One minute they’re running around the yard and the next thing you know they’re sniffing the ground as the urge to dig takes over. One paw after the other your four-legged friend decides your garden needs a makeover.
I’m sure the last thing you want is to find your yard looking like swiss cheese, but before you let your frustration take over, it’s important to consider the driving force behind your Rottweiler’s behavior.
Why do Rottweilers dig holes? It’s in their nature since digging offered their ancestors shelter from freezing temperatures and kept their food protected. A Rottweiler could be looking for a place to cool down or a way to escape. Digging can also be entertaining or a sign of separation anxiety.
Keep on reading and learn more about why your Rottweiler is digging holes and the number of things you can do about it!
Why Do Dogs Dig Holes?
While we might not find digging holes in our yard, or any yard, an acceptable behavior it doesn’t mean it’s bad behavior on its own. You see digging is an instinctive behavior in many animals and most dog breeds share this kind of activity.
According to American Kennel Club (AKC), digging is part of a dog’s instinct that has been passed down through generations going back to their gray wolf ancestors. A study also showed that “even wolf pups cache and will move their cache to keep it from being discovered by a sibling.”
Moreso, there are dog breeds that are more susceptible to digging and for this humans can be blamed to an extent. Breeds like terriers were used for hunting purposes, thus, their digging instincts were developed even more. Even though dogs and their ancestral wolves share their burying instincts, your Rottweiler’s motivations could be more complex, and the holes in the ground, not just a simple leftover storage facility.
While a dog’s instinct or breed susceptibility to digging are reasons enough, this behavior can also become excessive and problematic for various reasons related to their environment, their training, stress, and the relationship with the owner.
Why Do Rottweilers Dig Holes?
Rottweilers may not be the number one breed that’s predisposed to digging holes, but they’re still dogs so they’ll want to dig to some extent. Of course, there are various reasons that can turn a Rottweiler into a yard digging enthusiast. Finding out what these reasons might be can help you deal with this situation in the best way possible for you and your doggy!
1. To Seek Shelter
Depending on where you live and the weather conditions in your area, you might find your Rottweiler digging holes to create a sort of sheltered spot. Because it’s part of their instinct to protect themselves your dog will know the perfect spot to dig to feel comfortable.
Yards that don’t have any natural shelters like shaded areas created by trees or enclosures, can easily make your dog create these conditions for themselves.
2. To Protect Their Food
“The reason why a dog buries something is to save it for later,” explains Teoti Anderson, a professional dog trainer and behavior consultant based in Florida. This might come as a surprise to some owners who always keep their dogs well-fed. So, why are they still afraid they might go hungry?
Well, what drives your well-fed Rottweiler to hide their bones, treats and even toys is more than the possibility of future hunger or protection from other possible predators. Dog behaviorist Cesar Millan states that “burying can be a dog’s way of savoring cherished objects so they can be enjoyed again later.”
Anderson also points out the fun fact that “some dogs stash a treat and then ignore it for a week. Some dogs seem indecisive and move their prize 20 times before settling on one spot. And other dogs bury a bone and forget altogether.”
You might be wondering what will happen if with all this digging your sweet Rottweiler forgets where they buried their juicy bone. Well, rest assured they’ll find it! I mean their sense of smell is only 10,000 to 100,000 stronger than the average human. That’s why when you see your dog digging, they might be looking to retrieve and not bury something.
I’m sure some of us can relate to that, I for instance love to hide sweets around the apartment, you never know when you’re gonna need them!
3. To Search For Prey
As mentioned before, it’s more common to find terriers digging holes in search of prey, but other dogs, Rottweilers included can also do the same. If you live in an area that has lots of rodents and small prey that can make their way into your garden, then you might find your dog digging their way to them.
These little creatures will pull on your dog’s hunting strings and trigger an obsessive need to reach the prey. A small dog of course will hardly make the same mess that a Rottweiler will, only because of the sheer size and strength they possess. So pests can easily turn your yard into a mess and since it’s a stimulating activity you might find it hard to discourage your fluffy companion.
4. For Entertainment
Everyone has to have fun one way or another but digging a bunch of holes in your back yard might be a bit of a stretch. Unfortunately for you, some dogs “may dig as a form of self-play when they learn that roots and soil ‘play back’,” explains the Human Society of the United States.
This behavior can be observed in puppies and dogs under the age of 3 that have a lot of energy and digging gives them a fun release. If you spend a lot of time in the garden, taking care of plants and doing some digging of your own then they could see this as a game and start mimicking you.
Dogs that are left alone in the garden for a long time can also find digging holes a nice activity to spend the time. Since Rottweilers are large dogs, they need a lot of exercises and physical stimulation. If they don’t get to release that energy, then chances are they’ll start digging holes as a way of working out that’s also entertaining.
5. Separation Anxiety And Boredom
A lot of factors playing into your doggy’s digging addiction can be external, but as pet owners, we can also be responsible. Animal behavior specialists from the University of Lincoln, UK, suggest that “separation anxiety in dogs should be seen as a symptom of underlying frustrations rather than a diagnosis, and understanding these root causes could be key to effective treatment.”
Destructive behaviors connected to separation anxiety often occur as the dog gets anxious at the prospect of being left alone. It can also happen as the owner is about to leave or after they’ve left the house.
Turning your garden into a battlefield might be one of the most unwanted behaviors your Rottweiler could display. But chewing things, excessive barking, howling, and crying can also happen at the same time. For dogs that are left inside, there can be urinating and defecating indoors as well.
Rebecca Sargisson from the University of Waikato states that “dogs seem to develop separation-related behavior problems if they are male, sourced from shelters or found, and separated from the litter before they are 60 days old.” But even if that’s the case, as owners we have the power and responsibility to help our Rottweiler stabilize this behavior.
Some owners will label the digging holes business as misbehavior and believe that their dog is acting out, but in fact, your sweet Rottweiler is anxious about not having you around. Of course, boredom could also play a role, since when left alone dogs don’t have the opportunity to interact with you.
Rottweilers are big dogs and even though some may consider them lazy because they’re not as active as retrievers or terriers, they still need regular exercise. So, one way of getting that energy out of their system is backyard excavations.
6. To Escape
Finding your Rottweiler digging up holes in your back garden might come as a surprise or as a reoccurring nuisance to most dog owners, but what happens when the holes are too close to the fence?
This could be a random spot, but it could also be their route to “freedom.” There are dogs that are adventurous, and some Rottweilers can fit right into that description. After all, they’re strong creatures which means they’re quite capable of it.
The reason your dog is trying to escape probably lays on the other side of the fence. Perhaps your neighbor has a dog or a cat. It could be a pest they saw run behind the fence or there was an interesting sound that made them curious.
If your dog has managed to escape once then they might try it again and according to research it’s quite possible that “they visit places after each escape that provide them with interaction and fun things to do.” So, if not dealt with this could become a reoccurring behavior when you’re not at home and your canine companion feels lonely or bored.
A young puppy could also exhibit such behavior if they felt bored and while it isn’t inherently bad, it can become dangerous for various reasons. Your neighbor might start to complain, especially since Rottweilers have a bad reputation with some people. The fence might prove not as steady and hurt your poor dog, or they could simply get stuck in their effort to reenact their own canine prison break!
How To Stop Your Rottweiler Digging Holes?
Knowing what has turned your Rottweiler into an archeologist is the first step to help you understand what might be going on inside your friend’s head. The next step is finding the right tools to change this behavior and hopefully stop it.
So, let’s check the ways you could approach their digging problem while keeping in mind the possible reasons triggering this behavior!
1. Proper Training
Puppies require a lot of time and patience when it comes to training, but even as they grow up, you’ll need to keep your Rottweiler in training. Digging holes can be a behavior they discover when they’re still young or it can develop when they’re mature and grown dogs.
So, whether your dog is a grown-up or a puppy, rules must be set in place. The best way for novice pet owners to train their dogs is to enroll in a training program or classes that use positive training techniques.
Not only will it help you find the appropriate language your Rottweiler can understand in order to get the message across, but it can help you strengthen your bond! A professional trainer can guide you throughout this journey and because we’re all human and we all can get a bit lazy from time to time, they’ll force us to practice everything we learn.
Most importantly you don’t have to do this alone! Training classes are a great place to also meet other dog owners, perhaps someone who also owns a Rottweiler. This way you can see different canine personalities and feel less discouraged if your dog-friend takes more time to get trained.
Proper training will support you in your dog-parenting journey because, “you’ll learn how to prevent problems before they begin, or deal with them as they emerge.” And because dog digging might be a behavior that develops in a later stage of your dog’s life, you’ll also have the tools to deal with it, without causing more damage to your dog’s emotional wellbeing.
2. The Right Environment
As mentioned before your Rottweiler could be digging up your garden to cool off or to find shelter against low temperatures and wind. To stop this behavior, you should provide comfort and protection. A doghouse is the first step to keep your dog away from the scorching sun and during the winter they can stay warm.
Rottweilers will need a bigger dog house than other pups but this simple dog house on Amazon should fit most big Rottweilers just fine. It’s spacy enough to add a dog bed inside, or if you’re crafty yourself you could add extra insulation for the cold months of the year.
Apart from a good doghouse, there are a few more things you can change and/or add to your garden in order to create a safe place for your Rottweiler so they can be happy!
Give Them A Sandpit
Let’s face it dogs and Rottweilers enjoy digging and you could manage this behavior instead of completely eliminating it. If you have a spacious backyard you could easily create a sandpit.
By creating a nice perimeter around the sand-filled area you can create a nice little space for your dog to go wild! You could bury a few of their toys inside to show them that it’s their space to dig as much as they please. If you see them move outside of the sandpit you can draw their attention back to it and give them a treat.
As always, being consistent can help your dog adjust to the new rules and forget about your beautiful garden. For a dog this size, it can be a great addition for pet owners who don’t have enough time in their schedule for lengthy games and interactions.
Give Them A Paddling Pool
Another addition for the Rottweiler owners who have enough space for their beautiful dog is a paddling pool. It’s a great investment for the summer that will definitely keep your fluffball cool and entertained without having to dig holes in the cool ground.
If you’re interested in an easy to set up paddling pool this small pool on Amazon is enough for most Rottweilers. The larger size can also be great for those of you who have children so they can play along with their favorite canine friend.
Remember to keep the pool in a shaded area to avoid any chances of heatstroke, especially since Rottweilers have dark coats. Also, try putting some ice in there on the very hot days to help them cope with the heat.
Use Digging Deterrents
If you don’t have enough space for a sandpit or a pool then another way to keep your doggy from digging is to make the process unpleasant. Some owners use things that smell bad such as cayenne pepper or citronella mixed with water which can also save your flower beds from being destroyed.
Be careful to not let your dog digest anything toxic and only lightly mist areas they enjoy digging. If bad smells can’t keep your dog away then perhaps you could place flat rocks in the area they enjoy digging. Some owners also use chicken wire or netting to stop their dogs from ravaging their garden and make the whole process not fun anymore.
If your dog is met with inconvenient obstacles then chances are that they’ll lose interest in the digging sport!
3. Remove Pests
Pests are another reason your Rottweiler might be digging holes and one way of stopping this behavior is by getting rid of the invasive rodents and burrowing animals. Simply punishing your dog for an instinctive response will never work.
Studies show that “the art of hunting is naturally highly rewarding to most dogs, regardless of whether or not it results in unpleasant consequences.” What you can do is call an exterminator or use methods that are safe and humane to keep these animals out of your yard.
4. Avoid Giving Them Things They Like To Bury
As we’ve established dogs don’t only dig holes for the fun of it, they also dig holes to hide their toys and treats in there. Once they’ve done that you should expect that they’ll dig that hole up in order to retrieve the hidden treasure!
So, if you were one of those dog owners wondering why do Rottweilers dig holes, then perhaps the reason is behind their toys. Naturally, one way of ensuring that they won’t be burying or digging out any special objects is if you stop giving them things they like to bury.
It doesn’t mean that your dog isn’t allowed to have toys, but they’re definitely shouldn’t be left alone with the ones that they enjoy turning into a treasure hunt!
5. Exercise And Mental Stimulation
“Ensuring that your dog has a regular and sufficiently enriching daily routine can go a long way to preventing problems such as digging,” veterinarian Debra Horwitz suggests. Otherwise, a bored dog will find a way to entertain themselves and the yard is a good place to start!
I know that life can be exhausting, but just because there’s a yard doesn’t mean your sweet Rottweiler doesn’t need a good run or a long walk. Offering them new and interesting places to explore and adding a good amount of play to their daily schedule can make a massive difference.
Check out Sophie the cheeky digger! Perhaps a digging session outside of your property is the way to go!
Debra Horwitz gives us another great piece of advice by saying that whenever you let your dog into your back yard without supervision make sure they’ve been socialized, played with and they had their share of reward-based training. And who wouldn’t agree with that, wouldn’t you dig a hole in your yard if there was nothing left to do?
6. Maintain A Stress-free Environment
Significant changes in a dog’s environment can oftentimes result in unwanted behaviors and separation anxiety can bring forward ones that are destructive like digging.
Moving to a new home could be the beginning of a new life but for a dog, it could trigger separation anxiety. Losing a guardian, being abandoned, taken to a shelter or a different family member are also major anxiety triggering factors. In some cases, dogs actually escape their new home and in their effort to do so they could sustain an injury or get lost.
Families that have grown children that move out to study or to a different house have also noticed that their dogs developed separation anxiety. But even small changes like a shift in their owner’s schedule like suddenly seeing less of them could lead to stress digging.
One way of helping your Rottweiler to resolve this problem, if it’s a mild case of separation anxiety, is counterconditioning. This is a treatment that will help your dog see a situation that causes them stress as something that has a positive outcome. “Counterconditioning focuses on developing an association between being alone and good things, like delicious food.”
To ensure that there’s no illness or medical issue affecting your dog you should take them to the vet. There you can get your Rottweiler properly checked and get more advice and help on behavioral and health problems.
7. Spend More Time With Them
There are a few studies out there showing how beneficial a dog and human interaction can be. One of them states that “when dogs and humans interact with each other in a positive way (for example cuddling) both partners exhibit a surge in oxytocin, a hormone which has been linked to positive emotional states.”
Another study reveals that owners and dogs when being in each other’s company experienced a reduction in their anxiety and had a better mood. Additional research has also shown that a good dog-human relationship benefited and improved the wellbeing of the animal significantly.
But what happens if the interactions between owners and their dogs aren’t frequent. Sure, our loyal friends are capable of improving our mental health, but our neglect could cause them emotional harm. If your Rottweiler is digging holes perhaps it’s their way of telling you that they’re bored, unhappy and that they want to see more of you.
Creating the perfect environment for our canine friends is important but being there for them is essential. So, make sure you give your doggy lots of love and cuddles to get that oxytocin going!
What Not To Do When Your Rottweiler Is Digging Holes?
While it’s important to know why do Rottweilers dig holes and what you can do to stop this behavior it’s also helpful to know what things you should avoid. First on the list is physical punishment. Hitting your dog or shouting at them for bad behavior should never be an option.
Using this sort of punishment will most likely make your dog feel stressed and create fear which will only cause the opposite effect. Especially if your Rottweiler’s digging motivation is fear or anxiety you will find them stress-digging even more.
To some extent punishment or negative attention could also seem like a reward to your dog. If they’re craving attention, then digging will be their method. Instead, clap your hands to distract them from digging without necessarily creating an interaction. Talk to a trainer to find healthy ways to stop a certain behavior and have your doggy listen to you.
Finally, try not to leave them on their own for too long. This is can easily make them feel bored or trigger their separation anxiety which will result in digging. Spend time with your dog in an interactive and entertaining way so when they’re left unattended, they’re too tired and stimulated to wreak gardening havoc.
Now that you know the whys, the dos, and the don’ts of a Rottweiler’s digging behavior you can take a moment to breathe and take all the information in. Try implementing positive training every day and use the most suitable methods for your doggy. It might seem like a difficult journey at first, but I’m sure you know that it will be worth it!
With some proper training, lots of play, and love I’m sure you’ll be able to keep you and your Rottweiler happy and stress-free and of course your garden intact!
Let us know if your Rottweiler was a part of the garden digging club. Did you manage to stop them and what approach worked for you and your doggy?