Certain dog breeds, like terriers and dachshunds, were originally bred to dig in order to go after vermin in farmer’s fields. Therefore, these types of dogs are born diggers. Other types of dogs may dig due to boredom, in order to keep cool in summer, or they are seeking prey, such as mice or insects.
If you don’t want your dog digging up every square inch of your back yard, there are several things you can do to alleviate the situation.
If you’re dog is seeking comfort from the heat, bring it inside more often; make sure the outdoor shelter is comfortable, and that your pup has plenty of access water. If your dog is still digging, try setting aside a special area where such behavior is okay.
If you believe your dog is bored, spend more time with your furry friend. Play fetch in the yard; go for an extra walk; have more cuddle-time on the couch (dogs, TVs, and couches go well together!); provide interactive toys inside and outside the house; teach your dog new commands or tricks and spend about 10 minutes each day in training; set up an agility course in the yard or join an agility club – any of these or a combination of such activities are great ways to provide extra entertainment for your pet as well as added time with you.
If you think your dog is digging to go after “prey,” the Humane Society of the United States suggests: “Search for signs of burrowing animals, then use safe, humane methods to fence them out, exclude them or make your, yard or garden unattractive to them.” However, “Don't use any product or method that could be toxic or dangerous to your pets or other animals. Anything that poisons wildlife can poison your dog, too.”
Dogs also dig for other reasons, such as trying to escape the yard (perhaps your dog is afraid of something, like as a neighbor dog that barks and growls from across the fence, or someone has been teasing and harassing your dog from the alley), or your intact dog is trying to get out of the yard to search for a mate, or your dog may be burying treats and food Trying to understand the “why” of digging can help you address the behavior and work on changing it as needed.
Also keep in mind, many cats also enjoy digging in dirt.
For more information on why dogs dig and how to take charge of the issue, visit these websites:
Is your dog a digger? Many are, and they dig for different reasons. If you have a flower or vegetable garden, or certain shrubs and plants you don’t want excavated by your canine friend, learning the “whys” a dog digs and “how” to protect your veggies, flowers, herbs and shrubs will go a long way to help you and your pooch come to a compromise in the digging department.
According to Drs. Foster and Smith, a dog may dig for various purposes:
What do you do with a digger? If your dog wants to/likes to dig, here are a few ideas by which a compromise can be established:
Keep in mind some breeds are prone to digging because of heritage. Terriers, for example, were used to control vermin, and not just mice, but other creatures, like badgers (which are natural diggers). The dogs were trained to go after these underground wild animals, and therefore, trained to tunnel for them. This is an inherited behavior and cannot readily be changed.
Several of the dogs I’ve had were/are diggers, including my blind springer spaniel, Sage. She dug a hole near the foundation of the house we lived in as a cool spot. Even though we had shrubbery and a tall cottonwood tree in the back yard, she chose to create a large hole in the dirt next to the house. I believe she dug it in this location also because it was close to the patio, and therefore, helped her navigate the yard and the house’s back entrance – she used the hole and other textures (like the brick of the patio) as locators since she couldn’t see.
Mary, our springer/cocker mix, digs holes near trees at our mountain property. The holes she creates are not large, like Sage’s was (but Sage only dug the one hole in the backyard; Mary creates several at the forest-laden property). Mary also digs for coolness, and she chooses locations in the shade of the pine trees.
As hunting breeds, springer spaniels, Sage and Mary might also have that heritage of digging, at least regarding cooling off, as a trait of their lineage is going the distance with the hunter. Again, this is an inherited trait, and so we haven’t tried to change it. In such cases, the best a person can do is (1) accept it and (2) try to teach the dog where it can and cannot dig. If there’s an outlet given, your dog (whether hound, terrier, spaniel or other hunting/digging breeds) will likely dig where appropriate – you just need to patiently train it.
Learn more about digging behavior in dogs and ways to prevent it at Rover.com: https://www.rover.com/blog/how-to-stop-dog-digging/
School begins soon which brings a flurry of activities that take people away from their pets, and you may notice your dog exhibiting separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety often occurs within 30 minutes of the owner’s departure. Cases range from mild to severe and can be manifested in a variety of behaviors, from pacing and whining to constant barking and destruction of furniture.
Dogs that live in stable, structured homes usually don’t experience separation anxiety, even if the entire family is gone for long periods of time, such as to work or school. However, some dogs may exhibit this type of behavior due to changes in their routine, such as the amount of time their people are absent. A move to a new home, like adoption into a new family, or the move to a new, physical house can also trigger separation anxiety, as can the death of a family member, human or otherwise.
Prior to school starting and the kids becoming heavily engaged in extracurricular activities, make sure you spend time with your dog. You may also want to slowly lengthen the time everyone is gone from the home a few weeks prior to school starting. Help your dog become accustomed to the house being empty of people and not have endure that long absence “cold turkey”.
Separation anxiety is a behavioral condition that is treatable. Strategies to break the cycle of increasing anxiety include “practicing leaving” -- simply pick up the car keys and walk toward the door then walk back to put the keys away. You can also go into closets and shut the door for a moment or walk out the backdoor and stay outside for a few minutes then return inside. Leaving the television or radio on has also been known to be successful in reassuring a dog that an owner is returning. In severe cases, having a pet sitter or allowing your dog to stay with friends or family who are home all day is also a consideration. Prior to these measures, first ensure your dog’s behavior is not due to a medical condition, therefore, consult your vet.
Keeping your dog exercised and providing it attention while you are home also helps to keep your four-footed friend more relaxed. Dogs are social creatures so they need our companionship. Games like Frisbee and flyball or obedience and agility sessions keep your dog’s mind active and his body moving. Having more than one pet as well as toys to play with also allows your dog to focus on more than just your absence.
As the dog days of August come to a close, consider your furry friend’s loyalty and love and help him more easily deal with the adjustment from summer time to school time.
For more information on separation anxiety, visit
http://www.petplace.com/dogs/separation-anxiety-in-dogs/page1.aspx or http://bestfriends.org/Resources/Relieving-Separation-Anxiety/
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.