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Jack Russell Digging Issues

Jack Russells are bred as working terriers. With a very recent heritage as hunting dogs, they're built to be fast, vocal, and above all, to love "going to ground" burrowing after a fox, or other game, which has retreated to its den.

With a lot of careful thought and effort going into the production of this hardy breed (fox-hunting was - and, covertly, still is - extremely popular among the upper class of England) it's hardly surprising that the terriers' love of digging remains one of their primary distinguishing traits to this very day.

Involuntary Landscaping - Are You Prepared?

If you like to spend your Sundays designing and shaping your flowerbeds for their aesthetic qualities, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise with the addition of a Jack Russell terrier to your household.

It is very difficult - not to mention unfair to the dog - to attempt to quash this love of tunneling and digging in a Jack Russell. If you're not prepared to allow him to indulge this harmless habit, then this breed is not for you.

Curbing the Habit

Of course, there's a difference between accepting your Jack Russell for what he is, and permitting him to run rampant in your garden. It is possible for flowers and terriers to coexist; you just need to put in some forethought and effort in order to sustain the two together.

  • Plant roses. No dog likes to contend with those prickly thorns - there are few more effective deterrents against digging.
  • Dog poop can be utilized, with extraordinary results. If your terrier has demonstrated a preference for digging in particular inconvenient or undesirable areas, you can use his own poop against him. Simply pick up some of his poop with a shovel or plastic bag, and place it in the hole that he likes to dig in. Cover it over with a little earth, and your dog will not dig there again. Of course, this may not be an appropriate means of preventing digging over the entire garden - unless you have no objection to spreading your whole lawn in poop.
  • Allocate him some digging areas of his own. Sacrifice a few yards of your garden for the greater good of your terrier. It can help to mark off the area with visual cues, using the medium that your terrier seems to prefer - sand, dirt, grass, etc.

No Digging, Period

If you're determined to have a Jack Russell in your house, and you're equally determined to prevent him from digging, you may be in for a challenging time. The only way to guarantee that he'll never be able to dig is to only allow him access to the yard when he's supervised. This means active supervision - there's no guaranteeing the outcome if you just glance casually up from your book every so often from the comfort of your deck chair.

This isn't to say that your dog is absolutely fixated upon digging; but terriers, and Jack Russells in particular, do enjoy it and were originally bred for it.

There are points both for and against the "no, not ever" digging policy:

  • Your dog will be safe. Jack Russells are known escape artists, and unless your fence is sunk at least several inches below the ground, he may be at risk of tunneling under and making his own great escape.
  • Jack Russells thrive on outdoor stimulation. To prevent him from enjoying time in the garden is frustrating for the dog, and potentially could signify the rapid destruction of your furniture and carpets from simple excess energy. If you're going to actively prevent him from digging, be prepared to spend at least an hour outside with him in the garden, plus walking and playing time.

Remember Who He Is

Jack Russells are terriers - the word literally means "go to ground". It's unlikely that you'll ever completely control your terrier's need to dig. This is something that you need to consider before making the purchase of a puppy or dog, in order to prevent a lot of upset and heartbreak if, a year or so down the track, you should decide that your garden is more important than your dog.

This is a traumatic failure for the dog and can mark the beginning of a sad downward spiral into "rescue shelters" (read: a small concrete cell where he'll wait, sometimes for years, for a new owner to take a shine to him).

Have a serious think about your priorities before getting a Jack Russell. Jack Russells have plenty of good qualities, but they're not for the faint-hearted! If you're ready to welcome one of these cute snappy wee dogs into your family, I highly suggest you Secrets to Dog Training's chapters on how to train your dog not to dig.

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