Two-year-old Working Cocker Dixie is constantly on the go.

As the day wears on, she gets worse.

It manifests itself in what I call ‘scrabbling’ and they call ‘dobbing’. She paddles and scratches with her front paws on people, on the floor, on the curtain – and on her bed. She paces.

They had interpreted this as wanting attention – and she does it most on the lady. This possibly is because the lady is the most animated member of the family. It’s undoubtedly to do with arousal.

From my online consultation questions, finding out as much as I could about Dixie, I deduced it was kind of digging. It happens to be she digs standing high on her back legs, as well as digging downwards

The digging instinct

This digging instinct often happens when the dog is finding it hard to settle. There are other reasons like preparing the sleeping place.

My own Cocker Spaniel Pickle may dig at the end of the day, before he settles. It’s like one last blast of excitement before he settles and the more tired he is the more he may do it.

I believe this is the case with Dixie. Because her arousal levels are so high, building up during the day, it becomes relentless.

Quite naturally they tell her to stop, or ‘Tch Tch’. This may interrupt her but does nothing to get to the root cause and therefore change the behaviour.

The excitement starts first thing in the morning.

They let her and their other dog out into the garden and after that they prepare her food. She goes mental with excitement. She can hardly contain herself.

This is where I give them my first tip – we need to find as many ways as possible to calm her down. Each little thing will add up.  I suggest the lady prepares the dogs’ next meal as soon as they have finished eating. Then they can put the food straight down and save a lot of build-up.

A doggy MOT

We talked through Dixie’s daily life, finding several areas where they can reduce her arousal levels

They may put her in her crate when the digging gets too much as she rarely self-settles, especially when the lady is in the room. I suggest they try the same idea by putting her on lead at certain times. Particularly when she’s going wild when someone comes to the house.

Dixie’s relentless scrabbling will now be a habit. It’s something ‘she does’ to relieve herself – to redirect onto something she has some control over. 

Clicking for calm

We discussed how clicker technique may help, either with a clicker or the word ‘Yes’.

Firstly it will get Dixie’s brain working. Hyper-arousal, digging and thinking don’t go together. Secondly, it will show her the desired alternative behaviour.

So, if she’s on her back legs ‘scrabbling’ or digging on the lady, the lady will wait. No more ‘Tch Tch’. As soon as Dixie’s feet go back down the lady will mark that moment and then feed her. She can gradually increase the duration of staying back down as well as approaching but not jumping up at all.

Now they can mark and reward any calm actions. Dixie will learn what she CAN do. She will begin to offer behaviours like sitting, lying down or just standing still. Or going to fetch a toy. Anything that isn’t air-digging/scrabbling or digging.

One other little thing I have found with an over-active dog. If she settles down next to you try not touching her. Hands off. She will settle for longer. One little stroke can start her off again.

For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Dixie. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. See here for details or to book a call.