Dirty nose dog. Abbey the husky has been digging!

Digging Problems?

Digging is one of those bad habits that we just can’t get away from. As with most unwanted behaviors such as barking, jumping, play biting, etc., Digging is a natural behavior that all dogs do to a certain extent. While some may be more prone or enioy the process of digging more than others, all dogs will exhibit digging some time in their life.

Because of this fact, if you have an excessive digger it is important that your dog not only has adequate physical and mental stimulation throughout the week, but also has an outlet for this behavior. If you were to completely cut your dog off from digging, you will most likely see them exhibit this behavior inside of your house, such as digging in couches or pillows, digging up carpet, etc.

Here are a few steps you can take when dealing with a digging issue.

  1. Create a digging area for your dog. Many people use a kiddie pool for this, or if you don’t mind, just barrier off one section of your yard that you don’t mind the dog digging in. Fill the area with soft dirt or something that is attractive for your dog to dig in. Bury toys or treats in this area and encourage your dog to dig there. Any time you see your dog digging in an inappropriate area, redirect him to the digging spot.
  2. DO NOT leave your dog unattended in prime digging areas for long periods of time. Dogs might start digging just out of shear boredom, so make sure you are there to manage the problem and he does not have access to dig when you aren’t there.
  3. Teach your dog fun tricks to ‘Get the Dig Out!’ Having a couple big diggers in my own house, giving them new creative outlets to dig, completely eliminated any problem digging. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Wipe Your Paws:

  • Put a treat under a welcome mat or something similar and encourage your dog to mimic you by scratching at it with your own hands. Be sure to hold down the mat in the beginning, so they cannot lift it with their nose.
    • It might take a few minutes, but as soon as your dog bats at the mat once with his paw, even lightly, mark with a verbal “Yes” or a clicker and lift the mat so your dog can eat the treat.
    • Repeat this several times until your dog starts to figure out the game, then start increasing your criteria by holding out for more than one swipe before marking and lifting the mat.
    • Once your dog seems to understand the behavior you are wanting, you can start putting it on a verbal cue. I say “Wipe Your Paws” for this one.
      • *You might also see your dog have a break through moment and start digging furiously! If this happens, the light bulb has clicked and you can stop putting the treat under the mat and just feed the reward by hand as you practice.
    • As your dog gets better with the trick, do the digging motion with your hands next to your feet wiping at the same time and gradually back off the hand signal so you can eventually walk up to the mat, wipe your own feet and your dog responds to the new cue!

(This trick is well used in our house during our long Florida rainy seasons!)

File Your Nails:

  • Get some type of heavy board and attach a piece of sandpaper well to the front of it to create a scratch board.
    • Prop the board against your knees so it is at a slight angle and encourage your dog to put his feet up on it. (You can also try the board on the floor, but the angle gives a better file to the nail sometimes and will help them adjust if you want to teach them to do their back feet too one day!)
    • Encourage your dog to scratch just as you did for the “Wipe Your Paws” trick.
    • Once you have built up the behavior, I like to use the cue “File Your Nails” and voila, consistent practice and no more nail cutting!

Also, keep in mind, if your dog is digging to escape, hunting animals, etc you might have a much bigger issue on your hands. Always consult with a positive reinforcement trainer if you need help with these issues.

As always, enjoy teaching your dogs everyone!

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