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Is your garden full of burrows? So, you have a digger. Ever wondered why your dog just loves to dig? Digging is a widespread behavioural problem in most dogs that live outdoors. In fact, it is starting to become a problem for dogs living in apartments, too, only this time; the potted plants are targets. Many dog parents suffer the consequences of this uncontrollable digging without knowing of any possible solutions for it.
Sometimes digging is harmless, especially when it is to relieve pent up energy or to simply play, but when digging is an outcome of stress, anxiety, or escape, it starts to become more of a serious, urgent issue.
Why do dogs dig?
An important task in curbing the digging is understanding why it's happening in the first place—dogs dig for several reasons, each unique to the dog itself.
Puppies love to dig. With no apparent reason for it, they enjoy digging through the garden, especially if their breed was originally bred to dig - like, Dachshunds. Most often, puppies find digging a fun outlet for their pent up energy - especially if/when they aren't exercised enough.
A dog who doesn't have sufficient outlets for his/her energy in the form of exercising and mental stimulation will turn to what we call 'destructive behaviour' - chewing, howling, scratching, and oftentimes, digging. Like how some people squeeze smiley balls to relieve stress, digging has the same effect on dogs.
Mimic hunting prey
Certain breeds like Dachshunds, Schnauzers, and Beagles were originally bred to burrow underneath the ground and flush out small game. Over the years, despite a significant decrease in their need to hunt for humans, they still retain their hunting instincts and digging most closely mimics them hunting prey.
Shocker, right? Would you pay more attention to your dog when he is lying on his bed or when he is digging up pretty flowers? When a dog learns that a particular behaviour - good or bad, is a means of getting your attention, he is going to do it over and over again. This is especially true for dogs who crave human attention or have limited opportunities for human interaction.
A female dog on heat, a biker on the run, a squirrel darting up a tree - all enticing enough to make a break for it. If your front gate is locked, your dogs might be digging a tunnel to get onto the road. Likewise, dogs can escape from something they dislike. For instance, dogs who don't like baths can escape through a pre-dug tunnel.
When they watch you leave through the front door, the only way to get to you with everything locked is through digging. Remember the movie Hachiko? Where Hachi digs to escape home and reach the train station? This is that kind of case. Separation anxiety is a feeling of uncontrollable stress, nervousness, and, yes, constant anxiety. Dogs in such a state can resort to destruction in the form of digging as a means to release that stress.
If you have to leave your dog alone for long periods of time, they can get lonely. And when they're lonely, they turn to almost anything to keep them busy - even if those sunflowers look so pretty!
Have you ever felt so bored and frustrated that you felt like tearing something apart? That's how it is in dogs, especially when they are left alone, have no toys, haven't been exercised, and see you for only some part of their day. It is boring for them, especially when you are their whole life.
All the pent up energy got to go somewhere, right? Dogs that are underexercised use the remaining or unused energy for things they consider fun, even if you may not approve of it. Lack of mental stimulation
Our dogs are smart, and they know it! When we do not provide sufficient mental stimulation to help channel their energy and focus onto things like solving puzzles, they use their mind for other things that require both brain and body.
When dogs don't have enough to play with, they are going to look for things in their environment to play with - that's how dogs are, the smartest opportunists out there.
Dogs who live in hot weather dig holes to keep cool.
What can I do about the digging?
Dogs that dig for -
Fun: Some dogs just love to dig, despite having none of the problems listed above. In such cases, it is best to have a digging box or a special spot in your garden that is only meant for your dog to dig. It will also help if you hide treats in the digging box to make the digging purposeful!
No exercise: Make sure your dog is exercised in accordance with her/his age and activity level. You can also choose different exercises for the week to keep you and your pup from feeling bored!
No toys: Have a set of dog toys that you can use on a routine basis so as to avoid boredom. Play with them using active, interactive toys like balls, discs, and ropes. When you're away, you can keep them engaged with puzzle toys.
Boredom and Loneliness: Make sure you spend enough of your time with your dog during the day and at night - texting while walking them doesn't count! And, when you're away, you can keep them engaged with puzzle toys.
Heat: If you have a long-haired dog living in hot weather, make sure he/she has sufficient ventilation and access to cool air during the day - air conditioning really helps!
Escape: If your dog is burying to escape, seal the other side of the fence with large rocks or a chicken wire.
Separation Anxiety: In such cases, talking to a certified canine behaviourist or veterinarian may help.
The best way to curb this undesirable behaviour is to understand why it's happening and work around finding the best possible solution for it.