Dog Training Tips

Dog Training Tips : Digging Up The Garden

dog digging

Someone asked me the other day why their dog was always digging up their garden despite giving them plenty of exercise (45/60min walk twice a day).

Well, your dog (along with everyone else’s dog) has an ancestry that links them back to when dogs were used for work. You see, keeping dogs as pets is a recent thing – last 150 years or so – and before that they all had a purpose. In fact, humans selectively bred them to be particularly good at their given task. This meant that certain breeds had certain parts of their hunting sequence (tracking, stalking, chasing, biting, holding, shaking and dissecting) either greatly diminished or exaggerated depending upon their suitability with regard to the dog’s ‘job’.

This has been passed down into our pet dogs, whether you think you have a ‘working’ dog or not. This desire to perform certain tasks (that benefited dogs before) has now become something that causes them to feel unfulfilled unless we provide an activity that will satisfy this genetic need. Even if you took your dog for an 8 hour walk, it may be tired afterwards but deep down, you have done nothing to satiate their need to chase, catch & hold etc.

This can have a dramatic effect on undesirable behaviours or the reliability of obedience training. I like to compare it to having children. If you don’t let your children out to play for a day or two because it’s raining etc and then decide to take them to the garden centre (we all know how kids hate going to garden centres, right?), you wouldn’t expect them to be particularly well behaved. In fact, you’d probably decide to go at a more suitable time! You can apply the same principle to obedience training. If you have a satisfied dog that has not only been on a walk but also done the activity it is genetically hard-wired to do, then instead of feeling restless, it will feel calmer. This will obviously lead to improved obedience. Furthermore, I see a lot of behaviours within the home that disappear once this genetic need is provided for.

So, back to the person who asked about the dog digging up the garden. This restlessness can manifest itself in many, many ways. Here a few:

  • Chasing their tails
  • Obsessive licking of self, other dogs, people or objects
  • Pacing or seeming to be in perpetual motion at all times
  • Bad ‘mouthiness’ when interacting with people
  • Latching onto things in motion (clothing, brooms etc)
  • Shredding/dissecting/destroying blankets, bedding, carpets or anything else they can
  • Frequent digging in the garden or other surfaces
The way to address this is allow your dog to do the behaviour it seems most willing to do. This can be generally broken down into 3 groups:

1. Tug’o’war

2. Chasing balls/toys etc

3. Tracking a scent

The roaming and guarding instincts are slightly harder to manage but one of the above activities should help reduce it though. For instance, a German Shephard should be more then happy to play Tug. However, make sure that you are controlling the game! Don’t have the toys left lying around all the time. Make sure you take the toys to your dog and initiate the game. If you lose control of the toy, have another that you can get your dog interested in, so that you can get the first one back. Don’t chase your dog around the garden! And finally, end the game before your dog does. If you can see they’re losing interest, call it a day and swap the toy for a treat (don’t just take it away).

So that’s it for now.

Another one coming soon…


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