

On my first visit with Digger’s Mom, I asked, “It’s important for me to know when and where the digging happened.” 

She answered, “All over the place! It’s got to stop immediately!” Well, “all over the place” didn’t give me enough information. I then asked her where he first began to dig and found out that he actually began to dig near the back door. As the digging persisted she began trying home remedies like putting poop and/or water in the holes to stop the digging but this just frustrated Digger and he began to dig elsewhere. 

My Dog Digs

Out of Sight – Out of Mind

My other question of, “When does Digger dig?” got this response: “When we’re not looking.” Don’t you find that is always the case with many dog behavior problems you’ve seen with your own dog? They always seem to “do it” when you’re not looking or gone from home.  They’re not stupid. 

Apparently Digger was corrected when caught in the act and had learned the following: “it’s not safe to dig when my owners are looking. It’s safe to dig when they are not looking.” So Digger continued to dig, but only when the owners were gone or not looking. She further explained that Digger was now scratching – almost trying to eat his way through the door and back into the house.

Too cute as a Puppy to Train 

Sound familiar to you? I wanted to shed more light on Digger’s problem digging so I asked, “What did Digger do in the house that made you put him out in the yard in the first place? Apparently he jumped on house guests, sniffed them in inappropriate places and relentlessly licked them while they were sitting on the couch. Here’s what I heard:  “He was so cute as a puppy, he’d tilt his head and give you that look and well, we figured he’d grow out of it”  and so Digger, consequently, never got trained. Their solution was to put Digger in the back yard every time they had company.

It solved one problem but created another.

If your dog is digging in the backyard, perhaps frustrated at being put there in the first place, your solution is as simple as working on your dog’s in-house behavior. If every time Digger’s Mom has visitors, she puts him on a leash and begins to control Digger when visitors came over, he will quickly figure out what she wants – actually prefers – him to do. No jumping on visitors and settle down by my side while I’m talking to my friends – all acceptable and possible behaviors “if” Digger was on leash. A little dog obedience training goes a long way.

Your dog just needs to know what it is that you expect of them.

Here’s a simple, straightforward and easy-to-understand technique: Take control and train your dog on leash in the home.  If you do not take control of your dog on leash and teach them how to behave, they will make up the rules on their own – and that’s where trouble begins. 

Digger was frustrated from being banished to the back yard from all social family activities. Tension built, Digger got frustrated and this frustration caused the digging problem. Bringing Digger back inside to work on the initial issues that banished him in the first place actually fixed a multitude of problems and everyone was much happier. 

Look for the root cause of your dog’s behavior, fix it and live happily ever after with your dog.

What Do You Think?

Let us know your thoughts on today’s issue.

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Jim Burwell is a “thanks for making the impossible, possible” professional dog trainer having trained 20,000+ dogs and counting and serving more than 7,000 clients.  Jim’s easy to follow, common sense, and positive methods have made him the “dog trainer of choice” for 30 years.  One of his clients says it best: There are people who are so good at, and passionate about, what they do, that in their presence, one can’t help thinking that they have found their true calling and are doing exactly what they should be doing on this earth. Jim is one of these rare people. His quiet and understated manner, his effective technique for training dogs (and their families) is something which I feel fortunate to have witnessed and in which to have been an active participant.  Jane Wagner

(c)Jim Burwell Inc.

6 replies
  1. Jolene
    Jolene says:

    This article was great and showed me why my lab was chewing walls when he was younger, separation anxioty. He no longer does that, but he does dig. The digging doesn’t seem to happen at the door area though, just wherever there is soft dirt.
    Any ideas on this?

  2. Martin
    Martin says:

    Guilty as charged. Our dog is 8 months old and I will fess up, we’ve not trained him very well and we get frustrated with his wild behavior so we put him out in the yard. THe reality is, now he has bad behavior outside.

    Thanks for this, it made me look at how I’m not being a very good doggie mom.

  3. william
    william says:

    Guilty! I’m one of those who stuck my dog in the yard. I’m changing this today.

    Thanks a lot for writing this and also explaining about the leash. I clicked on every link in this story and it has really helped me. I feel better now and know I can do this.

  4. patti monroe
    patti monroe says:

    I love these emails. Our digging problem is a little different. Our 1 yr old Border Collie Rescue is 1 yr old now. We think we’ve past thru most of the chewing phase, but now we have returned to Houston for the winter and spring from Santa Barbara (where we spend 6 mos a yr) and our dog still digs if he gets in the backyard for more than 5 minutes even with the back door open. He’s an inside dog. he hiked and went to dog beach out there to deal w/his energy. here he’s bored, I know that, so he’s got too much energy. I’ve enrolled him in agility (one day a week) I have a golden in the neighb. come play one day a week for an hour, we walk him on 2 mile walks every day and shorter walks 2 other times per day, plus I play with him in the backyard. He’s done the first level obed. training and he’s very smart and always sits for meals, and we practice the sit, down, stay, leave it, shake, here commands several times per day every day and he does them all. But he’ll dig (or chew up his bed if he’s in his room alone during the day). SO i’ve decided to put the Citronella collar on him, and I just beep it when he starts to dig and it seems to be helping, but he’s scared of the collar, so he mostly just comes back in to lay down on his bed. Of course the Citronella collar won’t help much when I’m gone and he’s in his room, so guess I’ll have to get a crate ( we left ours in Santa Barbara) for his room in Houston to help him feel more secure. We even got the plug in Mood alterizer from Comfort Zone for his room. Doesn’t seem to help. What do you think?

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