Jump to section
If you’ve ever gone outside to your backyard and stepped into a hole, chances are you probably don’t have moles. In fact, the animal responsible is the same animal who regularly bounds around your house and snuggles up close to you at night. He isn’t a pest. He’s your pet. So what can you do when you realize that he’s tearing up the back garden and leaving holes everywhere you step? It’s no doubt a frustrating problem for many dog owners.
For owners of Labradors, the problem can be even more frustrating knowing that your dog may not be digging for any reason other than he finds it fun! Labradors are energetic and curious. They love the water and the mud and digging may present a great opportunity to get nice and dirty, much to your frustration. While Labradors aren’t the only breed of dog that gets up to digging antics, they can be a bit difficult to convince that digging isn’t something they should be doing, especially when you need the backyard for your kids to play in or your prize-winning tomatoes are put at risk of being torn up. There’s no reason to dismay, however, as digging is almost always a problem that can be tackled with enough resilience.
Dogs dig for many reasons, whether curiosity, boredom, for fun, or because of an issue such as anxiety and fear. The important first step in “diagnosing” your Labrador is to determine why exactly he’s digging in the first place. Keep an eye on your pup to watch his behavior and when it occurs. Is he not being supervised enough? Is he hiding extra food? Write down anything you observe in order to properly address the behavior.
Puppies especially may pick up digging out of boredom or excessive energy. The good news is, puppies are easier to break of the habit than older dogs. Start addressing the digging behavior as early as you can in order to nip it in the bud. Expect to take a week or two of repetition to break your puppy of this destructive behavior, but remember that bad habits can always make a resurgence into adulthood.
First, double check that your puppy isn’t digging because of separation anxiety. This is a behavior that may need to be addressed by a veterinarian or a behaviorist in order for it to prevent the digging behavior.
Barring anxiety, there are a variety of ways to prevent your Labrador’s digging behavior. Depending on the method, you will need things like toys and treats for reward, or gates and fences to prevent access to areas where digging is possible. Consider the best course of action for your puppy before committing to just one method of training.
The Distraction Method
Go on daily walks
Labradors are active dogs, especially in puppyhood. Be sure that your puppy is getting daily walks to help burn off that energy.
Provide mental stimulation
Consider purchasing puzzle toys or outdoor toys that require your puppy to think in order to use. This can help keep them mentally active and distracted from digging.
Another way to keep your puppy busy is to practice obedience commands with him. He will learn that practicing with you is a better use of his time.
Consider a sport
Even Labrador puppies can begin training for a dog sport such as rally obedience, flyball, or frisbee. Labradors also love the water and will happily learn to swim alongside you.
Give your dog a job
Labradors can make for excellent therapy dogs. They are also quick learners and can learn to help you around the house with picking up toys or laundry, finding hidden objects, or retrieving your shoes or the newspaper. Keep your puppy busy learning a new job and he may not have a need to dig.
The Prevention Method
Supervise outside time
Many dogs dig simply because they are unsupervised in the yard. Keep your puppy from digging by being present and redirecting her as soon as she begins to dig.
Prevent access to digging
Consider putting a gate or fence around any areas with soft dirt or soil like the garden. This will keep your puppy from being able to get to the area at all.
Keep your puppy on a leash
If you venture outside, keep your puppy on a leash so you can direct her to only the areas where you would like her to access. You can also steer her away from any digging behavior.
Reinforce your fencing
Many puppies will dig as a means to escape the yard. Place bricks or another deterrent around the perimeter of your fence to prevent her from digging at the posts.
Never punish for digging
Digging is a natural behavior. Punishing your puppy for doing something that comes naturally may only lessen her desire to be around you without correcting the issue at all.
The Sandbox Method
Provide a digging area
Instead of your yard or garden, set up something like a sandbox that is full of either sand or dirt that your dog is allowed to access and dig through. This should be separated from the rest of the yard.
Place exciting things inside
This can be things like treats, chew toys, or bones. Make the area an appealing place for your puppy to want to dig.
Reward for digging appropriately
Offer your puppy treats when he begins to dig in the right spot. Ignore any attempts at doing so in inappropriate areas.
Puppies are still learning. Be patient when trying to teach your Labrador the difference between acceptable digging and unacceptable digging.
Allow for daily digging
If your puppy especially loves to dig, allow him to go and do so every day. This will help curb his urge to dig elsewhere.
By TJ Trevino
Published: 02/12/2018, edited: 01/08/2021