For all the love, companionship, and joy that dogs bring to our lives, there are also a few minor disruptions that sometimes come along for the ride. One of the most common negative behaviors that dogs can exhibit is digging. Digging can not only disturb your bed of prize-winning zinnias, it can also eat away at the good relationship you have with your dog. Here are some surefire pro tips on ways you can minimize or redirect your dog's digging behavior.
- Keep them active and entertained. In most cases, digging results from a bored, cooped-up dog trying to get out, see the world, and blow off some steam. Spend some quality time with your dog walking, playing fetch, or making a trip to a dog-friendly park. A tired dog is a dog who's less likely to engage in behaviors you don't want. He'll love you for the extra time and attention, and you'll not only deepen the bond, you'll reduce his drive to burrow under the fence and see what's on the other side. Keep time spent alone in the yard to minimum, and supervise it directly when you can. Plan more indoor time and try to stay outside with them to help with training and redirecting their exploring to only areas you approve of.
- Train the bad behavior away. Dogs are pack animals and they look to you for leadership and training. Like kids, most dogs want to do right, and will if they're given the right training. Positive reinforcement (such as a treat, verbal praise, or time with a favorite toy) when they spend time in the right part of the yard coupled with a correction (such as a static correction or verbal warning) can help drive home the message that certain parts of the yard are off-limits and others are OK.
- Training classes and tools can both be valuable allies in training and using positive reinforcement. A dog who's well-trained and has plenty of distractions is far less likely to dig up your yard or engage in other behaviors you don't want. Remember that any punishment delivered after the fact when digging is discovered won't be effective, and may work against what you're trying to accomplish. Your dog will only become confused and may even become afraid of you, and inappropriate punishment may contribute to anxiety that can lead to digging in the first place.
- Gimme shelter. Sometimes your dog will dig a hole or burrow to create a cool spot to lie in. Give them less reason to dig by providing a shady spot, kennel, or dog house for them to escape the elements and beat the heat. And when the weather gets warm, don't forget to provide plenty of fresh water in addition to shade.
- Give it up. If your dog just won't stop digging in one area of your garden, let him have it! Plan to make that the "dog garden." Leave it as an open dirt patch without any flowers. Make it a place your dog can dig in to his heart's content. Place a water bowl nearby and bury his favorite toy in the dirt patch to encourage your dog to use only that spot.
- Provide a barrier. Wireless or physical fencing may be part of the solution. If you've tried positive reinforcement, remedies for a bored dog, and professional help, it may be time to separate your dog from the areas that he's digging in. For certain breeds like terriers, the instinct to dig has been actually bred into them to rid farms of pests, and no measure of training can get it back out. A fence or barrier isn't the first step, but it's needed in some cases. This could be your chance to build your own herb garden or fairy garden!
With the right mix of proper training, boredom-busting activity, and a little patience on your part, most dogs will learn not to dig. Feel free to share your successes and tips for preventing doggy digging in the comments section, and good luck keeping the zinnias looking great!