Digging around the fence and escaping!

by Martha
(Pasadena, Texas)

From Martha... I got a miniature male Schnauzer puppy not long ago and he is now one year old.

I have a real problem with him digging holes around the fence line, getting out, and being aggressive with the neighbors. I have gotten complaints.

How can I stop this?

Shannon Says...

Hi Martha,

Thanks for your question! I highly recommend getting a remote electronic training collar. Many people are afraid of these collars, however, it is due to a lack of education and understanding of the proper way to use them.

The biggest obstacle in correcting digging behavior is that the dog usually is outside alone when it occurs.

This can be a plus, though, as the best correction is when the dog does not know that it is coming from you. If you are not even in sight, the dog will believe that the correction is coming from the behavior of digging, making this behavior a lot less tempting.

I would not use an e-collar on a young puppy; however, as your dog is one year old, there isn't any issue here.

Digging - E-Collar Training

The most important step in e-collar training is to make it a positive experience - teach your dog to like the collar.

How? Don't even turn the collar on for the first two weeks. Start by putting the collar on him, and immediately giving him a treat; then take it off again. Do this a few times.

Over the first week, continue to repeat this, as well as put his e-collar on and then play his favorite game, or feed him. These exercises will make him associate the collar with positive things.

Start to increase the amount of time that he wears his new collar - at the end of the two weeks, he can be wearing the collar all day, as long as he sleeps "naked" at night (no collar at all for at least 8 hours). This will prevent any fur damage.

The collar should fit like a watch band; snug (as the two posts need to have skin contact), but you should be able to fit one finger between the collar and his neck.

If it doesn't move at all on his neck, it is too tight.

At the end of the two weeks, continue the positive association exercises that you've been doing (treat when the collar goes on, playing, feeding). However, you will now turn the collar on before putting it on him.

Go a couple more days doing this, but do not give him any corrections yet. You are desensitizing him to the beeping sound that the collar makes when it is turned on.

After these couple days, you can go ahead and put the collar on like usual (turning it on first), and going about your regular day. When you let him into the backyard on his own, have the remote with you and watch him from a window.

As soon as he begins to dig - anywhere in the backyard - press down and hold the button on the remote for 2 seconds. He may look confused for a second, and will either stop digging, or will try again. If he begins to dig again, repeat the correction.

This is a good time to talk about levels of correction. All e-collars are different, but most have a range of correction levels. I would only use the highest level of correction for aggression. If your collar has 4 levels of correction, I would use a level 2 for digging.

However, you know your own dog, and will be able to tell if he is feeling the correction or not. Your dog should NOT be yelping, but you should be able to see him twitch his ears or head a little, perhaps jump back as he is startled.

If it doesn't seem to be affecting him, move up one level, or check to make sure that the collar is fitted properly (the box needs to be located under his neck).

If your e-collar comes with the option of giving a "warning beep" before the correction, turn this off. If it beeps and then corrects, he will quickly associate the correction with the collar, not the digging!

Obviously, you do need to be there in order to correct this behavior, so only set him up for success. Don't let him out alone while you are gone, and only let him out alone when you are able to be alert and ready to correct.

On the same note, do not only put his e-collar on right before he goes outside and take it off when he comes in. Again, dogs are so smart! He will realize that the collar has something to do with the corrections. You can just put his collar on in the morning, or an hour or so before he goes outside and leave it on for another hour after he comes in.

If you are in the backyard with him and he digs, you can use the e-collar to correct him - but say nothing or he will know that the correction came from you! If the collar is not on, you can clap your hands loudly or say "Eh!" to startle him.

I hope this helps, and please don't hesitate to ask if you have any other questions!

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