Digging is a common complaint for dog owners. The problem is, digging comes very natural for many dogs. As a matter of fact terriers are named for Terra, as in Latin for “earth.” They are literally called “earth dogs” — and it’s not because they are environmentally friendly. Digging is frequently a “hard-wired” behavior in dogs and stopping it is literally trying to stop a dog’s natural tendencies. So….
Instead of Fighting the Instinct to Dig, Harness It!
One of the most effective ways to deal with instinctual dog behavior like digging is to give a dog a way to do it that is not disruptive. My favorite is to set up a “digging pit” somewhere and then convince the dog that digging there is more rewarding than around the petunias.
Either purchase a sandbox or dig a hole and fill it with sand. (Sand is a lot easier to clean up than soil.) If you decide to go with a hole, it may be helpful to line it with plastic sheeting. Then, hide some toys in the sand and show your dog his new place to dig!
Start out making the hidden goodies easy to find and then work your way up to making it more and more difficult. Make it a game, and be sure to spend some time with your dog. Which is a nice segway to the next point…..
Idle Paws are the Devil’s Digger!
In detective fiction we frequently read or hear about “motive and opportunity.” We covered motive for digging, now you need to deal with the opportunity! Are you leaving a “known offender” alone in your yard? Leaving your dog alone outside is not a good idea for a lot of reasons, but leaving a bonafide digger alone is just asking for it.
Left to their own devices, dogs may not choose the recreation activities we would prefer. Trying playing with your dog instead of leaving him alone. Trying using toys and games to exercise his mind and redirect his desire to dig.
Training Can Help
Even when you are with your dog, his eyes may wander over to those petunias. This is a prime opportunity to train him to leave things alone on cue. That, along with some work on impulse control, will make it easier to redirect your dog’s attention to more productive pursuits.
Digging can be a big nuisance, but it’s not an insurmountable problem. Try these steps and remember: enjoy your time with your dog. That why’s you got him!