Digging Dogs

There are two differences of opinion when it comes to digging dogs. One is that a dog is only doing what comes naturally, and we should permit him to show his rightful canine nature by granting him free reign over the yard and flowerbeds, and two, that flowerbeds are completely out of bounds to digging dogs.

My own point of view inclines to favor the middle ground. While a great deal of dogs do love to dig, and it's healthy for them to be allowed to indulge in this habit from time to time, there's a difference between permitting your dog to express himself, and letting him to run rampant in the yard.

I don't see why a dog should have to come at the price of a garden, and vice versa, flowers and dogs can coexist peacefully. If your dog's acquired a taste for digging, it'll just take a little time on your part to resolve the issue satisfactorily.

Firstly, if you have yet to acquire a dog and your concern for the destiny of your flower-beds is strictly hypothetical, consider the breed of dog that you'd like. If you've got your eye on a particular mixed-breed dog, what seems to be the most prominent?

The reason that I ask is merely because breed frequently plays a substantial role in any given dog's personal valuation of digging as a rewarding pursuit, terriers and Nordic breeds particularly (Huskies, Malamutes, some members of the Spitz family) appear to especially enjoy digging.

Naturally, each dog is most importantly an individual, and there's no guaranteed way to anticipate whether or not your chosen dog is going to be a burrower or not. But if you're attempting to reduce the likelihood of an involuntarily, landscaped garden as much as possible, I advise you stay away from all breeds of terrier (the name means "go to earth", after all) and the Nordic breeds, they are all digging dogs.

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Basic Reasons for Digging Dogs

In no specific order, here are a few of the basic reasons for digging dogs.

Lack of exercise.

Digging is a good way for a hyped-up, under-exercised dog to get rid of some of that nervous energy.


Bored dogs need something to occupy their mind, something rewarding and interesting, to help the time go by. Digging is frequently the ideal solution for a bored dog. It gives him a sense of purpose, and distracts him from an otherwise empty day.

The need for broader horizons.

Some dogs are just escape artists by nature, irrespective of how much exercise and attention they get, it's almost impossible to confine them. For a four legged Houdini, it's not the digging in itself that's the reward, it's the unknown that exists beyond the fenceline.

Separation anxiety.

To a dog that's seriously yearning for your companionship, digging under those confining walls stands for the most direct route to you. Separation anxiety is an unpleasant psychological condition, comparatively common among dogs, but since it's so complex, we won't be dealing with it in this article.

Many of the reasons contributing to digging dogs, suggest their own solutions. If your dog's not getting plenty of exercise (generally speaking, at least forty-five minutes' worth of vigorous walking per day), take him for more walks.

If he's bored, give him some toys and chews to play with while you are away, and tire him out before you leave so he passes most of the day snoozing. An escape-artist dog may need to be crated, or at any rate kept indoors where he's less likely to be able to break free.

For those dogs who just like to dig as a pastime in itself, though, here are a few basic tips for containing inappropriate digging as much as is reasonably possible.

Restrict your dog's access. This is the best thing you are able to do, if he's never in the yard without active supervision, there's no chance for him to dig.

Use natural deterrent. Nearly all dogs will shy away from the prospect of digging anywhere that there's dog poop. Even the ones who like to eat poop (a condition known as coprophagia) normally won't dig anywhere near it, it goes against their basic, fastidious dislike of soiling their coat and paws.

Use nature's own wiles. If the digging is annoying you because it's disturbing the more fragile blooms in your garden, plant sturdier blossoms, preferably those with deep roots and thorny defenses. Roses are ideal.

A more time-consuming, but effective way of dealing with the issue is to roll up the first inch or two of turf in your yard, and lay down chicken-wire underneath it. Your dog will not know it's there until he's had a couple of attempts at digging, but once he's convinced himself that it's pointless (which won't take long), he'll never dig in that yard again.

Live with your dog's demand for an outlet and give him a place to dig

If your dog is set on burrowing your yard into a grassless, lunar landscape, but you're every bit determined to forbid this from occurring at any expense, please take a moment to consider before commencing a grueling and time-consuming preventative strategy.

Setting yourself the goal of eliminating all digging behavior, is pretty unrealistic, it's not fair on you (because, actually, you're setting yourself up for failure), and it's not really fair on your poor dog either. It's just part of his personality, and he needs at least some chance to convey that.

But a lawn and a dog don't have to be mutually exclusive. The best thing for you to do in this case is simply to redirect his digging energy.

You can do this by apportioning him an region where he's permitted to dig as much as he wants. Once this area has been established, you can make it clear that there's to be absolutely no digging in the rest of the yard, and you can impose your principles with a clear conscience, since you know your dog now has his own little corner of the world to dig in when he chooses.

But what if you don't have a "spare corner" of the yard? That's OK too, invest in a sandbox, which you can position anywhere in the garden.

You can even make one yourself (the deeper, the better, obviously). Fill it with a mixture of sand and earth, and put some leaves or grass on top if you like, get your dog interested in it by having a scratch around yourself, until he gets the idea.

Make certain the boundaries are well-defined

To make it clear to him that the sandbox is OK but that everywhere else is a no-dig zone, pass a little time monitoring him. When he starts to dig in the box you can encourage this by shallowly burying a couple of choice marrowbones in there, praise him energetically, and if he begins digging anywhere else, chastise him at once with a "No!".

Then, redirect him instantly to the sandbox, and give him praise when digging recommences.

To really clarify the example, give him a treat when digging gets underway in the sandbox, the close proximity between the chastisement for digging out of the sandbox and praise for digging in the sandbox will guarantee that your point hits home.

For more information on acknowledging and treating problematic behaviors like digging dogs, chewing, barking, and aggression, check out Secrets to Dog Training . It's a detailed how-to manual for the responsible owner, and is jammed with all the information you'll need for raising a healthy, happy, well-adjusted dog, from problem behaviors to dog psychology to obedience work, Secrets to Dog Training has it covered.

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