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Tuck the Siberian Husky has created a landscape reminiscent of the moon in his owner's backyard. Tuck’s owners previously had a terrier that used to dig up their yard, but they didn't think their Husky would follow in his footsteps. Why are Huskies so prone to digging holes too?
Huskies dig as part of their natural behavior to seek shelter, because they have a lot of energy, and because of a high prey drive. This makes your Husky a triple threat in the digging department! In the Arctic, a Husky would dig a hole in the snow and curl up inside, using the hole he dug as a den. Snow is an excellent insulator, and a hole would protect your Husky from windchill and trap body heat. While he may not have snow to dig in now, your Husky is still just as likely to use your flower garden to dig holes to fulfill his natural excavating instincts. You may not appreciate this, so training your Husky not to dig will be necessary.
Not only is your Husky highly motivated to dig holes to look for other critters, make a den for himself, or just because he is bored, but he is highly efficient at it. His big, sturdy, webbed paws and strong nails make excellent digging tools! He can dig a hole big enough to swallow a small truck in record time. You will want to discourage your Husky from digging up your backyard by managing energy and boredom and giving him alternative choices to entertain himself. Supervision and teaching a 'leave it' or 'stop it' command you can use when your Husky starts digging can also be effective. Some owners resort to negative consequences to correct digging behavior. Because digging is a natural instinct for your Husky, punishing him for it, or creating frightening negative consequence, can be confusing for him. However, your Husky may be putting himself in physical danger from digging, if he is digging under fences and escaping, or digging so deep he uncovers utility lines. In some cases, negative reinforcement may be required.
To train your Husky not to dig you will want to provide your dog with alternate methods of entertaining himself; chew items and toys can provide useful distractions. You may also need to spend some time supervising and correcting your Husky so he breaks his digging habit. Supervising your dog while outside to provide direction may be necessary. Burning off extra energy your Husky may be channeling into his digging projects is also useful, but will require time and effort on your part to provide exercise through walks, play and perhaps by giving your Husky a job to do.
The Distract and Redirect Method
Play and exercise
Spend lots of time walking your Husky to meet his needs for an appropriate outlet for his energy. Huskies may dig because they have too much energy and need to use it. Play with your Husky frequently to provide him interaction that burns off energy and engages his mind and need for social interaction. This alleviates boredom which will reduce inappropriate behaviors like digging.
Provide a den
Provide your Husky with a dog house or alternate den. If your Husky is digging to make a shelter or escape heat or cold, he may choose his new “house” instead if you give him that option.
Engage in a job or activity
Give your Husky a job. Huskies love to pull. Teaching your Husky to pull a cart or get involved in urban mushing, where your Husky learns to pull you on a bike, scooter or skateboard, are good ways to provide your Husky with a focus other than building a den in your backyard.
Provide self-play toys, chew items and puzzle feeders to keep your Husky entertained when outside and break his habit of focusing on digging.
Make a digging spot
Provide your Husky an appropriate digging spot. Make a sandbox or soft corner of your yard a safe spot for your dog to dig, and teach him to dig only in this spot. Make sure you mark this area clearly so your dog understands this is where digging is permitted and can differentiate it from the rest of the yard. Bury toys and treats in his spot to encourage him to dig only in that area.
The Deter Digging Method
Bury your Husky's feces in the holes he is digging--unless he is a poop eater, which will only reinforce digging. Most dogs are repelled by their own feces and this will make digging less pleasant for them.
Bury large rocks in the holes your Husky is digging. This will discourage your dog from digging in areas he has previously been fixated on, but may not prevent your dog from digging new holes.
Hide a balloon
Put an inflated balloon in a favorite digging spot. When your Husky digs and encounters the balloon, it will pop and make a loud noise which will startle your dog and hopefully discourage him from digging.
Add water or set up a sprinkler to existing holes. Unless, of course, your Husky likes mud and getting wet, mud may dissuade your dog from digging.
Supervise and deter
Supervise your Husky and when he starts to dig, make a loud noise or release canned air, which makes an unpleasant sound, to startle your Husky and create a negative association with digging. If digging is becoming a serious safety concern you may also need to use an electronic stimulus collar to provide negative consequences for digging.
The Leave It Method
Teach your Husky to 'stop' or 'leave it' by presenting him with a treat in your closed hand. When your Husky investigates the treat, say “leave it”.
Reward 'leave it'
When your Husky stops trying to get the treat, provide him a better treat from your other hand.
Continue practicing 'leave it', placing treats on the ground or in your yard, commanding “leave it” and give your Husky a better treat when he complies with your command.
Apply to digging
Supervise your Husky when he is in the yard. When your Husky starts to dig, say “leave it” or “stop it”. If he complies, give him a treat. Continue until he learns that he will be rewarded for not digging.
Continue until digging habit is broken
You will need to continue to provide rewards for not digging and continue supervision over several weeks to break the digging habit with positive reinforcement. If your Husky does not respond to the 'leave it' command, walk up to him while digging and step between him and his hole to enforce the 'leave it' command.
By Laurie Haggart
Published: 03/02/2018, edited: 01/08/2021