Between I’d say 4 months and 8 months dogs go through what I like to call the “teen years” this is the time when most people will throw their hands up in frustration and some will re-home or worse drop their dogs off at the pound.
During this stage puppies will dig, chew and be pretty destructive. This will pass. Don’t give up. With just a little time and effort you can train your dog away from these destructive activities in exchange for more acceptable ones using chew toys and maybe even a puppy sand box.
Puppies and dogs dig for various reasons, to include boredom, mimicry, and to find a cool spot to lay. But, to really decipher why you’re dog digs, you need to evaluate a few things.
We can determine why our 6 month old lab, is digging by where he chooses to dig.
Flower bed: Our puppy is possibly mimicking our gardening skills.
Under a tree or bush: He is trying to find a cool spot to lay.
By the fence: The pup is trying to break free, due to his freedom instinct or just plain hormones.
All over: Our puppy is either bored or we have a rodent problem.
If our lab is digging in the flower bed, put him away when it’s time to garden, so he cannot see you digging up the flowers.
Digging to find a cool spot to lay, is simple to correct. Provide our puppy with a dog house, cool water, or even a kiddy pool with a few inches of water.
Our pup may be getting a whiff of a dog in heat. It would be a good time to consider neutering the puppy.
And, the usual problem, of digging all over the yard… If you have a rodent problem, call an exterminator, to rid your yard of the rodents. Otherwise, provide your dog with plenty of exercise and attention to help aid the boredom. Possibly consider getting another puppy.
Other things to try include:
Basic obedience training is a great way to start correcting problem behaviors with your dog. Teaching basic commands like, stay, wait, come, and leave it, can all save your dogs life one day.
Training your dog is a great way to build the bond that you truly want to have with man’s best friend. It’s, also, a great way to make a happier pet out of your dog. The less he’s in trouble, the happier he is and the happier you are.
Teaching the ‘leave it’ command will help our lab puppy with both his chewing and his digging problems. By giving the pup the command, he learns that he must leave that item alone or stop digging in that area.
You can teach you pup the ‘leave it’ command by taking his favorite ‘off limit’ item and offering it to him. When he goes after the, let’s say, sock, tell him to ‘leave it.’ Continue saying ‘leave it’ until the puppy looks at you or away, even for just a brief second. Reward the puppy, telling him ‘good leave it’ and offer him a treat. Continue this process until your dog recognizes what you’re asking of him.
Do not get ugly if the puppy does not respond to the command at first; he doesn’t know what it means yet. At first, he will tug and tug trying to get at the ‘off limit’ item. Don’t let him get to it, pull him back just enough. Do not cover the item, as it will teach the puppy that the item disappears, but what you want him to learn is to leave it alone.
Read Cesar Milan’s Advice Below!
We know that digging can be harmful to people’s environments, but, at the same time, digging for some dogs is an activity that keeps them balanced. Digging is a form of exercise and distraction, and, for a dog, it can be simply a matter of being bored and having nothing else to do. It’s especially common if it’s in their breed to be diggers; when it’s part of their nature, they’ll often drain some of that extra energy by doing something that they are instinctually familiar with.
Human parents will bring their child to the playground and let them play in the sandbox, because digging is part of our nature as well. Today, we don’t use that ability often, but deep in our genes, we still crave it. So we have a specific place we allow kids to dig. That can be one option for you – to make a specific place in your yard where your dogs are allowed to do their digging. If that is still not acceptable to you, you need to find a way to drain the energy they release by digging. Exercise is always the best way to drain any dog’s pent-up energy. Running with your dog, swimming with your dog, hiking with your dog – there are so many options.
So my question to you would be: do you know the energy levels of your dogs and are you challenging them enough physically so that they don’t feel the need to dig, bark, jump, or chew? Are they exercising, and for how long? If it isn’t long enough, then I would recommend intensifying that exercise. If you don’t have enough time, that’s when I would recommend putting backpacks on them, which can help by turning 30 minutes of actual exercise into an hour.
Stay calm and assertive,
Location: Woodland, Washington State