Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why Does My Dog Dig?

This is one question that nearly every single one of my clients has asked me.  Digging, for people, seems pointless.  Not only is it dirty, it leaves an unsightly mess of the yard.  After our dogs are done digging, of course, they're filthy and so is the house if you allow them inside.  For dogs, however, digging is great fun. Not only is it dirty, it leaves an unsightly mess of the yard. :)

Yes, it may seem your dog is digging simply to annoy you and because making a mess is fun.  The truth, however can be much more complicated.  So what does cause your dog to dig?

Avoiding Climate Conditions
Especially if you live in a particularly warm climate, or if your dog is prone to overheating, this could very well be the cause.  As your dog digs deeper the ground gets cooler.  A lot of times you will find these holes under decks, under bushes, or in flower beds.  It's not only cooler there, it's also a shelter from the sun! 

Chasing All Those Pesky Rodents
This is usually true of dogs that were bred to hunt.  I've seen this behavior a lot in labs and hounds, but it's certainly not limited to certain breeds.  All dogs have a prey drive (the instinct to chase, catch and kill).  If your dog is digging trenches through the yard, he/she is probably searching for prey.

Mom!  I'm Bored!  Do You Want to Play??
Just like when you used to make mud pies as a child, your dog just wants to have a little fun.  This commonly happens when your dog is particularly bored or wants your attention.  Throwing dirt around can be extremely fun.

The problem with digging, however, is that you're rarely there to stop it.  If your dog is bored, he's going to come to you for play time before he goes to dig.  If there's something to chase, you're probably more interesting, and if he's hot, he'll ask to come inside.  So what can you do when you're not even there?  Lots!

First, review the major causes of digging and try to figure out what is motivating your dog.

Avoiding Climate Conditions

This is the easiest fix.  Help your dog to cool off!  Provide plenty of shade and a cool place to rest.  Investing in a small doggy pool is not a bad idea either!

Chasing All Those Pesky Rodents
This one is going to take a little time.  The best thing to do first is to try to eliminate the rodents.  I know.  That is much easier said than done (especially if you life in the country).  That's where keeping your dog interested in something else may be easier.  (See below for more information.)

Mom!  I'm Bored! Do You Want to Play??

The best thing here is to make sure your dog is NOT bored.  A method that may help both boredom and prey-driven dogs is to actually give your dog an area to dig.  I know, it seems counter -intuitive but it works.  I often recommend getting a sandbox for your dog (filling it with sand will help distinguish the difference between ok digging and not ok digging).  Bury a few extremely fun treats in the sand.  You can hide toys or food, just make sure it's something your dog wants.  Then, spend a little time encouraging your dog to dig there.  Show him it is ok by digging there yourself.  If you do catch him digging in the sand on his own, praise him.  Let him know that digging where YOU deem appropriate is super-duper fun, but digging anywhere else is kind of a drag. 

The Importance of Exercise
If your dog is bored or has energy to chase things, he/she is most likely not getting enough exercise.  I highly recommend taking your dog on daily walks (30 minutes minimum) and spending plenty of time playing with your dog.  Keep in mind that if you are exercising your dog then your dog is not the only one reaping health benefits.  Remember, a tired dog is a happy dog and a tired, happy dog won't dig! 

1 comment:

  1. I love the sandbox idea! I'm going to try it. Thanks!