Dog Training Today with Will Bangura for Pet Parents, Kids & Family, Pets and Animals, and Dog Training Professionals. This is a Education & How To Dog Training Podcast.

Dog Training with Will Bangura: #132 Burying the Habit: Understanding Dogs and Digging

November 28, 2023 Will Bangura, M.S., CDBC, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, FFCP is a World Renowned Dog Behaviorist, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, and a Fear Free Certified Professional with over 36 years of experience with the most difficult of Season 4 Episode 132
Dog Training with Will Bangura: #132 Burying the Habit: Understanding Dogs and Digging
Dog Training Today with Will Bangura for Pet Parents, Kids & Family, Pets and Animals, and Dog Training Professionals. This is a Education & How To Dog Training Podcast.
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Dog Training Today with Will Bangura for Pet Parents, Kids & Family, Pets and Animals, and Dog Training Professionals. This is a Education & How To Dog Training Podcast.
Dog Training with Will Bangura: #132 Burying the Habit: Understanding Dogs and Digging
Nov 28, 2023 Season 4 Episode 132
Will Bangura, M.S., CDBC, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, FFCP is a World Renowned Dog Behaviorist, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, and a Fear Free Certified Professional with over 36 years of experience with the most difficult of

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Is your once pristine lawn looking more moon-cratered than manicured thanks to your dog's relentless digging habit? Get ready to change the game as we bring certified dog behavior consultant, Will Mangura, onboard to help us decode this perplexing behavior. We dive into the genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors that contribute to your dog's love for digging. Will stresses the importance of understanding your dog's triggers and patterns, offering insights into targeted interventions and effective management strategies.

In the second half of our chat with Will, we shed light on the need for commitment, patience, and adaptability in managing your dog's digging behavior. It's not just about stopping the habit; it's about knowing how to modify their environment and daily routines based on their behavioral patterns. Remember, consistent enrichment activities are the key to preventing a digging relapse. So, whether you're a first-time dog parent or a seasoned pup lover grappling with a digging dilemma, this episode is packed with valuable insights to help you guide your furry friend towards less destructive habits. Listen in and take a step closer to a happier, less destructive pup.

Support the Show.

If you need professional help please visit my Dog Behaviorist website.
Go here for Free Dog Training Articles

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Is your once pristine lawn looking more moon-cratered than manicured thanks to your dog's relentless digging habit? Get ready to change the game as we bring certified dog behavior consultant, Will Mangura, onboard to help us decode this perplexing behavior. We dive into the genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors that contribute to your dog's love for digging. Will stresses the importance of understanding your dog's triggers and patterns, offering insights into targeted interventions and effective management strategies.

In the second half of our chat with Will, we shed light on the need for commitment, patience, and adaptability in managing your dog's digging behavior. It's not just about stopping the habit; it's about knowing how to modify their environment and daily routines based on their behavioral patterns. Remember, consistent enrichment activities are the key to preventing a digging relapse. So, whether you're a first-time dog parent or a seasoned pup lover grappling with a digging dilemma, this episode is packed with valuable insights to help you guide your furry friend towards less destructive habits. Listen in and take a step closer to a happier, less destructive pup.

Support the Show.

If you need professional help please visit my Dog Behaviorist website.
Go here for Free Dog Training Articles

Speaker 1:

Digging is a problem for many pet parents, but digging is a behavior that unites many dogs, from the tiniest terrier to the largest labrador. It can transform the most pristine lawns into lunar landscapes and leave pet parents feeling frustrated and helpless. But why do dogs dig? Is it simply a mischievous habit, or is there more beneath the surface?

Speaker 2:

Used by wolves with canine DNA and is blood. Having trained more than 24,000 vets, helping you and your fur babies thrive, Live in studio with Will Mangura answering your pet behavior and training questions. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome your host and favorite pet behavior expert, Will Mangura.

Speaker 1:

Good day dog lovers. Thanks for joining me. I'm Will Mangura and this is another episode of Dog Training Today. Today I want to talk about a topic that a lot of pet parents are frustrated with, and that is a dog that digs. Do you have a digger dog? I've had digger dogs. You know, when they walk in and you see the mud and the dirt around their nose and their tails wagging and you just know somebody's been a bad boy or somebody's been a bad girl.

Speaker 1:

But what can we do about dogs digging? Well, one of the first things that we need to understand and have that understanding, is that there are some breeds that are more predisposed to digging and there can be instinctual behaviors that drive some of the digging behavior. So, for example, terriers they're historically bred for hunting underground prey and often they retain that digging instinct and that can be one of the motivating factors as to why some terriers are diggers. There are historical and genetic factors. The ancestral behavior of dogs linked to their wolf ancestors include digging for purposes like hunting and den making. So it can be a very normal, very natural, genetically predisposed behavior that dogs can have.

Speaker 1:

Another aspect why dogs dig are environmental factors. One of the biggest one is lack of stimulation or boredom, dogs that aren't sufficiently mentally or physically stimulated. A lot of them may resort to digging. Another aspect why dogs dig in adequate exercise and this kind of goes along with stimulation. But physical stimulation. A dog's exercise needs vary by breed, by age, by health. But a lack of adequate exercise can lead to the development of repetitive or destructive behaviors, including digging.

Speaker 1:

There can also be behavioral causes why dogs dig Seeking attention. Dogs may dig as a way to get attention from their pet parents, especially if they have learned that that behavior elicits a response. How about anxiety, stress? You know a lot of dogs dig because of anxiety or stress related behaviors. Digging can also be a manifestation of that anxiety and stress that the dog has and it is a way for them to be able to get some of that anxiety out of them. They direct that sometimes into digging. Another aspect why dogs dig are for physical needs, temperature regulation. Do you have a dog that tends to dig, or dig more in the summer when it's hot? Because a lot of dogs and this is again a natural behavior in the wild they would dig a hole that they could lie in to regulate their body temperature, to cool off. Now, if you've got your dog outside and you live in a very warm climate and they're spending a lot of time outside and they're overheating, that would be a normal, natural behavior, a safety function for them, in fact, so they don't get overheated. Now there are certain health related issues that can also lead to some unusual behaviors. Nutritional deficiencies Certain deficiencies might lead to digging Yep, it can lead to digging. Medical conditions right, arthritis. Behavior's like digging. That can be a form of self soothing.

Speaker 1:

Now, what can we do in order to turn this problem around? Well, the first thing we need to do is we've got to be able to observe our dog. Number one rule when you've got a behavior problem, you do not set your dog up for failure. If you know that when your dog's outside, your dog is typically gonna dig, or does dig or occasionally digs, you need to be out there with your dog until this problem is resolved. Don't set your dog up for failure. So one of the things we're gonna do is we're gonna be really good observers of our dog's behavior. I want you to keep a behavior diary. All right, keeping a detailed diary can help reveal patterns. Now, in that diary, you're gonna wanna note the time of day, weather conditions and what was happening in the environment right before the dog was digging. All right, you need to identify patterns and triggers. Look for the commonalities in your diary entries. Does your dog dig more when left alone, or do they tend to dig in certain areas of the yard? Understanding those triggers is crucial for developing some targeted interventions.

Speaker 1:

Now, if you're truly, truly struggling with a dog that has a really bad digging problem and you've been doing everything supposedly correct and it's just not getting better, you need to consult with a professional. Find yourself a certified dog behavior consultant. If you don't have one in your area, you can consult with me. Go to dogbehavioristcom. I do consultations all over the world, helping people with all kinds of problems, digging as well.

Speaker 1:

The first thing that we've gotta deal with when we've got a digging problem are management strategies. All right, we need to stop the bleeding, so to speak. If we've got a dog that's digging, the first thing we need to do manage the environment so that the dog can't dig. No, that's not the big picture answer. It's the first step in the solution. It's not the solution. I don't want you to just avoid the problem. We're gonna address the problem, but if your dog keeps on practicing digging day in and day out, it's gonna be very difficult to modify that behavior out of your dog.

Speaker 1:

So one of the things you can do is creating physical barriers, correcting fences around specific areas or using chicken wire under the soil that can deter digging. It can also prevent the digging. Now, like I said, when your dog is outside right now and you've got a dog that has a problem digging, you need to be out there. You need to be supervising what's going on with your dog so that if your dog begins to dig, you can redirect them to a different activity. Now some of the things that we also need to do in order to help are in the area of environmental enrichment. Many, many, many dogs that dig do so because they're bored, and here in America we don't do nearly enough with our dogs. We've got dogs that are suffering from chronic boredom and they get into trouble as a result of that boredom. But you can provide all kinds of enrichment for your dogs providing toys, interactive activities, things that can really help reduce the boredom which is a common cause of digging. Now, another thing you can do a lot of people do this with a lot of success and that's designating a digging zone.

Speaker 1:

If digging is a persistent behavior, creating a specific area where your dogs allowed to dig can provide a healthy outlet, especially like if you've got a terrier. If you've got a terrier that's got incredible prey drive and is really running off of instincts maybe you even got the dog from working lines, if you know what I'm talking about there and you are struggling. Well, how about creating a special area where the dog can dig and when your dog tries to dig in an area it shouldn't dig, directing the dog to the area where it can dig and reward the dog? That works for a lot of people. Now boredom, boredom, boredom, boredom a big, big, big contributing factor to digging. So exercise is gonna be crucial. You need to ensure that your dog gets enough physical exercise that is appropriate for their breed, appropriate for their age. But sufficient exercise can reduce excess energy that might otherwise be directed towards digging. And the mental stimulation that I talked about mental exercises, mental stimulation, enrichment through training and games. You can engage your dog in training sessions and interactive games and those will provide mental stimulation and when you do that, it reduces the likelihood of boredom-related behaviors. And again, I've talked about how digging oftentimes is a behavior rooted in boredom.

Speaker 1:

All right, we talked about a few things in terms of how do we address this and those of you that know me, I'm all about positive reinforcement. I want you to avoid punishment. I know punishment's easy and if you're lazy, punishment might work. I'm not saying it doesn't work, but how fair is it to punish your dog? What have you done to teach your dog that it's not okay? By showing your dog what else to do. Instead of always thinking about what you don't want your dog to do, let's think about what you would like your dog to do instead and create that behavior and reward that behavior. So, instead of punishing your dog for digging, redirect them to a desired behavior and reinforce that. For example, if your dog starts to dig, call them to you and engage them in a different activity. Like I said, you can have them sit, lay down, do some tricks and reward them for that. Once they comply, make sure that wonderful things are happening.

Speaker 1:

All right, and that method is based on the principles of positive reinforcement and what we call differential reinforcement Teaching a different behavior, that if the dog is committed to that, that would be incompatible with the behavior that you don't want. All right, also, we're. So you know, it's so easy to point out what's wrong, right, we do that all the time. We're the world's biggest critics. However, do we reward the non-digging behavior? Are we capturing good behavior, behaviors that we like in our dogs, and rewarding those? Because the behaviors we like, the behaviors that are reinforced, the behaviors that we're rewarding, and the more we reward those behaviors, those are the behaviors that the dog is going to gravitate towards. But when your dog is laying down comfortably relaxing, hey, you better be rewarding that. When your dog is being a good dog outside and your dog is not digging, you need to be rewarding that.

Speaker 1:

Two other things that are huge things when it comes to working with your dog, that is, a consistency and patience. Consistency in training and daily routines is key to behavior modification. Things thrive on predictability and a consistent routine can reduce anxiety and stress-related behaviors, including digging, what we're talking about here. Now, the other thing is you need to understand what is your time commitment on this. Well, behavior modification it's not an overnight solution. It requires time and patience and consistency, and it's important to acknowledge that there's going to be a little bit of a time commitment in order to have success. It's not real change, lasting change, permanent change usually doesn't happen like that. It takes a little bit of time, it takes a little bit of work, but we want to put that time in. We don't want to rush the process and not get the results we're looking for.

Speaker 1:

Okay, all right, let's talk about a couple different case studies, a couple different dogs that had digging problems, and what did we do? All right, the first case study is going to be about a dog, a very high energy breed, a border collie. Border collies are renowned for their high energy and their intelligence, but in this particular case, this border collie started digging holes in the backyard, and this was happening out of boredom. So what did we do? What was the intervention? Well, the pet parents introduced more rigorous and varied exercise routines, including agility training and fetch games, to utilize this dog's energy constructively. Additionally, they provided puzzle toys and things of that nature, other enrichment activities, to keep the dog mentally stimulated. And what was our outcome? Well, the increased physical and mental stimulation significantly reduced the dog's digging behavior. The pet parents were no longer seeing this behavior and the pet in this case this high energy border collie was no longer seeking an outlet With their pent up energy by digging.

Speaker 1:

Okay, all right, let's go into another case study. And in this particular case the digging was an anxiety driven behavior. So in this case, the background low background, it's a rescue dog Exhibited digging behavior, primarily when left alone, which can be indicative of separation anxiety. So what were our interventions? Well, the pet parents implemented a desensitization and counter conditioning program which was recommended by their dog trainer. They also created a more enriched environment with safe toys and a comfortable resting area and over time the dogs anxiety levels decreased and the digging behavior reduced significantly. So sometimes again, digging can be an outlet for anxiety and in this particular case this rescue dog had separation anxiety and one of the Manifestations of that was in digging. Deal with that anxiety, deal with the underlying emotional state of the dog, correct that and the behavior goes away. All right, case them.

Speaker 1:

Case study number three this is about instinctual digging. The background Yep, here's one of our terriers. We talked about the terriers and they're digging. Well, in this case, this terrier began digging in the garden and, again, driven by prey drive, they had all kinds of lizards running around in the backyard and the terrier chasing after those layer lizards, digging at them, pawing at them. And here comes the digging. All right, what was our intervention? Well, recognizing the dog's instinctual needs, in this case the pet parents designated a specific area in the yard for digging.

Speaker 1:

They also engage this particular dog in all kinds of games that stimulated hunting behaviors, like scent work, to be able to fill that particular need that the dog had. And, and by providing an appropriate outlet for that dog's instincts the inappropriate digging in other areas of the garden those stopped happening, and this is something that we see all the time. There are dogs that, by genetics, by breed, there's a huge Instinctual component to their digging and when we allow them In a special area to be able to dig, they stop digging in the areas we don't want them to dig in. Now to be successful, we want to make sure that we're monitoring our progress, and one of the best ways to do that is behavior tracking. Regularly observe and note your dog's behavior so that you can track the progress. If you're not measuring your progress, you can't manage it. Also, know that when we're talking about a dog, any animal, I don't care what our strategy is. We might need to make adjustments. They're animals, so we adjust our strategies as needed.

Speaker 1:

Already talked about the fact that you need to be committed. Sometimes modifying these behaviors can take a little bit of time. We can only work as fast as as your dog is able to do the work now when it comes to Maintenance, once you've addressed the digging, once your dog's no longer digging, don't just stop there. Make sure that you continue to provide enrichment, both in terms of physical exercise and mental stimulation, otherwise your dog's gonna go right back to that behavior. Have a good day, everybody. I'm out of here.

Understanding and Managing Dog Digging Behavior
Tracking and Adapting Dog Behavior