The dirt on dogs who dig
Monday June 29th, 2009
If your lawn or yard looks like a buried treasure hunt, your dog's digging problem is probably out of control. Cementing in the entire yard is one solution, but there are other options.
The dirt on digging
Different breeds dig for different reasons, so before looking for solutions, it's important to establish why your dog digs. Heavy-coated spitz-type dogs, such as Huskies and Chow Chows, dig during hot weather to create pits to help them stay cool. Earth dogs--those bred to dig tunnels to get at their prey, such as short-legged Terriers and Dachshunds--are following their instincts to find gophers, moles, or other burrowing rodents. Scent hounds (such as Beagles, Bassets, and Bloodhounds) and unneutered males of any breed often dig under fences to get at small game (squirrels, for instance), food, or a female dog in heat. And juvenile dogs (age six to 18 months) may dig because they're full of youthful high spirits and have nothing else to do. The common trait for all of these breeds is that they dig because they find it gratifying. When left alone outside, dogs they have the motivation, means, and the chance to dig, and they take advantage of it!
Boredom is a common culprit. When there's nothing to hold your dog's attention, he may fill his time by digging up the yard. Why? For the same reason people climb mountains: "Because it's there!" It fills the void when he's sitting around outside, waiting for you to return. Boredom often afflicts adolescent dogs, but it can happen at any age. Sometimes lack of socialization can trigger this behavior.
There are two choices available to the frustrated owner: Take away the reasons to dig or redirect the digging to an acceptable place. If your overheated husky is digging cooling pits, keep him inside with the air conditioning on during hot days, or fill a small kiddie pool with cool water for him. If your terrier is tearing up your lawn looking for gophers, bring in a professional to get rid of them. And if your unneutered male dog is digging under the fence to hunt for the ladies, a "snip" trip to the vet is overdue. Neutered males lose often their urge to leave home in search of adventure.
Boredom can be overcome by keeping your dog active both mentally and physically. Training your dog how to behave when he's alone can help, but keep him indoors until he demonstrates he's okay outside. When you both are outside, play, go through training commands, and do other activities together. Hiding treats in the yard can be a fun game for your dog. Be sure to go for a walk together when you get home. Socialize your dog by getting together with others in the neighborhood at a dog park or on walks. When your dog is kept busy and mentally stimulated, he'll be less likely to turn to digging.
You can discourage digging along your fence line using chicken wire. You will need a length of five-foot wide wire as long as your fence line. Dig a trench, one-half to one foot deep and three feet wide at the fence line. Attach the wire to the fence about a foot up from the bottom rail. Bury the remaining wire in the trench. When your dog digs down to the wire, he should stop.
Digging's what I do!
There are some dogs who will continue to dig no matter what you do to stop it. Earth dogs, for example, have an overwhelming urge to dig that is bred into them. A solution for your yard and your dog is something called a digging pit, a specific area where he can satisfy his urges to his heart's content.
You can build a digging pit yourself in less time than it takes to mow your lawn. Survey your yard and pick a spot where it would be okay for your dog to dig. Place stones or brick around the area to be used as a sight cue for training. Turn over the soil a bit, and mix in some sand to keep it loose and to improve drainage. For training, start by burying a toy, chew, or treat to induce him to dig in the pit. Bring your dog outside and persuade him to dig in the pit. Stay with him the next few times you go out to be sure he continues to dig where you want him to, using praise and rewards when he does it right. Correct and direct him to the digging pit if he tries to dig anywhere else. Keep your pit full, and add a toy or chew to keep him interested.
Whether a digging pit, training and re-directing, or fence guards help curtail your pooch's digging ways, your family and yard will be happier for it.
Source: Adapted from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
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