Spring is upon us and with the disappearance of winter comes the emergence of long buried smells, insects, and new growth. Most dogs love this time of year for exploring, sniffing, and tearing up the earth. Digging can be a frustrating behaviour for dog owners and one that many dogs love to do! Much like chewing, it is a natural behaviour for dogs and a great stress relief for them. There are many reasons why a dog may dig – it could be because they are bored or feeling anxiety, trying to escape, or even to cool down.
We can address this problem a variety of ways, through deterrents or redirecting them to more appropriate behaviours. When teaching the dog not to dig, they must be supervised. If you want your dog outside and not supervised, you will need to have a kennel or run that has a concrete/asphalt floor, or some type of material that they cannot dig and cause damage to.
In most cases, the dog digs because he is bored. Try to ensure your dog has a variety of toys to play with and ensure he is getting adequate physical and mental exercise. Remember that backyard playtime is not appropriate exercise – dogs need to be walked! If your dog has been digging, avoid any type of physical punishment (such as hitting with a rolled up newspaper, hard yanking on the collar or verbal attacks) as these can often cause additional problems.
If your dog has a favorite digging spot, such as your flower beds, you can make the area less fun for the dog. You can try burying chicken wire just below the surface, or burying their own feces in the holes as some dogs do not like digging and finding that! If possible, you can also block access to any areas they are more prone to dig at.
One of the best options for a chronic digger is to provide a spot where your dog is allowed to dig. Create an area with soft soil, sand, or a mix of it. Make sure this area is defined and marked to separate it from the rest of the yard. Bury either your dog’s toys or some food, just lightly covered to start. You can then begin burying things deeper to keep your dog interested and to continue to dig there. Praise your dog while they are digging in their correct spot and always redirect them to it if they start to dig elsewhere. You need to ensure you are always supervising your dog until they understand where they can and cannot dig. With practice and consistency, soon your spring flowers will be blooming beautifully and your dog will have a great sandbox all his own to enjoy!