Put a Stop to Digging Dervishes

By Cricky Long

Put a Stop to Digging Dervishes

Most dogs like to dig, and getting them to stop can be like withholding candy from a trick-or-treater. Christi Jones of San Fernando, Calif., an active participant in the Westside German Shepherd Rescue Group, learned this the hard way with Boaz, her four-year-old shepherd. She says, "My dog didn't dig until my two boys dug to make mud pies. Then, Boaz decided to help them out." After that, her dog was hooked. "It was annoying because I'd fall into the holes or trip over them."

Depending on the location of the holes, dog digging can range from a nuisance to a serious hazard. It almost always drives dog owners -- and their neighbors -- crazy. Rest assured, if you have a digger on your hands, you are not alone.

Do All Dogs Dig?
Laura Bourhenne, a Los Angeles dog trainer, who was the go-to trainer when VIPs on the hit TV show Frasier needed help with their pups, says, "Most dogs experiment with digging at some point in their life.... The dogs that make a habit of it usually do it because they are bored to death."

The following steps will help to minimize your dog's desire to dig:

Tire out your dog Jones, who has not only resolved her own dog's digging issues, but who has also worked with foster dogs that dig, suggests, "Walk your dog for at least 45 minutes once a day. Play with him and stimulate him mentally with exercises and so forth." Bourhenne points out that your involvement is critical. "The time your dog spends alone in the yard does not count, since your dog is most likely sleeping."

Keep your dog busy On those days when you know your dog's exercise or playtime is going to get cut short, Bourhenne recommends you spread kibble over a clean surface in your home or yard area. She says, "Your dog has to use his brain when he uses his nose to find every piece of food, which will tire him out." This activity also takes up a fair amount of time, which will keep your  dog occupied.

Make your dog a part of the family According to Jones, "If your dog hangs out in the house with you -- if he's part of the family and in on the fun and fellowship, he's less likely to dig." Remember, dogs are pack animals, so even if you are doing something solitary, like reading or watching TV, your dog will be happier in your presence.

Still digging? You've exercised your dog to the point that you've lost 10 pounds, you've developed tennis elbow from the endless games of fetch and family time has become so canine-inclusive that your friends and kids have started setting a place for your pup at the dinner table. And yet, your dog is still digging. Don't throw in the towel yet. Even if you have a committed digger, you can stop your dog from digging destructively. When working with clients privately, Bourhenne recommends the following tips, which you can use with your own dog.

Diehard Diggers Do's and Don'ts

Do deter your dog from digging Fill your dog's favorite hole with dog poop and then cover it with dirt or lay chicken wire under gravel, mulch or decorative bark. (Can't stomach dog poop? Some dog trainers recommend rocks as an alternative.)

Do create a designated digging hole Follow these steps: 1) buy a big, sturdy plastic bin; 2) dig a hole and put the bin in the ground; 3) fill the bin with sand; 4)
bury treats and toys in the sand to entice your dog to dig; 5) shower your dog with praise and affection for digging in the right spot.

Don't let your dog see you dig According to Bourhenne, "Dogs dig to hide things for later. If your dog sees you digging, he is going to think you are hiding something that he may want." Be sure your dog does not see you planting in your garden or flowerbed. Otherwise, your dog will assume that beneath those flowers lay treats.

Don't play with your dog right after it has dug Do this and all your dog will learn is that digging gets you to play. If you catch your dog in the act, Bourhenne says, "Scream to get your dog's attention, such as by shouting, 'No!' and then walk away."

Don't leave your dog unsupervised in the presence of fresh dirt According to Bourhenne, dogs are drawn to freshly planted flowerbeds and gardens. "The dirt is fresh. It smells different ... and it is softer, which all make it more fun to dig in."

If you have a setback, do not be too hard on yourself or your dog. Bourhenne, a professional dog trainer, said she always knew when she wasn't playing with her terrier enough when she would walk outside and "the backyard would look like the Grand Canyon." Be diligent about making sure your dog gets plenty of exercise, stimulation and family interaction. Also, follow these do's and don'ts, and your dog's desire to dig will be stopped (or appropriately channeled) in no time.

Cricky Long is the author of The Complete Cat Organizer and The Complete Dog Organizer, as well as several other guidebooks for pet owners.

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Posted on October 27, 2007

carole says: I have a 6 month old beagle, I need serious help on his digging issue. I have put hot peppers, caught him in the act scolded him, he has another dog to play with also a lot of chew toys, any advice would be appreceiated. Thanks

Posted on November 12, 2007

Crise Billwalk says: I have good advice. Whenever he digs a hole, tell him"No!" and act as if you're going to hit him. DON'T hit him, though. It's always good that your dog doesn't know if you'll dicipline him or not. Maybe, place him in an area with only cement, which would be more as a last resort. Is your beagle young, or a puppy? If the beagle is young or a puppy, then that's normal. If the beagle is at an adult age, maybe try being with him more. Try keep him away from the yard. Besides chew toys, what do you think will he or she REALLY like. If the issue continues, besides the gifts, scolding, and other ideas, then try giving him a private area.

Posted on December 11, 2007

Sean says: My dog diggs inside the house to the point where we had to replace the carpet on the entire 1st floor of our home. Now we crate him when leaving the house. Do these technics work for inside diggers?

Posted on December 27, 2007

Crise Billwalk says: For inside diggers, yes. Just make sure the crate is large enough and roomy. If not, you could get a very depressed dog.

Posted on January 3, 2008

Heather says: Ok So i have a black lab/beagle mix who digs on this landing at the bottom of our stair case right before you get into the basement. We have no idea why, because she gets outside (she has her own pen and dog door) she's outside all the time and she never digs outside except for recently trying to bury a toy (we think) outside in her pen. We really have no idea what to do because we sprayed some strong colonge to deter her from that spot.

Posted on March 27, 2009

Megan says: I have a 11 month old American Bulldog that just started digging, he has dug a hole in my living room carpet! I don't want to have to leave him in his cage while we're gone, any suggestions?

Posted on May 21, 2009

melissa says: i have a puppy who has been digging outside for a while now. i fuss at him and he continues to dig. i have tried to fill it with dog poop or chicken wire, etc. just recently i woke up in the morning and saw that he had dug a hole in my carpet all the way down to the floor. how can i stop him from diggingthru all my carpet?

Posted on June 9, 2009

Debbi says: We adopted a 4-5 month old Am. Bulldog mix. Haven't seen any carpet digging for the 6 weeks we've had Patrick ... Now all of the sudden. Not too worried about it ... yet. Many pups seem to tear up carpet, but this is not acceptable. Patrick is crated when we are gone. How are you doing with your American Bulldog??

Posted on April 7, 2010

woodward says: My 4yr old Labrador Retreiver bitch keeps digging at our carpet in the living room

Posted on July 16, 2010

billie says: i got 5 month old puppy digging my carpet i dont want to give him away .what can i do .to train lucky he sleep in a creat at nighht potting training

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