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Border Collies are among the most intelligent dogs in the world, but if they’re not properly stimulated, they can turn their energy to problem behaviors such as digging. And with any luck, we’ll be able to help you and your digging Border Collie.

Whether it is digging in your house or garden, Border Collie digging is not only natural, it’s common. However, that doesn’t mean that we want our dog destroying our flower beds or our new carpet. So what can we do to stop our Border Collie digging?

Instead of putting a plaster on the problem, it’s always best to look at the root cause.

Why is my Border Collie digging?

Digging is a natural behavior for all dogs whose ancestors needed to dig to hide food, flush prey out of underground burrows, or dig dens. For Border Collies, specifically, digging can happen for a variety of reasons. These include:

     Boredom and frustration

     Anxiety

     To get at food lodged in furniture or at moles and other critters underground

     Or to escape an area they don’t want to be in.

It’s important to realize that in most cases, digging is self-rewarding.

So, once it starts, it’s pretty challenging to stop. For instance, if a dog manages to escape a pen by digging, the behavior is automatically rewarded. After all, they achieved their objective.

Likewise, if digging helps relieve some pent-up energy, frustration, or anxiety, the behavior is also rewarding. And since you usually aren’t there to stop the digging while it’s happening, they can cement the behavior all by themselves.

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Just like how many of us may reach for a bar of chocolate when we are frustrated, bored, or upset, Border Collies tend to come up with their own ways of dealing with their emotions. Not all of them are that great for us. 

Collies are highly energetic and intelligent. So, without a doubt, one of the leading causes of unwanted behaviors in Collies is always a lack of mental stimulation and physical exercise.

How to stop a Border Collie from digging holes

The first step to stopping a BC from digging holes is to check for environmental factors. Aspects like moles in the garden might be causing the digging, and in this case, having the moles removed might fix the problem.

You can also control the situation by blocking that part of the yard off so that the dog can’t reach the little underground critters.

However, in most cases where digging has become problematic, the root cause is always too little mental and physical stimulation.

Simply by upping the amount of time your Border Collie plays fetch, goes running or hiking, or takes part in a sport such as agility, should reduce most unwanted behaviors like digging almost entirely.

This includes other unwanted behaviors such as Border Collie barking and or collies that won’t calm down.

However, if you are giving your Border Collie enough exercise and stimulation, and they are still digging, then we will have to look at some behavioral modification techniques.

But your first port of call is giving your Border Collie enough exercise, and luckily we have a complete guide on exercising your Border Collie here.

A border collie is digging in the sand

Behavioral techniques to stop your Border Collie Digging

Here is a list of things you can do to reduce or eradicate problem digging:

1.  Provide an appropriate digging space

Since digging is a natural behavior, it can help to provide an appropriate place for your Border Collie to dig.

This can mean filling up a kiddie swimming pool with play sand and hiding treats and goodies in the sand to encourage your BC to dig where you want them to.

If your dog moves away to dig somewhere else, simply redirect them to the pool or other container so that they learn that this is the appropriate spot to dig.

However, note that this technique will need quite a bit of supervision until you can trust your BC to know where to dig. Because if you aren’t there, your Border Collie may exhaust all the fun from the sandpit you provided and go back to digging where they want.

If this is allowed to happen, it will undermine all your excellent work and leave you feeling discouraged and frustrated.

2.  Set your dog up for success

Part of the difficulty in stopping digging is that your Border Collie most likely does it while you aren’t there to correct them. Since you will rarely be able to stop the behavior in real-time, help them by preventing it.

This means that if you leave the house and your Border Collie tends to dig while you’re gone, stop allowing them access to the yard when you are gone.

While this is only a management tool, rather than something that directly addresses the root of the problem, it can help avoid any negative feelings towards your dog.

Therefore, if you leave the house for a short time, make sure your dog is secured somewhere that they cannot dig, such as their crate or a playpen.

Make sure to leave them with plenty of chew toys and puzzle toys to keep them occupied and we think our puzzle toy is just about the best you can get for a smart BC. Otherwise, you will only make the problem of boredom and excess energy worse.

3.  Supervise, mark the behavior, then redirect

When you are at home and have the time to address this issue, allow your Border Collie into the yard and wait until they begin digging.

When they do, mark the behavior with a firm “no.” Be careful not to shout at, intimidate, or punish the dog. The marker is only to interrupt the behavior.

When you have interrupted the digging, quickly move to redirect your dog. You can do this with a bit of obedience training, a game of fetch, or any other activity that your Border Collie will enjoy, and that constitutes wanted behavior.

    4. Use routine and structure

An excellent way to prevent your Border Collie from digging and phase out the unwanted behavior is to make sure they have a consistent daily routine. This routine shouldn’t allow for time to get bored or frustrated.

A good routine should include scheduled exercise, play, and training time, and time to settle in the crate with a chew toy or on a mat when place training.  You can use a good-quality puzzle toy to keep them occupied during their downtime.

To make it easier, you can get the whole family involved to make sure your Border Collie has adequate mental and physical stimulation. 

This means somebody could be responsible for walking your puppy in the morning, while somebody else plays a game of fetch with them at lunchtime.

A third person or the whole family can be involved in a second walk, some more playtime, and a little obedience training in the evenings.

If you live alone with your Border Collie and need to leave for long stretches to go to work, then consider hiring a pet sitter or making use of doggy daycare services so that they have something to do in the hours while you are away.

How to stop your Border Collie digging the carpet

Just like digging in the yard, your Border Collie may be digging inside the house out of boredom, frustration, anxiety, or just too much pent-up energy.

Addressing the root causes is the first step in stopping this unwanted behavior. Suppose your puppy is digging from separation anxiety. In that case, one needs to address this by teaching them how to self-regulate without you.

This means addressing problems of hyper-attachment and pent-up energy. Once again, make sure your Border Collie is getting enough time with you to exercise and use their brains. 

At the same time, implement place training to teach them that they don’t need to be glued to you every second.

This addresses the problem of hyper-attachment, a major cause of separation anxiety. On the same note, be sure not to make a fuss when you leave or come home so that the act of going and coming is not a source of over-excitement for your puppy.

As with the yard, if a Border Collie digs up the carpet, it will need both management and behavior modification.

     Therefore, first, make sure to seal your dog off from the area that they damage, whether it’s with a crate or by using a baby gate that keeps them in a place that is non carpeted.

     Make sure you up the amount of mental stimulation and physical activity your dog gets so that they have less energy to expend on unwanted behaviors.

     Implement a consistent routine that makes time for training, exercise, playing, and time to settle to either sleep or chew on the toy.

     When supervised, allow them into the carpeted area. If they start to dig, firmly but quietly interrupt the behavior with a cue and redirect them to appropriate behavior.

A final word

Digging is a perfectly natural behavior for a Border Collie, even if it isn’t a wanted one. Luckily, most of the time, digging is pretty easily fixed. Managing their environment, allowing them an appropriate place to dig, and using exercise and routine will significantly reduce the behavior.

Furthermore, always be sure to mark the digging when you catch them in the act, and quickly use positive reinforcement to encourage the behavior you do want.

If your dog is digging all of a sudden, you might want to check out this post: https://petdogsworld.com/why-is-my-dog-digging-holes-all-of-a-sudden/