Are you considering getting a Rottweiler and are concerned if digging will be an issue to plan for? Or do you have a Rottweiler, and you’re wondering if its digging behavior is normal?
In short, Rottweilers are keen diggers, though perhaps not as much as some other breeds. They are happy to dig into your yard if you don’t take preventative measures.
The rest of this article will explain the reasons why Rottweilers dig in the first place, as well as ways to limit how much and how often these dogs dig up your yard.
Why Do Rottweilers Like to Dig?
Like most dogs, Rottweilers have an instinctive, almost primeval desire to dig holes. There are several reasons for this, including:
- Hiding Food
- Finding Small Prey
The American Kennel Club (AKC) explains that digging behavior in dogs can be traced back to their untamed ancestors, who needed to create a den, search for food, and bury and hide precious items like bones. On top of all of that, dogs may just get a kick out of digging as a form of amusement and recreation!
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Recognizing this digging instinct, humans in the past trained several dog breeds, such as terriers and similar hunting dogs, to dig in order to retrieve vermin or other small prey for their masters. While Rottweilers would typically have been exempt from this aspect of breeding, since they are less suited for hunting and better equipped for herding and cart-pulling, they still have that natural desire to dig.
Digging for Shelter
Even if you live in a relatively safe, temperate environment, your Rottweiler may feel a need to dig a hole in order to create a den or similar type of shelter against the elements.
Your dog may not be running with a wild pack, but he still wants to feel safe and protected against potential dangers in nature.
This problem can be further enhanced if your yard or other outdoor space lacks trees, enclosures, outcroppings, or other types of perceived natural protection.
Digging to Protect Food
In the wild, food is scarce and hard to come by, so your Rottweiler may be feeling a holdover instinct, even if you feed him three times a day.
According to famous dog trainer Cesar Millan, a digging dog may be afraid that the next meal won’t come around, so he decides to hide the food or treats that he already has for safekeeping, like a sort of “natural refrigerator.”
On top of that, your bored or attention-hungry dog may think that digging and hiding food or other objects is a sort of “game” that will get your attention.
None of this guarantees that your dog will actually remember where it stored its food, however, especially if your Rottweiler changes his mind about where to hide the food several times. If your dog can’t remember where he hid a bone, he just may decide to smell it out, leading to several new holes in your yard in the meantime.
Digging to Find New Food
While Rottweilers weren’t bred to dig for varmints the same way that terriers were, they still know how to search for underground prey. A Rottweiler would love to get his paws on a rat or other small prey, and he won’t mind digging up a lot of dirt to do so.
If your Rottweiler smells a rodent in your yard, he will probably waste little time putting his massive size and impressive strength to use tearing up dirt to find his new food source.
Digging for Fun
Apart from meeting basic survival needs, Rottweilers may dig holes as a form of entertainment. Humans may view digging exclusively in terms of hard work and heavy labor, but Rottweilers and other dogs often get a kick out of it. After all, how often do dogs get an entire field of fresh material that they can tear into and “go crazy” on?
Like most large dogs, Rottweilers need a lot of play, exercise, and active stimulation in order to work out their extra energy and sharpen their high level of brainpower. To that end, if you’re not around to play with, your Rottweiler may decide that a nice, inviting patch of dirt is the next best thing.
Similarly, a Rottweiler may start digging as a way of coping with separation anxiety, which can occur when the owner is gone at work throughout the day. Some dogs chew on shoes or furniture when they get anxious or afraid, and others may have trouble not going to the bathroom inside the house, but Rottweilers may destroy a piece of land instead.
Dr. Rebecca Sargisson’s veterinary research suggests that male dogs who were rescued and were separated from their litter less than two months after birth are the likeliest to develop separation anxiety. However, any dog can develop these symptoms, so keep an eye on how your Rottweiler behaves whenever you leave or come home from work or other outings to determine if separation anxiety is the problem.
Digging to Get Under the Fence
It always seems unbelievable that a dog would try to escape from its human masters, who provide it with every means of food, shelter, play, and comfort, but many exploration-prone breeds, including the physically capable Rottweiler, love to make such escape attempts.
If your Rottweiler is consistently making holes near your fence line, he may be planning a breakout. Or he may be trying to get at the neighbor’s cat, or the squirrel that keeps taunting him from the other side of the fence. Whatever the reason, he may see digging as the only way to “escape” and do the sorts of things that he wants to do.
Train Your Rottweiler to Dig Less
It’s all well and good to know that your Rottweiler digs, and even to know why he digs, but it’s perhaps most important to know how to stop him from digging. Fortunately, whether your dog is an adult or still in the puppy stage, you can train him not to tear up your yard so much.
The fundamentals of proper pet training revolve around positive reinforcement, which involves an owner or trainer demonstrating the desired action (such as “Sit” or “Shake”), issuing a verbal command, and rewarding the pet with a treat, words of praise, and affirmation, and even pats or belly rubs every time the dog does the desired action.
Over time, positive reinforcement teaches your dog to associate a command word or phrase with the desired outcome (i.e. treats and tummy rubs), so that your dog will follow the command without question.
For an issue as deep-rooted as digging, it may be a good idea to enlist the help of a professional dog trainer instead of just trying to solve the issue yourself. Be prepared to do whatever daily training work that your trainer assigns you in between sessions. If you put in consistent work, your Rottweiler will learn how to behave better.
Provide Shelter Outside for Your Rottweiler
If your Rottweiler’s urge to dig is based more on environmental factors than it is on separation anxiety or other behavioral issues, it may be appropriate to focus on improving the shelter appeal of your backyard.
For instance, if your Rottweiler is digging holes in order to find a place to cool off or seek shelter from adverse weather, you may be able to solve this problem by installing a doghouse outside. Either buy a Rottweiler-sized doghouse online or, if you’re handy enough, build a sufficient large shelter yourself!
Create Spaces of Outdoor Entertainment
Since boredom and the need for physical activity so often contribute to a dog’s digging behavior, installing alternative means of mental stimulation in your backyard or another outdoor area may be the perfect solution.
The possibilities are only as limited as your imagination and your available space. You could install a sandpit for your Rottweiler to dig in, with toys tucked beneath the sand to draw your dog’s attention. Or you could set up a small paddling pool in your yard for summertime splashes. While Rottweilers aren’t the strongest swimmers, they should be comfortable keeping cool in a short, shaded pool.
If you don’t have a lot of space for entertaining options, you may consider warding your dog away from digging holes by spritzing your yard with scent-based deterrents like strong-smelling spices or essential oils diluted with water
If these unpleasant scents aren’t enough, you can deter your dog further by changing the landscaping of your yard. Placing rocks, chicken wire, and netting are all common methods of blocking off an area of the yard so that your pooch can’t dig through.
Played-Out Rottweilers Dig Less
You may think you’re already giving your Rottweiler enough attention throughout the day, but if he isn’t getting at least 45-60 minutes of exercise daily, he isn’t getting enough.
If your dog is under-exercised and decides to get his extra energy out of his system through digging holes, the obvious solution is to make sure he has less excess energy in the first place. There are a few different ways you can do this.
If you only give your Rottweiler one walk per day, consider taking out for walks twice a day instead. Maybe you can play an extra game of tug of war while watching TV. Somehow, find a few extra minutes in the day to spend actively playing with your pooch, especially right before leaving the dog out in your yard when you’re leaving the house.
Rottweilers enjoy digging just as much as most dogs, for reasons ranging from a desire for shelter to plain old boredom. Thankfully, there are many different ways to limit your Rottweiler’s digging behavior, from training the dog to altering your backyard to increasing daily pet activity. With these options, a digging Rottweiler can someday be a thing of the past.