Updated: Feb 16, 2021
A Golden Retriever is digging a hole in grass. The hole is so deep that its entire head and front legs are buried up to the elbows.
It’s summer and that means lots of fun in the sun. And, when you’re outdoors, that usually means there is dirt – something so many dogs love to dig up! Dogs dig for a variety of reasons: because they were bred to dig (i.e. terriers), because it is hot and they want to get to the cool soil below, because they can hear or smell something below (sprinklers and water pipes, bugs, critters), because of separation anxiety/fear issues, or most often, out of boredom/lack of exercise and because it’s fun!
If your dog must be left outdoors, make sure there is plenty of shade and cool water. A dog house is not enough if it’s sitting in the sun….then you’ve simply made an oven versus a frying pan. You may also want to invest in a sturdy cot-type bed for your dog (such as a Kuranda or Coolaroo) to allow for cooling ventilation under and around your dog. Also be sure to give him plenty of safe, durable toys and chew items.
Prevent your dog from learning how to dig (and how fun it is to dig) in the first place. Never leave your puppy unattended in the yard and keep them leashed on a long training leash (15-20ft, attached to a harness) for the first several weeks. If your puppy looks like he is about to dig, clap your hands and call his name. Move away from him quickly to encourage him to follow you. If he doesn’t respond to your encouragement, do not yank the leash; instead hold the leash so that he can’t continue to dig or run away from you, and walk up the leash. Try to get him to follow you again, and then once he focuses on you, redirect him to a different activity such as playing fetch or tug.
Exercise your puppy! While you can’t take your dog on runs prior to at least one year of age, you can play chase (puppy chases you, NEVER chase your puppy!), gentle tug, fetch, and take them on short walks (no more than 20 minutes at a time for puppies under 6 months, though you can take up to 4 walks a day). Puppy play dates in your own yard are an excellent way to wear out your puppy, but limit them to 1 hour.
Mental stimulation. Feed your puppy out of various puzzle toys, give them a variety of chew items, and train your puppy. Working on basic behaviors such as Sit, Down, Touch, and Leave It will tire your puppy out just as much as physical exercise, if not more so. Aim for 20 minutes total per day, working in short sessions (2-5 minutes at a time) throughout the day.
If your dog is a breed that has a high tendency to dig (namely Terriers, Retrievers, and Huskies), you may need to create a designated “Digging Box” for them. Get a kiddie pool/sandbox with a lid to keep out cats and other critters (like those Little Tikes turtle ones) and fill it with children’s play sand. Then have your dog watch you partially bury their favorite toys, and then tell them to “Go dig!” while helping them dig the toys out. Again, any time your dog shows interest in digging elsewhere, clap your hands and call their name to interrupt them, and then bring them over to their dig box. Tip: keep the sand slightly moist to keep it from flying everywhere as much and rotate out the toys so that your dog doesn’t become bored. You can even bury edible chews (such as bully sticks or Himalayan Dog Chews) or hollow toys with food hidden in them (such as Kongs) to keep it interesting.