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I recently did a Q&A day at All The Best Pet Care in Lake City Way and I was surprised that over half the people I talked to wanted to know how to stop their dog from digging up the yard. If you go online or ask around you will hear the same tired advice which may or may not be realistic or safe advice for your own dog. Some of the old stand by advice includes but is certainly not limited to covering your flower bed in chili peppers and hot sauces, burying chicken wire under the ground, alpha rolling them so they know its wrong and making a big scene if you catch them. Not only will none of this work to change behavior but they are all potentially dangerous to do to your dog. Peppers could get snorted or ingested, chicken wire could injure their nails, pads and teeth and the alpha roll junk needs to leave human main stream consciousness.

First ask, why is my dog digging? There are a few reasons your dog would dig in your backyard. Digging is a very normal and natural canine behavior. Dogs dig to make a cool spot on hot days, to create a den, to bury something valuable to revisit later and for the fun of it. It is a self rewarding behavior to paw at a small lump in the ground and later to up-earth the root system of your azaleas. Most companion or pet dogs dig out of boredom and frustration (and cause it is fun)!  Everyone I talked to seem to have the same issue, the dog was pulling up roots, sticks and plants for fun of it. Disclaimer: If your dog is digging to get out of a yard you will have to reinforce the fence, provide the dog a safe environment and most of all keep them from practicing the behavior. This typically means provide structured exercise outlets (letting them out in the yard doesn’t count as exercise) and not leaving them alone in the yard unsupervised for long periods during the day. If your dog is digging for fun and to alleviate boredom than perhaps instead of trying to stop them we should provide an outlet for this common and natural dog behavior.

I suggest a dog friendly digging pit. Go to the dump, find a yard sale or go to the discount store and find an old kiddie pool (or build a small barrier with a bottom). Fill it with sand or loose dirt fill. Hide some of your dogs favorite objects in the sand then invite him over to check it out. Get him started investigating the pooch pen and encourage him when he digs. Bringing up his favorite objects will be a self rewarding behavior but go ahead and give him a big party for doing it anyway. Provide time to go and play the dig game together at first. Over time your dog will seek out this fun positive target for his digging desire and be more likely to explore and dig in the play pen than in your flower garden. Don’t want to build a digging station, go to the beach or somewhere with sand or loose dirt and play dig games there. Name the game and only let your dog play at that one location. If you have a little terrier explore the sport of “Earth-dog” and unleash their original talents and what they were bread to do. Can you dig it?

Mya and her new digging box.

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