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Why Do German Shepherds Dig Holes?

Why Do German Shepherds Dig Holes?

If you have a German Shepherd you know that they have a lot of energy and can sometimes act a little silly and crazy.  You may even have a GSD that likes to dig holes in your yard every time they are let outside.  This behavior can make you wonder why do German Shepherds dig holes?

This article will explain reasons why German Shepherds dig holes as well as ways to reduce or stop this behavior.

So, Why Do German Shepherds Dig Holes?

German Shepherds can dig holes for a variety of reasons such as to bury things, to cool off, out of boredom, or because of their natural instincts.  Digging is a natural behavior for dogs but there are things you can do to reduce or stop this behavior if it is unwanted.

Reasons Why German Shepherds Dig Holes

German Shepherds have an Innate Instinct to Dig

All dogs have an instinct to dig, however, some breeds are more prone to digging than others.  Terriers, Huskies, and Beagles are some examples of breeds whose instinct to dig is stronger. 

Hunting breeds especially will be more prone to digging up your yard than herding breeds like German Shepherds.

As dogs, German Shepherds also have this innate instinct to dig, this instinct goes back to their days in the wild where they would have to dig to hunt for food, for a safe cool place to sleep, or for protection.

Digging to Cool Off

German Shepherds, like the Siberian Husky, can also dig holes to cool off.  German Shepherds have a double coat that helps keep them from getting cold in winter, however, they can quickly overheat when the weather is hotter.

When dogs get hot in the summer, they will sometimes dig a hole and lay in it.  Under the initial surface, the ground is cooler, so it is a good way for them to cool off quickly.   So if you see your German Shepherd is digging a hole and laying in it, cooling is likely the reason.

Digging to Bury Things

Another reason German Shepherds dig is to bury thing they consider valuable.  Think of this like your dog’s safe; we store our valuables in a safe our dogs store their valuables in the ground.  If they have an item or treat, they don’t want tampered with, they will bury it and come back to it later.

Digging to Escape

Another reason dogs dig is to try and escape.  German Shepherds are very good escape artists, so if they think they can dig to get something interesting on the other side of the fence they will surely try it.   

Digging out of Boredom or Anxiety

Another reason German Shepherds dig holes is out of boredom, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive behavior.  German Shepherds need both mental stimulation as well as physical exercise

German Shepherd with Frisbee

A bored GSD will find ways to entertain themselves, this could include digging, destroying items, and just getting into trouble in general.  If your dog isn’t getting enough exercise, affection, or attention, this could be the cause of the digging, especially if your GSD doesn’t normally dig much.

Digging to Hunt

Another reason your GSD could be digging is to hunt something down.  German Shepherds, especially working line GSD’s, have a strong prey drive.  Therefore, if there is a rodent or some other creature they can smell, they may try and dig to chase it down.

Digging to Seek Comfort or Protection

Lastly, German Shepherds can dig just for a safe, comfortable place to relax.  Dogs need to feel safe and protected just like humans do. 

In the wild, dogs would dig holes to lay in because it made them feel more secure.  If your dog has anxiety or just needs a secure place to settle while outside, you may find them digging a hole to lay in.

Ways To Stop Your German Shepherd From Digging

Although digging is a natural behavior for dogs, we don’t want our yard filled with holes.  Luckily, there are some ways to reduce German Shepherd digging, these helpful tips are provided below:

Provide them with a Cool/Safe Place to Lay

If your GSD is digging holes as a way to cool off or feel secure, providing them with a safe, shady place to hide out should eliminate this behavior.  Find a location outside that already has shade to make their spot or consider getting them a dog house they can relax in.

Keep them Busy

Keeping your dog busy is key to preventing digging from boredom.  Puzzle toys, chew toys, and tug of war toys can provide many hours of fun for your to engage with your pup. 

Also consider trying different activities such as fetch, learning different tricks (like the army crawl and rolling over), agility training, dock diving, flyball, biking, rollerblading, and Schutzhund.   Of course, nice long walks also do wonders for a hyper GSD. 

During the summer months getting a dog pool and dog water toys can also provide hours of entertainment for the whole family.

Eliminate Escape Routes

If your GSD is digging trying to escape the yard, it is important to eliminate those weak points that can be escape routes.  There are many ways this can be done from placing rocks or other obstacles along the fencing and having the fence extend further underneath the ground instead of stopping at the surface.    

Another option is to use an electric fence to keep your dog within a certain boundary line.

Stop Giving them Certain Treats and Toys Outside

If your dog likes to bury goodies outside, one option to stop this behavior, is to give those high value treats or toys your dog likes to bury inside instead of outside. 

If you monitor your GSD you can tell which treats or toys, they like to bury, and just shift to giving those specific items indoors.

Don’t Leave them Unsupervised

A big way to reduce this behavior is to always supervise your dog while they are outside.  German Shepherds are easy to train so if you keep an eye on them, you can easily tell them to stop an unwanted behavior or refocus them on to something else like playing.

Final Thoughts

German Shepherds aren’t a breed that is known to be avid diggers; however, they still have the natural instinct to dig so some GSDs will dig more than others. 

As discussed above, there are many reasons why your dog may be digging, the key is to drill down to what is causing the behavior then look to the solutions to help reduce or stop it.

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