No one wants to go outside to enjoy a nice
glass of iced tea on the back porch, only to find that Rover
has excavated five new spots in the garden, flinging dirt
and formerly beautiful flowers all over the lawn and creating
hazards for the unwary. In the wild, dogs often dig to make
a cool or warm place to shelter in. Domestic dogs who dig
often do it out of boredom, because they are confined to the
back yard with no entertainment offered, and must find ways
to entertain themselves. When dogs are forced to entertain
themselves, they almost always aggravate the humans; after
all, dogs cant read, operate a remote control, or go
down to the coffee house to chat with their friends. Instead,
dogs chew, bark, or dig for recreation.
If the dog is confined outside unsupervised
for more than just a few minutes, she might be digging to
provide a warming den or cooling pit. She should be provided
with a shelter, even if she is not an outside
dog, if she will be outside by herself for any significant
period of time.
The most likely reason for digging, though, is boredom. The
easiest solution is to bring the dog inside whenever she cannot
be supervised outside (management), and to provide appropriate
entertainment for her (environmental enrichment). The best
entertainment is a variety of stuffed chew toys for her to
gnaw on until she gets tired and naps for the day. Most dogs
who are confined outside when their owners are away cant
be left inside because they cant be trusted either
because they soil the house, or because they chew on everything
in sight, or both.
The solution to most digging problems, then, is house training
and chew toy training. If the dog is house trained, she can
be trusted to stay indoors without leaving a very unpleasant
surprise for her owners when they arrive home. If she is
chew toy trained, she will seek out appropriate things to
chew when she is bored: so she can be trusted inside, and
she can entertain herself in an appropriate way.
Voila! The garden is inaccessible (except when the dogs
owner is outside playing with him, or idly scratching his
head), the dog is comfortable, and he has a variety of fun
and approved toys to amuse himself with. If the dog must be
left outside for reasons other than house training or chewing
issues, she should be provided with a comfortable den, a dog
run in which she has plenty of room to romp about, and a variety
of toys, many of them stuffed chew toys, so that she can amuse
herself by chewing on the approved toys rather than by digging.
Gardens, flowerbeds, and other areas the owner wishes to
protect should be fenced off.
Its Still Not Working
For dogs who still dig whenever they get
the chance, despite having a comfortable place to rest and
plenty of approved and amusing toys to play with, the owner
might want to consider a digging pit. This is a place in the
yard that she decides will be the appropriate, and the only
appropriate, place to dig.
First, select a place in the yard that the dog may dig in.
Stock that place with lots of delicious and exciting things
to find like liver treats, some kibble, squeaky toys,
stuffed chew toys, maybe even some meaty bones. At first,
put some smelly things near the top, or even show the dog
that youre putting the prize in. Once the dog learns
that this particular area is chock full of great prizes, he
will much rather dig there than anywhere else.
You must spend some time outside at first showing your dog
the rules of the yard. Help her to get acquainted with the
digging pit, and gently but firmly redirect her to the digging
pit if she starts to dig elsewhere.
Once the dog learns that you would like him to dig in this
one particular spot, and that this spot is the most exciting
place to dig (here one finds liver treats and stuffed chew
toys; elsewhere in the yard one is lucky to find a worm or
a rock), he will direct himself to the digging pit whenever
he gets the urge to go excavating.
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