4 min read


Why Do Australian Shepherds Like To Dig



4 min read


Why Do Australian Shepherds Like To Dig




The Australian Shepherd is a very active and intelligent breed of dog. It might be tempting to think that this breed is a natural digger, needing to get back ‘down under’ to reach his roots. The truth is, the Australian Shepherd did not originate in Australia. This highly intelligent dog was originally bred to help herd sheep and cattle in the dry areas on the West Coast of America. The early cattlemen and sheep herders may have mixed in some sheep dogs from Australia to start a working breed blood line. The Australian Shepherd is currently well known for its hard-working ability, intelligence and endurance. Why then is this dog a digger? Probably purely because of boredom or attention seeking motives. The Australian Shepherd is not bred to dig and will only resort to digging if he is not stimulated enough to satisfy his need to be busy and involved with his owner.

The Root of the Behavior

Understanding the nature of a breed of dog that you introduce to your family is very important. Find out all that you can about the Australian Shepherd. He is an amazing dog, highly intelligent, motivated, active, and needing lots of physical challenges. He will seek your attention in any way that he can. Digging up your garden would be one of them! You must be prepared to set aside the time to exercise him and buy into his active, smart, natural qualities. The Australian Shepherd is a worker of note. He was bred to be busy, working with you all day long. The Australian Shepherd is a member of the herding group of dogs and thinks to serve his master all day, every day, is just the best in the west kind of lifestyle. A bored Australian Shepherd is a frustrated, attention seeking dog who is not fulfilling his purpose, working beside you. If you are lucky enough to live on a cattle ranch or have wide open spaces on your doorstep then the Australian Shepherd will love you for providing just the right environment for him. 

He will not need to dig in your garden to release his frustrations and burn off some energy. You may live in a more built-up area, but because you have an Australian Shepherd, you will need to go out and find parks and exercise areas that satisfy this active breed of dog. Leaving the Australian Shepherd at home alone with no stimulation is going to lead to some destructive digging or chewing. Separation anxiety and frustration will be the primary causes because digging is not his instinctive behavior. Obedience training and agility classes are perfect for this breed of dog. It is vital to learn how to handle an active dog to avoid the attention seeking behavior that could lead to digging up your beautiful garden. It is unwise to leave the Australian Shepherd outside with nothing to do. He will dig holes to relieve his boredom and to get your attention. This intelligent dog will soon work out that digging gets attention. It may be negative attention, but sometimes he may feel that negative attention is better than no attention. The Australian Shepherd owner must be prepared for daily walks and activities for this working breed. 

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Encouraging the Behavior

The Australian Shepherd, fondly known as an Aussie, loves just about every outdoor activity you can imagine. He will run beside your bike, play frisbee, go jogging and be a star at agility and obedience classes. If you call your Aussie Shadow, you will have a very appropriate name for him. That is what makes him happy. A shadow dog who is devoted to following his master and doing whatever needs to be done, all day long. The Aussie is a great outdoors dog and as for digging, well he will have to resort to that if he is not exercised, and actively following you around. A tired, busy dog is never going to be a bored dog and bored dogs get up to mischief or attention seeking activities. 

Digging holes is a classic bored dog behavior unless the dog is bred to be a digger. Other than burying the odd bone, the Aussie is not naturally inclined to dig. He was bred to herd, run, and watch his master’s every move. He is dedicated to being outdoors where he can enjoy an active lifestyle. The Australian Shepherd is very protective of his family and is usually especially attached to one member of the family. Their temperament can vary and so it is important to socialize this breed of dog. Digging could also be an indicator of a lonely dog and some socializing is always a great idea for any dog that needs to be part of family life. 

Other Solutions and Considerations

Australian Shepherds, with their intelligence and desire to work, have been used as guide dogs, rescue dogs, and of course as herding dogs. Early on in their careers as cattle dogs, they were noticed for their intelligence and obedience. The Australian Shepherd made a debut in the movie scene as two Aussie Shepherds were used in one of the earliest westerns. Walt Disney used Stub and Shorty in his movie "Stub: The best Cowboy in the West." It was not a movie about digging for treasure, it was a movie about herding dogs, way back when in the wild, wild, West. You can be sure that if you have an Australian Shepherd, you will have an intelligent, active, companion who will follow you like a shadow wherever you go, if you will let him. 


The Australian Shepherd is rated highly for all the qualities attributed to a hard-working, intelligent dog. Happily running by your side, in the great outdoors, joining whatever activity you choose. When his day is done you can say: "That’ll do" or if you prefer "Good on ya mate." The Australian Shepherd will not mind, he is just happy to do the work. 

By a Rhodesian Ridgeback lover Christina Wither

Published: 04/11/2018, edited: 01/30/2020

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