How many of you dig your dogs but don’t dig it when they dig?  It’s spring – almost summer – and your flowers are blooming, your vegetable garden is planted. And your dog is thrilled to have so many new, fun places to dig up!  Some dogs simply love to dig and could care less about how much time and tenderness you spent creating your beautiful oasis.

There can be several reasons why dogs dig. One primary reason is genetic. Certain breeds such as Dachshunds were bred to dig. Believe it or not, humans actually created this dog for the purpose of finding critters way, way back when. And when some people get this kind of breed and the dog digs up their yard, they get mad. DUH!  It’s what the dog is instinctively supposed to do.

 “Just doing my job, mom!” the dog says when scolded.

And even if the dog was not bred to dig, many dogs are curious creatures. With the excellent smelling abilities of their noses, some dogs like to dig to find out what’s happening down there. My first Golden Retriever, Caper, dug a hole in the drywall of our kitchen. To this day, I still wonder what she was going after. Mice?  Old chicken bones left by the builder? Yeah, could be. 

And the two most prevalent reasons why dogs dig: lack of exercise and boredom. So many of our poor doggies live their lives according to our rules and are forced to conform to our schedules and lifestyles. For dogs, that can translate into lying around the house waiting for us to come home. Or for some dogs, it could mean being put out in the yard all day with no one to play with. Without the proper outlet for their energies, trouble is bound to follow.

And finally, many dogs dig under trees or bushes in order to find a cool place to lie, and it’s no wonder on days like these when the temperatures are in the 90’s.  (I hope that you’re bringing your dogs inside when it’s this hot!)

There are solutions to the digging problem, and many of you may not want to hear them. First of all, a tired dog is less likely to get into mischief. I recommend that you walk your dog at least once a day. The length of time depends upon your dog and the outside temperature. If your dog is young and healthy, as much as an hour or two of exercise may be necessary. My boy, Gizzy, needed several hours of daily exercise when he was younger.  But if your dog is older or not in the best of health, or if you have a brachycephalic breed (Pugs, Bulldogs, Boxers, etc.), limit the exercise time. Regardless, all dogs need time to explore their worlds. I wrote an article several years ago, Mind, Body Spirit Fitness for Dogs, that addresses a dog’s need to get out.

In addition to physical exercise, your digging dog needs to do something that he digs – other than digging, that is. If you have a dog who was bred to work (collies, shepherds, retrievers, spaniels, pointers), he needs to have an outlet for this instinct. You don’t need to buy sheep and have your dog corral them! But some training time every day gives your dog something to focus on that uses his brain. Brain work is just as tiring as physical exercise.

Next, if you want to stop your dog from digging, management of his environment is key. First, start by placing a barrier around the area where your dog likes to dig. Prevention works wonders!  If that works, great. If not, then you will have to do some training. As difficult as this may be for some people, dogs require guidance to do the right thing. I know, I know, you just like to open the door and allow your dog to go about his business.  But if his business is digging your yard, he must be watched and trained.

Catching your dog in the act of digging may be the only way to stop the behavior. If you see him beginning to dig, do not scold him. (Remember, if you are a regular reader of my blog, when you call attention to a behavior, it rewards the behavior.) Instead, call your dog to you and when he comes, praise him lavishly. Get a toy or a treat and motivate him to do something else that may be more fun than digging. Move away from the area where your dog was digging and either play with him or do some training. Repeat this every time your dog attempts to dig.

One final way to stop you dog from digging – keep him on a long leash. You can quickly interrupt the behavior and redirect your dog.

Sorry, sometimes there just aren’t easy and convenient ways to correct inappropriate behavior! Our dogs like to do what comes naturally and makes them happy, and often the behaviors are in conflict with living in a human world. They need to be kindly and compassionately shown what we expect of them. We owe it to the ones we dig!