How to teach your dog to dig on cue

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How to Teach a Dog to Dig

Three Methods:

Training a dog to dig is a lot easier than training a dog not to dig. Many breeds are bred to dig, and sometimes all you need to do is "catch" their behavior and reinforce it. You can also start from scratch if your dog doesn't already dig. You can even train your dog to dig only in certain places. This can be a fun trick for you and your dog if you work with them patiently. Be careful though. Dogs tend to overgeneralize before they get that you only want them to do the behavior when you say the command, or teach them to dig only in a specific location.


Getting a Dog to Dig

  1. Start with a simple find trick.If your dog has a favorite toy or treat, place the treat or toy on the ground. Then tell your dog to find it. This is often more effective with more than one person, so one person can hold the dog while you place the treat. This will start getting your dog to associate finding with the toy or treat.
  2. Lightly cover the toy or treat with dirt, sand, or snow.This will encourage a dog who doesn’t already dig to do so. They will want to get to their treat. Using a favorite toy or treat will be especially helpful if the dog seems reluctant to dig. Remember certain breeds were bred to dig; others were not.
  3. Pair behavior with treats.Once you've taught your dog to dig, make sure you reward them. Praise them highly and give them a treat. If they’re obsessed with the treat they dug up, still praise them, so they know they did what you wanted.
  4. Introduce digging command.Once you’ve got them thinking digging is a good thing, introduce the command. “Dig” can be a good choice, especially if paired with gestures to keep it from getting confused with “sit.” Remember to be consistent you’re your choice of command and gestures.
  5. Bury treat or toy deeper.If you want the trick to get more advanced, take progressive steps toward it. Going too fast can confuse or bore a dog, as they will not know what you want. But if you increase the depth by increments you will get them excited to please you. Try not to increase the depth more than once in the same session.
  6. Start withholding the treat until the dog digs up the treat/toy.If you want the dog to dig up the treat or toy, you need to keep the reward until they accomplish the task. If the dog seems confused, you might need to work on shallower depths of the treat or toy, or with the basic task of finding the toy. Try different treats if one doesn’t work or has stopped working.
  7. Practice Frequently.Again, practice is the most important part of learning any trick. With a dog who doesn’t already dig, practice is even more important. The key is to practice frequently, but don’t make the sessions too long (keep it to 10-15 minutes).

Getting your Dog to Dig in a Specific Place

  1. Mark out a specific place you’d like your dog to dig.Sometimes you can use a sandbox, or dig up some soil to make it loose for the dog. You can also mark places you don’t want the dog to dig with short fences or other physical deterrents. If your dog has an attractive place to dig, they will be less likely to dig where you don’t want them to.
  2. Lightly bury toys or treats in the area.Bury their favorite toys or a treat in the area where you want them to dig. Don’t make it too deep or they may not notice it. This should entice them to dig there.
  3. Reward dog only when they dig in that area.With time, they will come to associate digging in that particular location with rewards. If they are clicker trained, this is an especially good time to use it, as you can click precisely when they’re digging in the area you want them to. Don’t forget to praise them when you give them the reward.
  4. Be careful not to reward unwanted digging.Don’t reward the dog if they dig anywhere but the marked-out area. Be careful not to do anything that seems like you’re condoning them digging in another area. They will get confused, and dig elsewhere unwittingly.
    • It is often easier to train a dog to entirely give up a behavior than to control where the dog does it, though not impossible. However, you must be consistent. Any change in your response will confuse the dog.

Catching the Behavior

  1. Catch your dog digging.Catching a dog's behavior simply means rewarding a behavior that the dog already does precisely when you see it happen. If your dog already digs, and you want them to dig on command, reward them when you see them digging. You should try to catch them often, as they might only do the behavior sometimes. This will be easier than trying to teach the dog to dig if they do not dig already, or when they’re not digging.
    • If your dog is clicker-trained, simply use the clicker to catch the behavior.
  2. Repeat rewards frequently.If you catch the behavior multiple times and reward the dog, the dog will begin to associate digging with good things. This will help imprint the trick in the dog's mind.
  3. Pair the behavior with a command.Once you’ve got your dog associating digging with treats, you can pair the behavior with a command such as “dig.” Say "dig" when your dog digs, and give them a treat. Remember to keep the command short, so your dog will have an easier time learning it. You might want to pair the command with a gesture such as making a digging motion with your hands. This will help the dog not to confuse similar sounding commands, such as “sit.”
  4. Start withholding treats until dog digs.Once you’ve associated the command with the action. You should hold back on the treat until the dog has performed the command. Don’t repeat the command over and over. Just say it once and wait for the dog to respond. If the dog doesn’t get it, don’t give the dog the treat. Instead go back over the trick, and work on "catching" the behavior.
  5. Practice the trick frequently.This is perhaps the most important part. Once your dog understands the trick, it’s important to practice it, especially in the beginning. After awhile it will stick with fewer practice sessions. It’s still a good idea to return to old tricks to make sure your dog remembers.

Video: Training Tip Tuesday - How to get dogs to stop digging

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Date: 16.12.2018, 09:29 / Views: 32164