A dog’s digging is one of those habits that’s really hard to break unless you can supervise your dog every time he’s in the yard.
In this post, I’ll go over how I would stop a dog from digging in the yard as well as how to train your dog to dig in one, specific area.
If you’re dealing with a dog that digs, it helps to ask yourself three questions:
1. Why is my dog digging?
Usually it’s out of boredom and the habit can be fixed by increasing exercise and interaction. Other times, it’s a habit linked to a strong prey drive.
2. Is the digging really a big deal?
Can’t you just put up with some holes in your yard and muddy paws?
Some people can. Some really can’t.
3. Would you be OK with providing your dog a specific place to dig?
Like his own sandbox?
If your dog were actually trained to dig only in that one area, would you be OK with that?
Now I’ll go over both options: Teaching the dog to dig in his own area and teaching the dog NOT to dig at all.
First, here are some reasons why dogs dig:
It’s fun! Wooo! It’s a natural way to release energy.
Instincts – Some dogs are bred for digging and have a prey drive!
It helps them cool off on hot days by digging into the cooler dirt
A response to excitement! (See above, “It’s fun!”)
A way to deal with boredom, nothing else to do
Trying to bury bones or toys
How to teach a dog to dig in one area
This is as simple as putting together a sandbox for your dog and then encouraging him to play and dig in that area.
The best way to do this is to simply engage with your dog in that area and reward him for playing/digging in the sand box while preventing him from digging in other areas until he learns.
You can do things like:
Place his toys in the sandbox & play with him there
Hide treats and toys in the sand and play “Find it”
Teach him a command like “Where’s your box?” or simply “Box”
How the heck do I make a sandbox?
Buy a plastic sandbox designed for kids and fill it with sand for your dog. These typically come with a cover so you could keep cats and other animals out of it at night. Others just fill a cheap, plastic pool with sand.
Another option is to build a sandbox with lumber placed in a square and fastened together. My parents built me a sandbox like this one when I was a kid. It was awesome!
How to stop a dog from digging.
You might be thinking, there’s no way in hell I’m building my dog a sand box! I understand.
My method for stopping a dog from digging goes like this:
Reduce freedom and supervise.
Prevent unwanted behavior by re-direction.
Reward good behavior.
Very slowly increase freedom as the dog is successful.
(Weird, it’s the same as potty training … and teaching a dog pretty much any concept.)
But first things first – make sure your dog is getting enough exercise and general obedience training!
By reducing freedom, I mean supervising your dog at all times in the yard temporarily. Leave him indoors while you’re not home and put him on a long leash when you’re in the yard together.
2. Re-direct his attention and praise.
With a long leash (20 feet+), you can “reel him in” as needed and re-direct his attention away from digging.
Calmly say “no” if he is about to dig, and then re-direct him to something appropriate like playing with a toy or lying in the grass. Reward him for good behavior with treats and praise.
3. Give him other things to do and reward him.
I recommend treat-dispensing, puzzle toys or Kong-type toys, assuming your dog is not going to try to bury the toy! You can also hide treats around the yard and play “find it.”
4. Slowly increase freedom as your dog is successful.
Do this in small steps. For example, after a few days of keeping your dog on the long leash, try dropping the leash but remaining in the yard with your dog.
Then, maybe a week later, remove the leash completely but stay in the yard with your dog (possibly carrying highly valued treats). Then, leave him outside alone but watch him from a window.
The key is not to increase freedom too quickly. Don’t leave your dog in the yard when you’re not home until he’s been successful for a few weeks with closer monitoring.
Other ways to stop a dog’s digging
Use an e-collar.
Some people will say they would never resort to punishment when a dog is digging. That’s fine. Others are so frustrated with their dogs they really need to put a stop to the behavior very quickly.
An e-collar with a remote can be helpful because you can correct your dog very clearly and instantly reward him for stopping. It also allows you to be standing indoors watching from a window. Most dogs should only need one or two corrections to learn not to dig in the yard.
Putting your dog’s poop in the hole!
I have not tried this method but it always comes up. Basically, when your dog is not looking you fill his usual digging spot with his own poop and then cover it up. So when your dog goes to dig, he finds his poop and is like, “Yuck, I don’t want to dig here!” Do that enough times and he’s like, OK, digging is not so fun!
I have had professional trainers tell me this works. Has it worked for any of you? Nothing wrong with giving it a try.
OK, let me know in the comments …
What ideas do you have for stopping a dog from digging in the yard?
There are so many reasons dogs dig and I can’t address them all in one post (prey drive, trying to escape, burying bones, etc.). What’s worked for you?
I want something safe for a puppy but interesting to him. What worked the best for you in the past?
For edible chews, my plan is to get some bully sticks and beef tendons (because my senior dog Ace likes these!). I’m comfortable feeding these because they’re natural, they don’t seem to break or splinter and apparently they’re easier for dogs to digest than rawhides.
For non-edible chew toys, I plan to have some Nylabones and Kong toys on hand. Ace likes both of these. I’ll stuff the Kongs with treats or peanut butter.
I’ll also have all sorts of other soft toys too like rope toys and stuffies.
… And we have a box of 50 tennis balls.
2. Can an 8-week-old Weimaraner puppy hold it from about 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.?
I guess I’ll find out!
3. Is the puppy less likely to cry at night if his crate is in our bedroom?
I don’t mind having his crate by our bed, even if he whimpers and cries some the first few nights.
Do you think having him near us will make him cry less or more?
We’re in an apartment so I want to keep the crying to a minimum, but, you know … puppies.
4. How often do you de-worm a puppy?
Our breeder recommends every month for the first few months and then putting him on a monthly heartworm/roundworm/hookworm prevention at six months. Seems like a lot to me, but I’m sure she knows what she’s talking about.
I give Ace a heartworm preventative every 6 to 8 weeks April through December.
5. Does diatomaceous earth actually work to prevent fleas?
I currently use K9 Advantix II for flea prevention on my adult dog. I hate putting this on him, and I really don’t want to use chemicals on our puppy. However, we can’t use natural, topical flea prevention products in our home due to allergies. It’s out of the question.
However, what about food-grade diatomaceous earth? I’ve heard many good things about it naturally and effectively killing and preventing fleas, but I’ve never tried it. I’m pretty skeptical.
My question: Does this really work? And does it really work in areas where there are a TON of fleas?
I feel like some dog owners “think” their natural flea “prevention” is working but really they just live in an area with no fleas. For example, in North Dakota I never used any flea prevention and never once saw a flea. After a month of living in San Diego, all 3 of my pets had fleas. Hence, the K9 Advantix.
6. Is there any reason to take our pup to the vet right away at 8 weeks?
Should I bring our puppy in for a checkup that first week or just wait until he’s due for the next round of vaccinations + de-worming at 12 weeks?
I wouldn’t want him to get sick from something he picks up at the vet. Also, really don’t want to spend the money on an exam if it’s not needed.
Alright, your feedback is very welcome! Thank you in advance!
Also, leave your own puppy questions in the comments. I’ll get them answered for you!
“Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan is under investigation for “animal cruelty” after a recent episode of his Cesar 911 show, according to the Los Angeles Times.
I think we all know where this is going.
This is not about “cruelty.” It’s about shutting someone down for using dog training methods different than your own.
It’s about the Animal Rights Movement getting attention and taking advantage of true animal lovers.
Cesar does not need me to stand up for him. Actually, I’ll lose subscribers for mentioning his name.
But there are good people out there, true animal lovers, who are sometimes influenced by the Animal Rights Crazies. So that’s why I’m writing this.
This “investigation” started after an episode of Cesar 911 where Cesar was rehabilitating a French bulldog mix (so we’re talking SMALL dog) for serious aggression around pigs. I saw the episode, which aired in late February, and thought nothing of it.
In it, there is a brief moment where the dog nips a pig on the ear, causing the pig to bleed.
According to the L.A. Times, the animal cruelty allegations began after an animal rights activist saw the episode.
From the L.A. Times:
“The dog that was in question, that Cesar was attempting to train, broke away from him in the video, and immediately charged the pig. Now, what we’re hearing from the [complaining party] is that the biggest concern is someone had that pig, a male adult was holding one of those pigs, those rear legs, and holding the pig up, which made the pig squeal, which made the dog [go] into a frenzy. And it immediately charged at that pig. And the dog attacked,” Reyes said. [Aaron Reyes is the deputy director for the County of L.A. Department of Animal Care and Control.]
Before filing the complaint, the activist called TMZ and let it know that he was going after Millan, Reyes said. The complaint against the celebrity dog trainer was filed soon after.
Do you want to see some pigs that are truly abused?
Check out any factory farm in the United States. You’ll see some horrendous treatment of living creatures there, and it’s not even illegal.
But those pigs aren’t on TV. They are hidden.
What a strange world we live in if someone truly thinks a pig on a celebrity dog trainer’s 45-acre dog training ranch has it rough.
Cesar’s pigs are likely some of the luckiest pigs alive on this entire planet.
I know I’m pointing out the obvious here, but we have lost perspective.
Of course, this whole situation has nothing to do with the pig or animals at all. It’s about power and attention from a movement that was lost a long time ago.
Any true animal lover will focus her time on helping animals who are truly being abused or animals who need to find a home, get off the streets or receive basic care.
Some suggestions to make an actual difference:
– Make a donation to a small, local, independent animal shelter or rescue group you trust. They are providing safety and new beginnings to pets in your community. Not sure who to donate to? I recommend Labs & More San Diego.
– Educate yourself on the conditions that pigs, chickens and cows live in before ending up in supermarkets. At the very least, appreciate the hidden suffering they go through all their lives for our benefit.
– If you prefer positive reinforcement dog training (and most of us do), use your dog as an example and teach others about how you reached a high level of training using rewards, a clicker, treats and patience.
What are some additional ways animal lovers can help?
Image used with permission from CesarsWay.com, photo by Alan Weissman.
I have no concerns about introducing the two because Ace has met literally thousands of dogs, dozens in our own living room. He’s good with intros and sharing his space, so a puppy should be no big deal.
Still, I want it to go better than just “OK.” I want my dog to actually like our puppy and not be indifferent to him.
Here are a few ideas I’m going to try. Of course, please share your own ideas or questions in the comments on how to introduce your dog to a puppy. Thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts.
How to introduce your dog to a puppy
1. Know your dog.
You know your dog best. You know how he’s likely to react to a puppy, and you know what’s best. Don’t let me or anyone else tell you otherwise.
For example, I know my dog Ace will likely show indifference to the puppy. He’ll likely sniff the pup and then go back to his bed as usual. I don’t expect him to be excited or jealous or even curious. I truly think he’ll be indifferent.
That’s why my first tips are centered around making the puppy FUN and POSITIVE for Ace.
2. Introduce your dog and puppy in a neutral area.
It’s usually best to introduce two new dogs in a neutral area. That way there’s less likelihood for the adult dog to feel possessive or protective. With such a young puppy, this is less of a concern. The adult dog will naturally know the pup is just a baby.
(Avoid busy areas, especially areas heavily trafficked with dogs such as dog parks, beaches, Petco, etc.)
3. Create positive associations
In my case, I want Ace to have a positive association with the pup (vs. indifference), so I plan to introduce them in a “fun” area right away when we bring the puppy home – I’ve chosen a local park.
Ace will wait at home while we pick up the puppy from our breeder. I’ll go straight to the park with the pup, and my husband will drive Ace to the park. We’ll also bring a few tennis balls.
That way, we’re creating four positive associations with the pup: Adventure with Josh & Lindsay, car ride, park & tennis balls!
Then we’ll all stroll home together or ride home together in the car as one “pack” and Ace can be there when we first bring the pup into our home.
Most dogs are very observant and sensitive to change. You’re probably bringing in all kinds of new supplies for the puppy like gates, pens, kennels, etc.
I recommend you set these things up a week or two before you bring the puppy home so your dog can get used to these minor changes in his environment. Keep the door to the puppy’s kennel/crate closed so your dog doesn’t make himself at home in that spot and then feel possessive when the pup takes it over later.
5. Change your routine ahead of time.
Dogs are also sensitive to routine, and obviously your dog’s routine will be disrupted at least a little when the puppy arrives.
We can’t predict everything, but try think ahead and start making some of these adjustments before the puppy arrives. For example, Ace is used to being fed and walked as soon as I wake up. But when the puppy arrives, I’m going to be taking the puppy outside immediately.
To plan for this, I’ve already moved Ace’s main walk of the day to the afternoon vs. morning, and I’m going to start waiting a half-hour in the morning before I feed him and let him out. These are routine changes I’m making ahead of time in preparation of the puppy’s schedule.
Other tips for introducing your dog to your puppy:
Always make sure your dog has a quiet place he can retreat to as he wants.
Make sure you still set aside one-on-one time for your adult dog, like walks, play and training without the puppy.
Watch for potential possessiveness of anything such as food & water bowls, toys & bones, dog beds & crates, family members, other pets, furniture – could be anything!
Don’t correct your older dog for growling/barking at the pup. Instead, re-direct the puppy when he starts to bite and annoy your older dog. The puppy needs to learn boundaries.
Don’t force interactions. Some dogs become good friends, others remain indifferent. You can try to encourage them to play with you, and you can take them on group walks. Other than that, let them interact at their own comfort levels.
Note: I’ve partnered with Pauly Presley Realty to bring you this post.
I live in one of the most dog friendly cities in the United States—San Diego!
People are DOG CRAZY around here. There are dogs in the grocery stores (pretty sure that’s illegal?), dogs in CVS, dogs in bars, breweries, coffee shops and outdoor restaurants.
Plus, we have plenty of dog friendly beaches, parks and trails. Not to mention dog walkers, groomers and daycares galore.
But the one city I always hear about as being even MORE dog friendly than San Diego is Austin.
What do you guys think? Is it true? Do any of you live in Austin?
Austin and San Diego are on pretty much every list for the top 10 dog friendly cities in the U.S. Others on the lists often include Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Chicago. In my opinion, San Diego beats most of those cities—hands down.
But … I’ve never been to Austin, so I can’t say.
The folks at Pauly Presley Realty put together a dog friendly guide to Austin, and it’s quite impressive.
I’d love to visit Austin and see how it stacks up to San Diego as a dog friendly city.
Lindsay Stordahl Lindsay Stordahl (with her mutt Ace) is the blogger behind That Mutt.
Julia Thomson Julia Thomson (with her mutt Baxter) writes regularly for That Mutt.
Barbara Rivers Barbara Rivers writes for That Mutt about raw dog food.
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