Pet Tips

Terriers and Digging – Pet tip 214

Although many dogs engage in behaviours that humans don’t appreciate, some of these particular behaviours come from specific breeds of dogs. Tiny dogs like Chihuahuas for example commonly bark at anything they are unfamiliar with. Labs often engage in destructive behaviours in the house. Terriers are known to be diggers and that’s what this article is about. Although other breeds also have digging issues, the terrier is the king of digging and will dig outdoors and sometimes indoors as well. So why are terriers such serious diggers and what can we do about it?

Terriers are such good diggers and engage in digging behaviour more often than any other group of dogs because they were born and bred to dig. For a couple of hundred years now humans have been breeding dogs for specific tasks and just like hounds were bred to follow a scent, terriers were created to dig and kill. Terriers were bred to rid barns and stables of pests like rodents and other vermin. Terriers were bred to stay relatively small with lean with long heads, square jaws, and deep-set eyes. Terriers are normally active and vocal and are naturally inclined to chase and confront. They would smell a pest like a rodent, dig it out and kill it. This behaviour was highly praised by farmers and has since become a hard-wired trait of this dog group.

The problem is that today, most people that own terriers live in apartments and houses and the digging behaviour that was once so prized and the reason they were bred in the first place, is now looked down upon as a problem when they dig up back yards and parks. Due to the fact that the behaviour is so hard-wired, it’s a hard problem to solve altogether.

What most trainers and dog behaviourists suggest is to allow your terrier to dig in a specific area of your choosing. This allows the dog to act ‘normally’ and fulfill its ‘purpose’. If your dog is digging in one specific spot you can buy fairly cheap metal grating or chicken wire at most large renovation stores. You place that grating over the hole and place dirt over it. The next time the dog tries to dig, it digs on the metal which many dogs hate. Alternatively or additionally, you can place some of your dog’s own droppings into the hole and this will often discourage your dog from digging in that hole in the future. But what do you do about all the OTHER holes the dog will dig?

The answer is to make one spot super attractive and allow your dog to dig there. Choose the spot in advance and when your dog starts digging in the old spot, give your dog a firm “NO!” and guide it on a leash to the new spot. In order to make that spot, THE spot, you may consider putting some treats in that hole ahead of time and then praising your dog lavishly for digging in the right spot. You’ll need to watch your dog for a couple of weeks to make sure it’s following the new digging rules, but this technique is extremely successful with most terriers.

Whether your dog is a terrier or not, there are also 2 other very common reasons dogs dig; they dig because they are bored and to keep cool when it is really hot outdoors. If they are bored you’ll need to increase the amount of exercise they need. If they are too warm then consider buying or building a dog house. Just be sure that you buy the right kind or make one that actually cools. Poorly constructed doghouses can trap heat and make the inside hotter than the outside air, so do research this before embarking on the project.

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