Friday, January 30, 2015

Hot DIGgity Dog

Does your dog dig? Have you ever stopped to think why they dig diggin' so much? We see it as destructive behavior for the most part, especially when they are digging in our beautiful flowerbeds digging a hole in your carefully maintained lawn. But there are actually several good reasons for the digging (at least good reasons in their opinion)

1. To make a bed - especially in the hot weather days - it is much cooler to lay in the nice fresh dirt. 
2. To store food - literally - that is why dogs bury bones - they never forget where they bury it.
3.Territorial - digging a den to protect themselves or their babies, covering up their scent when they potty and scratching the ground will spread their scent.
4. Looking for prey - they want to root out den-dwelling animals such as badgers, moles and foxes. (these are the terrier type) 
5. Escape
6. Boredom - just plain ole boredom. It is a form of entertainment for them.
7. Breed specific trait

Some breeds are actually trained to dig. That is part of the work they do. For instance they will dig in an area when they are responding to an odor consistent with narcotic scent. 

So - how do you stop digging if it is unwanted - as in your beautiful landscaped yard?

First, look for signs of burrowing animals in your backyard and make sure that isn't a problem they are trying to help you with.

During hot weather - make sure they have plenty of shady areas to get out of the heat, especially if they are laying in the holes they did. If they are outside all the time then make sure they always have plenty of fresh water and perhaps a dog house to get out of the sun.

Make sure you have plenty of toys for them to entertain themselves with - but also play with them whenever you get the chance. Dogs should never be left outside alone for long periods of time. They get lonely, bored and depressed. Young dogs especially have to have an outlet for all the extra energy. 

If your dog is digging in order to escape - then the best solution is to make that impossible. Chicken wire around the base of the fence, railroad ties and rebar is another option, large rocks along the fence line is also workable.

DON'T punish them after the fact. You are wasting your breath. All you will do is make them fearful and anxious and could make the digging even worse. DON'T use any chemicals or other harmful agents in or around the hole. This could lead to a huge vet bill. 

Our American Bulldog, Opie, wanted to be a digger when we first got him and he was just a little pup. Fortunately we were always with him when we took him outside so we were able to correct him verbally and it worked for him. His digging was instinctive because it is a bulldog trait. But we take him to the dog park where they have a sandbox and he gets to dig til he can dig no more. He has learned that is the appropriate place for digging and he will usually head right to the sandbox for a little bit of play digging each time.

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