Why do german shepherds dig holes? In fact, why does any dog dig holes? Well there’s a number of reasons behind this behavior. And fortunately, there’s also a number of solutions.
So if your german shepherd is digging holes keep reading! You’ll find out why they’re doing it, and what to do to stop it!
Why Do German Shepherds Dig Holes?
There are a number of different reasons that german shepherds dig holes. And knowing what causes it is going to help you figure out the best way to stop it.
Here are the most common reasons that german shepherds dig holes.
All dogs, including German shepherds have a natural instinct to dig holes. In the past, they would have done it for a number of reasons.
Females, in particular, are more likely to dig holes. It helps them fulfil their maternal need to create a den where their puppies can be safe, even if they don’t have any puppies.
As well as this, they also used to dig holes to bury their food. This would let them be able to go back to it later on, and not have to worry about other animals finding it.
To Create A Den
It’s not just female german shepherds that are going to want a den. All dogs want their own safe place. So if your german shepherd doesn’t feel like they have their own space then they may end up digging holes in an attempt to make their own den.
They’re Trying To Escape The Temperature
How hot or cold is your garden? If the temperature fluctuates too much they may be digging holes in an attempt to escape the heat or cold.
When it’s too hot, they’ll dig up the earth to get to the colder soil underneath, where they can lay and cool down.
And if it’s too cold, creating a den is going to shelter them from the elements better, and they’ll be able to keep themselves warm easier.
They Can Smell A Female Nearby
If you have a male german shepherd, they may be able to smell a female nearby. If this is the case, then they’re going to try and get to her to mate. Especially if she’s in season.
This can be the hardest problem to overcome because there’s not much you can do if they smell another german shepherd in the area.
They’re Trying To Escape
If you notice your german shepherd is trying to dig at fences, then the chances are they’re trying to escape.
This doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the care you’re giving them. It could be because they can smell or hear dogs near them, who they want to get too.
If they are trying to escape to get to other dogs, it can be difficult to fix. So you’re going to need a solid training plan.
The first time you noticed your german shepherd digging, how did you get them to stop? If you gave them some sort of attention, they may begin to think digging will get them more attention.
So they know, every time they dig you’re going to start giving them attention. It doesn’t even matter if it’s bad attention. Some dogs would rather have bad attention than no attention.
While this reason isn’t as common, it can still happen.
They’re Lacking Minerals In Their Diet
Dogs will do all sorts of things when they’re not getting nutrients in their diet. In fact, it’s also one of the biggest reasons they eat their own poop. (Find out what to do if you notice your german shepherd puppy eating their own poop.)
If you notice your german shepherd digging, then they may not be getting all the nutrients they need in their diet. This could be a good time to take them to the vets and get them checked. As well as a good time to consider changing their diet.
If your german shepherd is suffering from separation anxiety they may dig. This is a way to help them release some of the anxiety they’re feeling about you leaving.
Once again, if your german shepherd is suffering from separation anxiety, then you’re going to need a good training program and perhaps the help of a professional.
Looking For Buried Toys & Treats
There’s a chance that your german shepherd buried treats and toys in the past. And while you think they’re digging for no reason, they may actually be trying to dig them back up.
As previously mentioned, burying food and treats is an extremely natural behavior in german shepherds. And they may just be trying to get back some food, they hid before.
They’re Curious Or Bored
Some dogs dig just because they’re curious. This normally results from boredom. So if you’re not giving them enough attention or things to entertain them, then that could be the problem.
How Do You Stop A German Shepherd Digging Holes?
If your german shepherd is digging holes, fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can get them to stop. So if one doesn’t work, you can always move onto another. And you can also try more than one at once!
Here are the best ways to stop your german shepherd from digging holes.
Exercise Them More
The simple solutions are often the best. One of the easiest ways to get your dog to stop digging is to exercise them more.
German shepherds are very energetic dogs, often they’ll need two walks a day to keep them tired.
If you can’t walk them, then you should at least spend some time playing fetch or tug of war with them.
Whatever you choose to do, making sure they’re getting tired out is one of the best ways to stop them from digging.
Spend Time With Them
Ideally, german shepherds shouldn’t spend more than four hours at a time on their own during the day.
If you can’t spend time with them, then you should try to find a family member or somebody that can.
Spending time with them can also help reduce their separation anxiety.
And when you do have to leave your dog alone for long periods of time, make sure you tire them out first.
Give Them A Sandpit
Often giving your german shepherd a designated spot to dig can help stop your garden from being ruined. Of course, this only works when your garden is big enough.
When you add a sandpit, you’ll need to make sure your german shepherd knows to use it. One great way to get them to start is by burying treats and toys in the sand.
They’ll be able to smell them and start digging them out.
And every time you notice them digging in places they shouldn’t, divert their attention back to the sandpit. Once they dig in the designated area give them a treat.
Keep doing this and they’ll eventually learn to use the sandpit instead of your garden.
Use A Paddling Pool
If your german shepherd is being kept out in the heat all day, then you should consider investing in a paddling pool.
Every morning fill the pool up with water and try to keep it out of the sun. When your pup gets too hot they can jump into the pool to cool down.
I did this for my dog and she absolutely loved it. Just remember, that when purchasing a paddling pool, don’t buy an inflatable one as it may pop.
And lastly, if it’s really hot try adding some ice cubes to it before you leave, or refilling it throughout the day with fresh, cold water.
Make Sure They’ve Got Plenty Of Shade
As well as giving them a paddling pool to cool down in, make sure they’ve got plenty of shade too.
If they have a bed etc, outside make sure you keep it all in the shade so they don’t have to go into the sun when they don’t want too.
German shepherds have an extremely thick coat so the chances of them becoming too hot are a lot more likely. And remember, they can’t sweat, which makes it harder for them to cool down as well.
Making sure they have some form of shade is one of the best things you can do to keep them cool.
Make Sure They Have Warm Shelter
On the other end of the spectrum, make sure your pup isn’t too cold either. Invest in a sturdy dog house that you can fill with blankets to keep them warm.
If you don’t want to get them a dog house, then use a crate that you can cover in blankets.
As long as they can get shelter from the wind and there’s enough insulation for them, then they’ll be able to keep warm.
And if it does get too cold outside make sure you don’t let them stay out there. Bring them in and keep them in the warm.
It’s more common than you think for dogs to die from exposure in their own homes.
(If you’re keeping your german shepherd in the cold make sure you check out this article. You’ll learn what you need to do to keep your german shepherd warm, as well as when keeping them outside can become dangerous.)
Give Them Lots Of Things To Entertain Them
If your german shepherd doesn’t have enough toys then they aren’t going to be entertained. Giving them toys that are going to tire them and their minds out is a great way to keep them entertained.
One of the best toys you can get them is a KONG. However, any toy with a treat in it will work great, as they’ll have to figure out how to get to it.
Reward Good Behavior
It’s a fine line when you’re trying to reward certain behaviors. If you don’t do it right, your german shepherd may end up thinking they’re getting rewarded for digging.
If you’re going to reward your german shepherd for not digging you should do the following.
Next time they dig, distract them with something else, like a toy. When they’ve played with the toy for a few seconds give them a treat.
Keep doing this, and eventually, they’ll realize that digging doesn’t get them anything. However, if they play with certain toys then they’ll get a treat.
Find A Solid Training Program
One of the best things you can do for your dog is to find a solid training program. Dogs are much happier when they’ve been trained, and they’ll also behave in a way you want them too.
A great training program won’t just stop digging, but it will also help you fix any other bad behavior.
The training program that I love is Brain Training For Dogs. If you’ve never heard of it before then you should definitely check it out.
It’s based on positive reinforcement rather than punishment. So training is fun for you and your dog, instead of a chore!
(Read an in-depth review of Brain Training For Dogs.)
What Should You Avoid Doing?
There are certain things you’re also going to want to avoid doing when your german shepherd is digging.
If you do any of the following then it can actually increase the behavior. Or in some cases, cause worse behavior to occur.
Don’t Hit Them
There’s never a circumstance where you should hit a dog. When you hit a dog you’re not going to train them at all. The only thing you’re going to teach them is fear, anxiety, aggression, and mistrust.
If you hit your dog, then they are going to harbor negative feelings. These feelings can build up and build up until your dog lashes out.
Don’t Give Them Attention
You shouldn’t give you german shepherd any sort of attention when they dig either. As previously mentioned when your german shepherd is digging they may be doing it to get your attention.
And they’d rather have you shouting at them over ignoring them. If you need to get them to stop then, call them and move them to something they should be doing.
But do it in a monotone voice. Don’t reward them in any way. Tell them to stop and then move on. When they’re doing something they should be, then you can give them attention.
Try Not To Leave Them Outside When Other Dogs Are Nearby
In the beginning, if there are other dogs nearby, you shouldn’t leave your pup alone. If you do, they’re going to do whatever they can to get to the other dog. And you won’t be there to stop them.
This is even more likely to happen if it’s a male german shepherd trying to get to a female. Once they’ve been trained properly, this won’t be an issue. But in the beginning, it’s best to keep them inside.
As you can see, there are lots of reasons that your german shepherd may be digging. But there are also lots of solutions. Here are some of the main things to remember:
- Your german shepherd may be digging due to instinct, to create a den, to escape the temperature, they can smell a female nearby (for boys), they want to get out, for attention, they’re lacking minerals in their diet, separation anxiety, curiosity, and boredom.
- You can stop your german shepherd digging by exercising them more, spending more time with them, giving them a sandpit or paddling pool, make sure they’ve got plenty of shade, a warm shelter, giving them lots of entertainment, rewarding good behavior and following a solid training program
- The best training program you can use is Brain Training For Dogs.
- You should avoid hitting your dog, giving them attention, and leaving them alone when a female or other dogs are nearby.
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