Let’s Talk about Digging

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Thanks to Inland Social for the Photo

Thanks to Inland Social for the Photo

I get questions about digging,  A LOT; so I figured it was time to tackle it with an article.

It seems there is a lot of digging going on out there!

And, I can understand that digging is a bad behavior. And for a great video series that shows you how to stop digging as well as other bad behaviors, click here.

Plus it doesn’t take long for a little bit of digging to end in a HUGE hole!

And if you aren’t careful and don’t take control right away one HUGE hole turns into several HUGE holes and then you and your company are breaking ankles every time you go outside!

Let Us Understand Our Dogs

By understanding your dog, sometimes, it can help you to find a solution!

BREED

Some Breeds are Genetically Bred to Dig

Some Breeds are Genetically Bred to Dig

First it is important to understand your dog or his/her breed.

I am not one for judging dogs by their breed, but some breeds are genetically predisposed to “go to ground” and dig up their prey.

Jack Russell Terriers and a lot of other terriers have been bred by design to be “ratters”, there are even competitions called “Earth Dog” competitions that test the workability and instincts of short legged dogs such as Dachshunds and other terriers that were bred to hunt vermin that live underground.

If their instincts are still so strong that there are competitions that revolve around their “dig-ability” then you know there is still a very strong instinct you are dealing with and trying to overcome!

Little Terriers

Some of these little terriers need a space of their own to dig in (this can work for other bigger diggers too).

A sandbox of their own is sometimes a way for them to let their digging needs be fulfilled while saving your yard.

Afraid Your Dog Won’t Understand a Sand Box?

Lightly bury some of his toys in his sandbox and take him out there on a leash and teach and encourage him to dig, but only in that one spot!

You can even get in the sand and dig WITH him!  Praise him when he digs in the right spot!

If you are afraid he will continue to go outside and dig in the wrong spots, go outside with him and tell him NO or discourage him if he begins to dig in an inappropriate area.  You may need to go out with him for a few days or weeks.

So often we expect our dogs not to show certain behaviors we consider bad (like digging) but we don’t spend a lot of time or ANY teaching them!  We just expect that they should know better or know that we love our yards.

Digging is FUN

Doesn't This Look FUN??

Doesn’t This Look FUN??

Ever watch a dog dig for a few minutes?  Not only is he stimulated by the smell of the ground, it is also great fun to watch the dirt fly.

I once worked with a German Shepherd who would dig, and then chase and try to bite at the dirt she threw; for her this was a game.

Plus, knowing dog noses I am a firm believer that all the layers of the ground smell different.  You dog may be smelling the remnants of another dog’s smell from 20 years ago or more!

Because it is fun, this is a self-rewarding behavior; meaning that it is probably not simply going to go away if you ignore it.  Your dog doesn’t need you to reward the behavior or even inadvertently reward it, he gets rewarded by the act itself.

WHY?

Like I described above, digging is fun and is usually brought on by boredom!

Most complaints of digging comes from dogs that are left outside all day or for very long periods of time.

A well stimulated dog or one that is tired from exercise is much less likely to dig.

If you are bored and have nothing else to do; then chances are you are much more likely to discover the joys of digging.

How To Keep Your Dog or Stop Your Dog From Digging

labrador training, puppy training

This Lab Thinks This Is More Fun Than Digging!

I just spent a week with family.  Their kids are young, they live in a big city and they want to keep them on the right track.  Add to that the fact that dad is a police officer and you can imagine how important it is to them that their kids grow up to be beneficial to society.

They believe in sports and teaching their kids to work hard; and I totally agree.  It’s not that you CAN’T get in trouble if you are involved in sports, but chances to find the time and opportunity are much less.

I think of this kind of psychology with my dogs too.

If I provide my dogs with enough mental stimulation (training) and exercise (more on what I mean by exercise click here) they don’t really have the time to discover digging. 

Don’t leave your dog out for excessive periods of time.  After a while being outside is boring, your dog is likely to learn to dig and bark and maybe even try and get out of your yard.

I personally like to let my dogs out to go potty and then let them back inside.  They enjoy being outside when I am outside with them, but they don’t like spending a lot of time out there on their own.

If I want my dog to be outside longer than usual I provide him with something better to do!

Imagine I want to cook dinner or I have someone over to the house and I want my dog to be happy outside without getting into trouble; I would give him a big cow bone or something great like that to chew that will take a long time for him to enjoy.

A bone to chew on is much more fun than digging!

If I am going to be gone from the house I prefer using a crate to keep my dog and my yard and everyone else safe.

Don't Risk Your Dog Could Dig Out!

Don’t Risk Your Dog Could Dig Out!

Short Term Tip

If you are trying to curb a problem you can put some of your dog’s feces into the hole or holes and fill it up and he is much less likely to dig in there.

However if you don’t give him something else to do, somewhere else to dig, or make sure he is tired he will just dig new holes!

Remember dogs need stimulation if you can’t or won’t provide it he will provide it for himself but chances are he won’t do that in an appropriate way!

 

Does Your Dog Dig?

We’ve added a video on digging to our Dog Training Video Vault members area that you should check out!

Click here to access the Video Vault Members Area

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There are 68 Comments

  1. RaD says:

    Our german shepherd has a large hole in the back yard where he plays that we have tried EVERYTHING to fill in. He always digs it back out. There have been other holes that we have refilled that he could care less about but that one hole he will re-dig every time. It’s his favorite sleeping spot and we’ve pretty much given up worring about it since he’s the only one in that area most times anyways (the kids play in the front, rarely in the back). And, in the year since we’ve stopped refilling his favorite hole, he’s stopped digging other holes too.

    [Reply]

  2. deb says:

    My dog Only digs if I’m on the other side at a neighbors. She has separation issues. Needs to be with us. How do you stop that?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Put her in a crate or inside when you leave, or give her a big bone to chew before you go.

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  3. Lynn says:

    I have two that were bad about digging, and was told about the feces trick. I triued that and it worked like a charm. No more digging! And when we got a new little dog, the big older dog somehow taught the new one not to dig too!

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  4. Laurie M says:

    I have 2 large shep mix and every time I think I solved the digging problem they start again in the same are by the garbage cans by the fence…. Will take your advise and not leave them out a long time… My only issue with that is they like to be outside a lot and I work from the house… One helper is every Wed they go to Doggie Daycare all indoors the size of a small barn with a bone shaped swimming pool they love it there wish I could afford it more often

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  5. Bonnie Fletcher says:

    I followed a hint I got from a dog site to cure one habit. My 6 year old male Sharpei dug a hole in a flower bed next to the house down to the foundation. It was three feet deep, we filled it with dirt and put plastic covered wire netting on top to discourage him from digging there. It worked and he hasn’t touched it since. The other hole in the middle of the yard we filled with a big rock and dirt, he has dug in the dirt but the rock stopped him. A couple years ago he had dug a hole next to the fence, we put another big rock there and that stopped him. In another place next to the foundation we put wire fencing around it and he could not get into it. My neighbors who have two truffle hunting dogs buried a kiddy pool in their back yard and filled it with sand for them to dig in. That will be my next project to stop Largent from digging in the yard.

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  6. Joey G says:

    My border collie/mcnab does dig small holes but the biggest problem is he bites and tears the grass out.

    He practically lives outside though, so I can’t bring him in. I am away too much and go on small trips where the neighbor comes over and feeds him. So being outside all day, how do I control his tearing grass. BTW, he had a hole in one spot and I did fill with a couple poops and he doesn’t go there anymore.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    He needs more exercise and more things to do.

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  7. Jere says:

    I had problems with my dogs digging in my flower beds. To stop the problem I collected their feces and put it in a bucket, added water and made “do-do Soup”. Then pour the soup in your garden. No more digging! It works every time.

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    Wanda Reply:

    Putting do-do Soup around our trees, shrubs sounds like it might work. Hope it doesn’t smell up the backyard..

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  8. audrey skinner says:

    In July I adopted a 5 year old female lab from our local shelter. Since then, I have learned she had no leash training except to lunge forward. She knew all the basic commands which helped. I realize that she needed a lot of exercise but also needed to learn about a collar and leash. Now she has taken to digging around my wooden deck for *mice* I assume. The hole in one ten minute time out of my sight was huge sending lawn and dirt everwhere. I take her inside as soon as she demonstrates this behavior. It is worse now than the beginning. I assume she has some sort of prey instinct too as my former labs tried for mice outside too. In her case, she is very smart but also strong to handle once this instinct has kicked in. I will try her own waste today to see if this stops her. I don’t leave her very much wanting to get to know her and her me. I am the fourth owner which makes me wonder why? She is very sweet inside and needs no concern for damaging the house if left alone. she seems to understand what I mean when I say I will be back and steps back from the door.

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  9. Linda B says:

    I want my German Shepherd to be able to stay outside for periods of time in order to run and play and to “guard” the house. But the yard at my house must have been previously used as a dump, she finds everything here! She is 6 months old and loves to dig. I haven’t tried the poop trick because she likes to eat her poop (yuck, I know) and I scoop as soon as she poops, so I don’t know that it would help. We walk about 1-2 miles in the morning, I play “bring” with her throughout the day, and if the weather is good, I take her for another walk or to the doggie park.
    What sort of toys should I leave out for her to play with? So many of them say not to leave unsupervised. I’m also careful about where the dog toy was manufactured, so I stick to the Kong Toys. I can leave her in the crate inside (huge crate), but I thought she needs the outside stimulation if I’m gone for 4 hours.

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  10. michael says:

    I had a problem with my dog digging for a while I tried a number of things to get her to stop. I even tried the burying the feces in the hole nothing worked. So what I did to break her from digging was to get some balloons and inflate them put them in the hole she dug and covered them over with dirt so when she started to dig the balloons would pop and scare her. It took 3 or 4 times but she does not dig anymore.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Although I am sure this would work to some degree, I would hate for my dog to be scared of noise.

    Even balloons can be a normal part of life as are other popping noises.

    But I like having a bomb proof dog when it comes to noise.

    [Reply]

    Michael Reply:

    I used ballons because burying feces only made my dog dig in a new spot. The ballomns worked. And my dog is bomb proof. Thunder, fireworks, even gunshots shedoesnt flinch. All I can say is she does not dig anymore

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  11. Franco says:

    Hi there ,i have a beaggle 4 months old and he like very much digging on my lawn how can I stop it ?

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  12. Cyndi says:

    I have two dogs that live outside fulltime. They only dig to lay in the hole. I am assuming to keep cool, but they have an air conditioner in their dog house that is actually cooler than inside my home. I hate this digging because not only are there big holes but the dogs stay really dirty. Any suggestions?

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  13. I loved this article. It really works to put some of the dogs feces in each hole he digs. Sometimes also if you keep covering up the holes, he will get the message. Thanks, Shirley

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  14. Carol Coldewey says:

    Loved this article and the pics. I have two digging dogs. Unfortunately I have moles. I cannot poison or trap the moles in fear of hurting my dogs. I work and they are outside during work hours. The dog poop does work periodically. I going to try the “do do soup”. Maybe it will go further. I think it deters the moles, also. By the way, one of my dogs is a terrier mix. Double trouble! Thanks

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  15. david says:

    I have 2 GERMAN SHEPARDS male and female. I have a big back yard for them to rom around in. but my problem was them digging in the grass area and flower beds. I tried everything. Even poop in the wholes. They would just dig it back up. After spending several hundred dollars on training videos and other things I was ready to get rid of my dogs. Then I ran across the wireless dog fence with transmitter collars. Buried the wire put the collars on and it took them one time to learn. Its been 5 months and not one hole. works like a champ. They have plenty of room to run and play around the patio and pool deck. The wireless system is worth its weight in gold. My back yard looks like it used to before my dogs.

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  16. Maureen says:

    My 10month old poodle almost jumps into the TV when an animal is on it. Have you any idea just how often this happens??!!!!
    Im afraid sometime she may dislodge the TV which is up high but she cannot reach it YET!!’Drives me crazy the way she runs & jumps to it. I’ve tried several ways of deterring her even with a spay bottle of citronella but she loves it. Must I turn it off always. We don’t have a backyard.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Why don’t you teach her a down stay on a bed so she can’t rush the tv!

    She needs obedience and structure!

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  17. Lynda says:

    I have a three year old Rotweiller. Over the past year and a half, I have tried poop; sprays; pepper; rocks and basically anything I could think of to stop her digging. She has a huge fenced in area to run around in and I know I never leave her outside alone for long periods of time. I HATE HER CONSTANT DIGGING………She has logs, balls, ropes, frisbees to play with. Neighbors to bark at. I show her the holes and she is smart enough to know that I am not happy but she seems to think this is playing. I fill in the holes and still she digs in the middle of the grass. I am at wits end with this and desperately need to know how to stop this….Please help………

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    exercise and don’t leave her outside

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  18. Caren says:

    Small dogs should be kept insinde

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  19. Penny says:

    I adopted 3 sisters now almost 14 months old. They are a mix of lab/husky/gray hound. They all dig and now have gotten my older dog digging again. Frustrating. They were digging under the patio. Now they dig over the cesspool, but will dig anywhere. They each have a different trait. One has to jump the fence. Jumps the fence into my neighbors yard then jumps her fence into another neighbors yard. We keep her tied now out side. Can I work on the different problems at the same time?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I would tackle one new behavior at a time and I would crate your dogs inside or use invisible fencing. Tying a dog out can create aggression and all kinds of problems.

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  20. i have a year old fiest she digs really big holes all in the yard i have 6 other dogs even a jack russell and none of them dig i need this to stop she digs so bad i can see the roots of bushes and tress she killing them out what do i do i dont want to get rid of her

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  21. Mari Jackson says:

    I have a six month old Maltease she loves to dig my bed covers. She has ruined a silk cover and had to purchase a new one. Her little claws just tear everything she digs into. She’s not an outside puppy. Any suggestions?
    By the way I lost my #1 traing cd during my move how can I get another.
    Thank You,
    MJ

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    contact dana at info@thedogtrainingsecret.com with all of your information and she will help you with the CD.

    Otherwise keep her nails short and use a dremel so they are not sharp.

    Then teach her a good down command and when she begins to circle tell her down

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  22. Jeanine ryan goji says:

    my dog digs as soon as I let her out. all neighboring houses have dogs and mine wants to play with them. how do I stop her.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Exercise her prior to letting her out, go outside with her and teach her not to dig.

    [Reply]

  23. Emma says:

    I have tried all of these methods and my 8 month old pup still digs. Any more suggestions.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Then you are leaving her outside too long and she is bored. Exercise and don’t leave her out!

    [Reply]

  24. kaycee says:

    I have a 5 year old dog. In the past two weeks she has been digging and chewing my mothers bed. I am trying to break her of it, but I am trying. Any suggestions. I am thinking of putting apple vinegar
    on the covers and bed.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Read the article

    [Reply]

  25. Bernadette says:

    My latest rescues are two 6-month-old Italian Greyhound mix sisters. They absolutely adore digging holes in the yard, almost as much as they love eating poop. I laughed out loud at the thought of “putting feces into the hole…”

    [Reply]

  26. Elmarie says:

    I have a 2 year old staffie. I love him to bits. He is a very naughty boy. If he doesnt bite or chew on things he digs a hole in a certain area i want to plant grass. There is alot of other places to dig holes but no grass for us. We put bushes with thorns on the grass and it doesnt bother him he find one spot where he can dig. Everyday we play with him and his brother (proper mix). I will try the feaces for sure but what else could trigger him in digging on the new lawn.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    It is soft and fun… I wouldn’t leave him out alone until this behavior has been gone for many months.

    [Reply]

  27. scott says:

    I have a mixed Pit/Lab I have been trying to train her in the park when we are there by ourself she is fine ince she sees other dogs she just goes wild and runs and plays and she does not listen to my damands what do I need to more with her.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Keep her on a leash. If you don’t have any control when there are distractions then you need to work on proofing your obedience.

    A leash gives you control and keeps your dog from rewarding herself with bad behaviors.

    [Reply]

  28. Maureen says:

    I have a 1 year old Yorkshire terrier do my dog have a weak bladder ?he sees when I play with her give her over attention and when I get visits my vet said no but I need help he sees in his best bed but not his crate please help

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  29. Roseann says:

    My dog won’t come in when I call her. She used to. I do not know what happened . I have to go outside with her leach to get her in. She is a rescue dog that I have had since February.She also is a digger. I have had many dogs in my life time but this one is a real challenge. I need help please!!! Thank you.

    [Reply]

  30. Zoe says:

    I have a kelpie who digs when bored. I come out and inspect his work and sometimes I have placed large concrete bricks into his hole that he can’t shift.

    He has dug other holes and I’m going to try filling them in with sand, as this is a little cleaner than dirt. Does this help?

    [Reply]

  31. Liz says:

    Hi everyone I have a small Doxon and every time I leave to go to work I put her the backyard with my pitbull when I come back home I always find her in the front door waiting for me to come home. I checked every where in the back to see how she was getting out and I discovered that she was digging a hole thru my back yard to get to my neighbors backyard and then squeezing her way out thru a hole on her front gate. My nieghbors have threaten to hurt my dog if she continues. How do I stop her for doing this! Any advice will help

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I would keep my dog inside in a crate.

    Short of that you can try invisible fencing inside your existing fence

    [Reply]

  32. Darlene says:

    I have a beagle/jack Russell terrier that loves to eat feces, & dig holes, so now what?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Read the article!

    [Reply]

  33. Darlene says:

    Really, read the article. I did read the article. I see that this is how you respond to a lot of people, not professional at all.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    A lot of people don’t, they just see a written article and don’t read the message.

    Everything in there teaches about how to stop digging. Like exercise, covering the holes, and limiting their boredom outside, or giving them a place to dig.

    I get thousands of messages a day, and I apologize but I don’t have time to rewrite everything that I have written.

    [Reply]

  34. Marsha says:

    I had a border collie/Heinz 57 mix that loved digging the Texas red sandy dirt. She was white, so when she dug she would have red feet and face. We called her a “dirty dog” and took her to the bathtub for a bath – which she hated. We had to do that twice and she finally connected the dots and quit digging for a few months. She was incredibly smart. When she started again, and we called her a “dirty dog,” she jumped into the tub by herself. I guess she figured it was worth the fun of digging. When we stopped laughing, we decided on another track. The next time she came in from digging and we gave her the “dirty dog” we stopped her on her way to the tub and instead, took her back outside and hosed her down out there. She never dug a hole again.

    [Reply]

  35. Chris says:

    I did the feces thing too and it does work. I may have a few more. Holes than I like but once I put the poo in it he leaves it alone.

    [Reply]

  36. Phyllis says:

    The Golden Retrievers that I once had were great at digging under the fence. I was away all day teaching school and couldn’t afford, yet, a chainlink kennel with concrete floor. But I had access to large, fairly round sandstone rocks. I would refill the hole that the retriever would dig with the soil. then would cover the spot with one of the stones. The next day when I cam home, the dog would have tried very hard to dig its way out, but the large rock would roll into its new hole. That evening I would refill the hole and replace the rock.

    Although it required me to check the perimeter of the yard each evening when I got home from school, my dog never got out of the yard. Those large rocks always filled the new holes, and the dogs couldn’t dig their way around them in the time they had until I returned home.

    [Reply]

  37. Phyllis says:

    PS: Those rocks were about the size of a usual doggy-dug hole, so when the rock rolled into the new hole, it took up almost the whole hole. : ))

    [Reply]

  38. Christopher Armstrong says:

    I have two dogs 1 is a 10 year old Beagle and the other is a two year old hound pointer mix and they both loved to dig they get plenty of exercise that is walking running playing when they go for a walk to get so excited to where all they want to do is pull you and when they come back and go outside all they do is dig don’t know what to do I love them so much but I don’t know how to stop them from pulling and digging help please I’m desperate

    [Reply]

  39. I have a Jack Russell pup he loves to dig we got him a sand pit when he is finished with that he starts on the flower beds so we have put chicken wire around them it only happens when it is nice weather. When the back door is open all day so he can run in and out. He also loves to dig out freshly planted bulbs and plants.

    [Reply]

  40. Janet says:

    I have an 11 month old GSD, Sadie. I’m home all day with her and basically she’s a great dog. Very loyal, smart, loves my grandchildren and she’s the best at shedding than any dog I’ve ever had. Lol She also loved to dig. If I saw her I’d scold her but there were a few areas that I didn’t want her digging in at all. I got some chicken wire at the local feed store, cut a piece the size of the hole, covered it up with just enough dirt as to not look horrible, case solved. She would try and dig there again and when she couldn’t she would find something else to do. I know as she matures this problem will lessen. Sadie suffers from growing pains in her front legs so she is limited on the kind of exercise and how much exercise she can have. She is of course under the care of my vet. I try to keep her mentally challenged and that helps. I hope this can help someone. It worked for me and Sadie.

    [Reply]

  41. Joan Fox says:

    I wish that would work for us but unfortunately our lab also enjoys eating his feces!!

    [Reply]

  42. Sandy says:

    I have a one year old Chiweenie that loves to dig for ground hornets and bees. I am afraid she will be stung. How do I stop this?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Search my articles of teaching leave it

    [Reply]

  43. Mariah says:

    Have a husky/redbone she has dug since she was a puppy and I mean she digs Big holes I could stand in them and they would big as big as me… my husband and I have tried everything, sprayed the holes, said no bad dog..she doesn’t care she just starts barking at me and continues digging, we would fill them up and two sec later she would dig them out again. We probably have 9 holes in our back yard….. I looked up what else i could do and I read that they need a place to dig, we have a place where there is more dirt then she would know so I married her treat thinking that she would go and dig, but no she wants to dig in the yard…… now it’s becoming a bigger problem because she is starting to dig around the fence, someone please helppppp

    [Reply]

  44. katherine says:

    What Minette said plus more human contact…dogs are not meant to be left outside by themselves. The neighbor visiting to feed the dog is not enough.

    [Reply]

  45. Amy says:

    I have a 6mo old Havanese/poodle mix, named Auggie. He digs in EVERYTHING. Sometimes, he will get in his bed, try to dig, pee, and them pretend to bury it. In our yard he digs only in one spot. And we’ve tried bones and toys. He’s even completeing in agility classes, but he seems to come home and just want to dig. I will offer him a treat, and ask him to sit or lay down, but he looks at me and then digs. Is there anything else we can do?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Sounds more like some OCD to me… read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/dog-ocd/

    [Reply]

  46. Miss Cellany says:

    This is so cute… he made his own sandbox in the garden xD

    I would definitely let him keep it too, as long as he knows he can’t dig anywhere else :)

    [Reply]

  47. I have a new pure-bred German Shepherd, 10 weeks. She is quite testy. This is my 4th German Shepherd so I have some experience with the breed and they are all different. I can tell that she is smart, but very head strong. I believe she was weaned too soon and it may have made a difference in her mother not having much time to teach her some manners and behaviors on the to do’s and not to do’s. She is still nipping, scratching. I used all the commands, I tried lemon to squirt in her mouth ( apparently she likes it). I used a squirt bottle, she bites at it.
    She is chewing all the rungs on my new dining room chairs.( I used that nasty tasting stuff to keep dogs from chewing, she licks it) I have crated her and walked away (about 5 minutes)..I am trying to handle several issues at the same time. I hate to crate her for the entire day, I would feel bad for her, but cant have the house destroyed..she knocked over a floor lamp, chewed wooden bottom. chewed lamp shades, my plants, my book, all the magazines, fabric on back of the couch.. on and on. Any NEW ideas?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    You have to keep her with you and teach her

    [Reply]

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