why do german shepherds dig holes

Why Do German Shepherds Dig Holes?

Why do German Shepherds dig holes?

German Shepherds usually dig due to their primal instincts that originated back from when they were wild. Back then, digging was used for survival and it allowed them to save food or to create a safe and secure space. Nowadays though, they don’t tend to do it for survival purposes but instead as a way to meet their needs.

In this article we’ll look deeper into why German Shepherds dig holes as well as what you can do to stop your German Shepherd from rearranging your lawn.

Why Do German Shepherds Dig Holes?

Predatory Instincts

German Shepherds are naturally alert. With their keen senses, they pick up on smells and sounds that we humans may fail to perceive. And so, they may sometimes dig to try and find the source of something that they heard or smelled of underground.

Denning Instincts

German Shepherds dig dens to regulate temperature and help keep them cool in the summer and warm during winter.

They also do so to create their own shelter or safe space. An example of which would be when a female German Shepherd digs a den to protect her puppies.

Burying Or Looking For Buried Toys And Treats

German Shepherds also dig as a way to protect their property. They dig holes to hide food or toys that they intend to use later so that they won’t have to worry about other animals or dogs finding them.

Then of course, it could be the other way around. Your German Shepherd may have at some point buried something for safekeeping and is then digging to find what they buried.

Stress Relief

German Shepherds are prone to behavioral issues when they lack physical and mental stimulation or social interaction. These behavioral issues typically lead to destructive behavior such as barking, chewing, scratching, and sometimes digging.

In these cases, German Shepherds experiencing either separation anxiety or boredom may dig as a means to release some stress. It’s their way to get the stimulation and entertainment that they need.

Trying To Escape

German Shepherds may also resort to digging as a way of trying to escape. If you notice your German Shepherd digging near a fence, then you’ll know it’s trying to get out.

This could yet again be caused by anxiety and boredom. Or it could just be that your dog found something interesting on the other side and is looking to go on an adventure.

How To Stop A German Shepherd From Digging

We can’t deny that digging is instinctual and for the most part healthy for your German Shepherd. But when it’s done excessively, it does end up being a bother. And so there will come a point where you would need to put a stop to your dog’s digging behavior. 

But how do you do so?

Well, the first step to behavioral correction is to identify the cause of the behavior. Thus, you have to observe your German Shepherd to find the cause of digging. And when you do, you then apply the necessary solution.

Exercise And Play With Your German Shepherd

A great general solution would be to provide your German Shepherd with its required amount of exercise and play.

German Shepherds are active dogs that require at least an hour of exercise and play daily to prevent the development of any behavioral issues. 

So, do your best to allocate some time to take your German Shepherd on walks or to play fetch. Doing so will not only provide your dog with the necessary stimulation, but it will also tire your dog out. And as the saying goes, a tired dog is a good dog.

But what if you have a busy lifestyle?

Well in such a case I recommend availing of external help or making use of dog toys.

For help, try asking a family member or a friend if they could walk your dog for you. If that’s not feasible, you could also opt to hire a dog walking service or take your German Shepherd to a dog daycare center.

If help’s not an option, you can always get some dog toys. There are plenty of interactive toys out there that will help keep your dog busy while you are away. Keep in mind though, that playing with one toy can get boring in the long run, so you’ll need to have a rotation of them.

Deal With Separation Anxiety

If the digging is a result of separation anxiety, then you would have to teach your dog to enjoy or tolerate being alone. Here’s how to do so:

Crate training. Crate training will provide your German Shepherd with a safe space in which it can feel protected, secure, and relaxed.

Counter-conditioning. One way to treat separation anxiety is by associating separation with a positive experience. For example, if you give your German Shepherd a treat before you leave for work, it may eventually find your departure as something positive rather than a reason to be anxious.

Keep Calm. Stay calm and keep things low-key when you leave or arrive. Doing so will prevent either your arrival or departure from becoming a major event that your German Shepherd should anticipate.

Exercise. Aside from helping with boredom, exercising also helps in dealing with separation anxiety. A tired dog will most likely spend time resting rather than being anxious.

Medication. Some meds can help with separation anxiety. So, don’t be afraid to give your veterinarian a call.

Set Up A Sandpit

Since digging is, by most part, instinctive, it may sometimes seem unnecessary or perhaps impossible to stop the behavior. So, one way to address it would be to set up a sandpit or a designated digging area for your dog. Doing so would allow your German Shepherd to fully exercise its instincts while at the same time preventing any damage done to your lawn.

If you use this method, do keep in mind that you would still have to teach your German Shepherd to use the sandpit. Here’s how to do so:

To start, get your German Shepherd to dig in the sandpit by hiding treats in it.

After that, you would then facilitate and reward or correct the dog for either successfully or failing to dig in the sandpit. 

For instance, if your German Shepherd digs in the proper area, be sure to reinforce the behavior by rewarding it with praise or treats. Alternatively, if it digs outside, you should then gently correct and move your German Shepherd to the correct spot. 

Eventually, your dog will start to understand that digging should exclusively be done in the sandpit.

Protect Your German Shepherd From The Elements

As mentioned earlier, a German Shepherd may dig for shelter and as a way to either stay cool or stay warm. And so, one way of preventing digging is by providing your German Shepherd with the necessary protection from the elements.

Simply put, if you provide your dog either with shade and water when it’s hot or with warm and insulated shelter when it’s cold then it won’t find it necessary to dig.

Obedience Training

Finally, the last method would be to train your German Shepherd. Doing so will help prevent your dog from developing bad habits as you have more control over its actions. If you successfully teach your dog to follow commands, you will then be able to tell it to stop unnecessary digging.

Just remember to train with positive reinforcement and to avoid punishments. Getting angry or physically harming your German Shepherd will not correct its digging behavior and will instead cause it to be fearful, anxious, and even aggressive.

Final Thoughts

To reiterate. There are a number of reasons as to why German Shepherds dig holes. The most common of which is due instinct but it could also be due behavioral issues brought about by their needs not being met. 

So it’s important to know exactly what’s causing the behavior. Not only will it help prevent your lawn from becoming a mess, but it will also help you understand how to become a better owner.

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