Are Australian Cattle Dogs diggers?
Yes, many Blue Heelers can be diggers. Digging is a natural instinctive behavior for dogs. However, if your Blue Heelers is doing unwanted digging it is probably due to something they are not getting such as sufficient exercise and stimulation. Although you can’t train an instinct out of a dog, the behavior can be directed in more acceptable and positive ways. Determining the reason for this destructive digging is the first step to finding the best solution.
Why do Blue Heelers dig? (Causes)
There are many reasons why your Blue Heeler may be starting destructive digging. Digging for a dog is a natural instinctive behavior. You can’t train an instinct out of a dog, but you can redirect the behavior in more acceptable and positive ways.
The first step to stopping or fixing unwanted digging behavior is to determine why they are digging. Then you can find an appropriate solution. Solutions can be categorized into two types – a soft solution or a hard solution.
A soft solution is things you can do to treat the motivation of the behavior such as increasing exercise or providing training. A hard solution is a physical deterrent of the behavior such as putting something in the hole to discourage them to dig it up again or putting up a physical barrier.
Some of the causes of your Blue Heeler digging may include –
Boredom and pent-up energy
Blue Heelers are an extremely active working breed and require daily exercise to release their pent-up energy and maintain good health – both physical and psychological. If you don’t provide sufficient exercise to meet this need they will look for other outlets. This includes problem behavior like nuisance barking, destructive behavior, and digging. For a full guide to Blue Heeler exercise with suggestions see here.
Blue Heelers are very intelligent dogs and require enrichment to challenge their minds. They require a good amount of mental stimulation and enrichment daily to prevent them from becoming bored and frustrated. The digging behavior can often be a game they have created to entertain themselves. For ways to provide mental stimulation and enrichment for a Blue Heeler see here.
Stress and anxiety relief
Digging can be an excellent way for a Blue Heeler to release stress and anxiety, especially in a dog that is left home alone. For tips on leaving a Blue Heeler home alone see here.
Because digging is a fun and instinctive behavior for a dog it helps them feel calmer by releasing endorphins into the brain.
Separation anxiety can create negative emotions and feelings for your Blue Heeler They may look for a way to channel this frustration in destructive ways such as digging.
Building a den
It is natural for a dog to want to have a den for security and comfort. In nature, the mother dog builds a den to keep her puppies safe and protected. Ensure you provide your Blue Heeler with their own shelter such as a kennel. This way they will not feel the need to build a den themselves.
A kennel should be big enough for them to stand up and turn around. However, if a kennel is too big they will not feel secure and safe and probably won’t use it.
For a female Blue Heeler that is pregnant or has young puppies, they may build a den to nest or provide a safe place for their puppies.
To cool off
Many dogs will dig a shallow pit in the soil to help stay cool. The earth just below the surface is cooler and a little damper than on the surface. This will usually be in a shady area also.
If your Blue Heeler is digging along or under the fence line the motivation is more than likely to escape. They may be trying to escape the property for many reasons. If left home alone for long periods they may have separation anxiety and want to come and find you. Or they are simply bored and looking to go off on an adventure.
A male Blue Heeler may also try to escape if they are seeking a female on heat.
Hide and protect food
Digging to hide a bone for later is an age-old dog tradition. It is again an instinctive behavior designed to hide food and high-value items from predators and scavengers. If your Blue Heeler goes and hides a bone every time you give them one, you may need to stop giving bones to them. You can try giving them other chews that they can finish in one session removing the need to store them for later.
Hunting prey underground
Your Blue Heeler may be digging because they have detected an animal underground. This could be a rat or other underground species that they want to locate. Sometimes they may think it is something to hunt but maybe something else. This can include an old bone or the smell of the fertilizer you have used.
Blood and Bone is a popular garden fertilizer that many dogs are attracted to.
Solutions to stop your Blue Heeler digging
Once you have determined the root cause of your Blue Heelers digging behavior, the next step is to decide upon the best solution. Recommended approaches include –
Increase exercise and enrichment
Boredom and excessive pent-up energy is the major cause of many dog behavior issues including digging. Probably the first solution you should investigate is whether or not their exercise and mental stimulation needs are being met.
Try increasing your Blue Heelers’ daily exercise, especially ensuring they are getting a daily walk. The walk allows them to leave their property and explore. This not only provides physical exercise, but also gives them plenty of mental stimulation from the smells, sights, and social interaction they receive.
For a full guide to Blue Heeler exercise see here. Within a week or so you will be able to access if this has reduced the need to dig if not completely stop it.
In addition, look for ways to provide more enrichment and challenges for your Blue Heeler’s mind to reduce boredom. For mental stimulation and enrichment ideas for a Blue Heeler see here. Also, try to spend more time with your Blue Heeler as social enrichment is crucial to a breed like this that thrives on human company.
Redirection and management of digging behavior
If increasing exercise fails to provide a solution you will need to look for ways to manage the behavior or redirect it in a more acceptable positive way.
Managing the behavior
Managing the digging behavior may require you to supervise them. If you don’t see them digging it is too late to correct the behavior. They won’t understand why they are being corrected. If you can catch them digging you can establish rules, boundaries, and expectations around the behavior.
When you notice your Blue Heeler digging in an area they shouldn’t be, you can use positive reinforcement techniques to change the behavior. Get their attention by calling them and a command such as “leave” and reward them with a treat and praise.
Redirecting the behavior
You can’t train an instinct out of a dog, but you can redirect the behavior or cater to the instinct in other ways. This can include providing them with a digging box that you want them to dig in. You can bury a favorite toy or dog chew in the designated digging area to encourage them to use it.
An alternate way to redirect the behavior and cater to the digging instinct is to provide toys that simulate digging. A children’s ball pit or snuffle mat is a great way to occupy them and cater to their digging desire. The best dog toy for digging is the IDigg.
The Idig is the first dog toy that is specifically designed to provide for a dog’s natural digging instinct. This is a puzzle in which you can hide their favorite toys or treats in 3 different pockets. They will have to overcome some digging challenges to access his rewards.
View the Idig Stay on Amazon.
Deterrents and hard solutions
If there are existing holes that your Blue Heeler has dug you can put a variety of things in the hole to stop them from digging it up again. This includes things such as –
- Their own poo – dogs are unlikely to dig in an area they have toileted.
- Rocks – put some large, preferably flat rocks in the hole and refill. If they try to dig there they will not be able to.
- Something unpleasant to them – things that irritate their nose will discourage digging. Items that work quite well are citrus peels, cayenne pepper, and vinegar.
Another option is to put up a barrier in the area they are digging to stop them from going there. This can be a temporary fence or barrier or even an electric dog fence. Alternatively, you can lay some plastic netting on the ground so they can’t dig.
Why does my Blue Heeler dig my carpet?
A Blue Heeler can do serious damage to your carpet or furniture if they take to digging on them. Many of the reasons or triggers they are digging your carpet may be the same as why they dig outside (see above). I have seen many dogs trying to hide something in the carpet even though this won’t work.
Other reasons can also include they are trying to get to a crumb of food or there is a certain smell they are wanting to investigate. Alternatively, they may be just trying to fluff up the carpet to find a comfortable spot to lay on.
Why does my Blue Heeler dig in their water bowl?
It can be quite humorous to watch a dog digging at their water bowl and may make little sense to us. Some of the reasons they do this may be to
- To cool themselves off by splashing water on themselves.
- To get to something at the bottom of the bowl. They may have dropped some food in the bowl. Many dog water bowls also have a pattern on the bottom. You have probably seen the bowls with a bone outline on them. They may think it is a real bone. Even stainless steel bowls can reflect the light which may make them curious.
- A fun game to cure boredom. The digging can become a game to provide enrichment for themselves. It is surprising some of the strange games a bored dog can make up. For ways to provide mental stimulation and enrichment for a Blue Heeler see here.
- To create water movement. Many dogs prefer to drink water that is moving or has been stirred up. This may be because it tastes fresher and is cooler. Give your Blue Heeler fresh water at least once a day, more often in hot weather.
Why does my Blue Heeler keep digging the same hole?
If your Blue Heeler is digging in the same spot it can be quite puzzling as to why. The reason is often the same reason they dig in general. This includes boredom (it’s a game), burying food, or building a den. Alternatively, it can be because of a certain smell or something that arouses their curiosity that they want to explore. Blue Heelers can be quite curious animals.
The fact that they are digging in the same spot can make it easier to stop the behavior. This can include preventing them from being able to get to that area or putting a deterrent in the hole to put them off.
Summary – Why and how to stop Blue Heeler digging
Having your Blue Heeler digging up your yard and garden can be frustrating. It can be even more frustrating having them digging your carpet or furniture. The key to stopping and fixing this behavior is to determine the root cause. Once you know this you can take appropriate action to find a solution.
Digging is a natural instinctive behavior for dogs. Although you can’t train an instinct out of a dog you can redirect or cater to the instinct in a better way than having them destroy your home and garden.