Dig Those Border Collies

My not-too-smart Husky has taught my Border Collie to dig up our yard. We have scolded them which worked with the Husky but not with the Border Collie. The less than one month old yard looks like battlefield. What can we do?

This answer was generously written by April Quist.

Border Collies are very often diggers. Helen Phillips (who has a bunch of Border Collies) used to say something to the effect of "Border Collies are okay if you don't mind a yard that looks like the Grand Canyon."

I imagine that, if you're consistent and want to break them of it bad enough, you can do it. But I prefer a different approach. I figure digging is something they really enjoy doing (you should see the "grin" my dog Levi gets on his face when he gets into it), and it's good exercise. So if my dogs were digging in areas I didn't want them to (like under fences, in gardens, etc.), I'd find a spot to "donate" to them, and teach them to dig there, and only there. It's easier than trying to teach them to stop altogether.

First of all, decide where it's okay for them to dig. It should be a spot with some soft soil or sand - something that's "fun" to dig. It doesn't have to be too big - maybe 4'x4' (although the bigger, the better - within reason). Now hide a couple of your dog's favorite toys, along with a few dog biscuits, in the spot (buried). Then take your dog there and start digging yourself, talking excitedly, and get the dog interested in what you're doing. "Discover" one of the things you've buried, and show the dog. Then find another. And another. It shouldn't take long for the dog to start digging for "treasure," too.

Hide things in that spot for a week or so, until you've really got the dog interested in digging there. Make sure you go out with him whenever he goes out, and if he digs in an inappropriate place, tell him "No!" and then take him to "his" spot and help him find a biscuit there. It's pretty much like how you'd housebreak a pup - don't let him do it where he's not supposed to, and encourage him to do it where you want him to. Before long, you'll have your dog "dig-broken."

Just to make sure he stays interested in his spot, occasionally hide a few dog biscuits to make him think there really might be something there.

Just another way to keep 'em busy and occupy those devious little minds!

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