Why Do Dogs Dig at the Summer?

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Summer has finally arrived.  (You can tell by the mosquitoes.)  Everyone has been feverishly out digging up their gardens, planting annuals and vegetables, enjoying the outdoors after a long winter and cold spring inside.  We all have dreams of how wonderful our gardens are going to look, how pretty the flowers will be, how wonderful the veggies will taste and then the DOG gets into the picture.  He’s turned the back-yard into a mine-field replica!  There are holes everywhere!  The bedding plants are strewn all over the place!  ACK!  What are you going to do?! If you are thinking to use a dog gate to restrict your dog please don’t.

First, you are going to calm down.  You can’t solve a problem if you can’t think about it.  Your first step is to try to determine why the dog is digging.  There are a number of possibilities (besides deliberate sabotage).  Reasons to consider: Is the dog too warm? Bored? Wanting out of the yard? A digging breed? A puppy exploring the world?  Let’s take a closer look at the possibilities.

Sometimes a dog will dig a hole to lay in because it’s too warm in the summer and the cool, damp dirt feels good.  These dogs will usually choose a spot under a bush, beside the house on the shady side or where the ground is damp for some reason.  They are not usually the mine-field type diggers and confine their excavations to one or two places.  If this is your dog, you can either sigh and give over the chosen spot to the dog, or find other ways to cool the dog off.  Always make sure the dog has access to shade and cool water to drink.  Heat and dehydration can kill your dog when it’s hot outside.  Some dogs like a small wading pool full of water to play and cool off in.  Or perhaps the dog could spend the hot part of the day in the cool basement.  If you can cool off a hot dog, you can usually end the digging.

Perhaps your dog is just bored.  A dog that is left alone outdoors for 10 – 11 hours a day (a sad necessity for many dogs with working owners), can become bored and will look for ways to entertain himself.  This can lead to search for “buried treasure” – especially if you’ve just spent the weekend putting stuff IN the dirt (you know it’s just plants, but Fido doesn’t!).  Options for this problem?  Leave the dog with other things to do.  Get yourself a LOT of different dog toys of all different types.  Rotate them, don’t leave the same ones out all the time, have about 5 – 10 toys out at a time and change them every couple days.  Good toys that use a lot of the dog’s time are Kongs and toys that can be stuffed with food treats.  There are actually people who teach seminars on how to stuff a Kong!  Be creative!  If your dog still digs, you might want to consider a digging pit for the dog.  Really.  In a back corner or somewhere out of the way, you can dig up a pit, fill it with sand (easier to clean the dog and they love to dig in sand!), and bury some goodies for your dog to find there.  The first couple times you hide treats and toys in the digging pit, you will have to encourage your dog to dig there.  After they find a couple treasures, they’ll be hooked!  So you discourage the dog from being in your garden and show them where they can dig!

Is your dog trying to get out of the yard?  (See paragraph above, boredom is a common cause of dogs trying to dig out.)  This one’s tough, a dog that has successfully dug his way out of the yard is difficult to keep in.  You have a couple options (sorry, they are rather labor intensive for you).  You can dig a trench about two feet down and two feet wide in front of your fence.  Attach wire mesh to the bottom of the fence and line the side and bottom of the trench with it.  Some dogs will try a couple more times but give up on digging when they are unsuccessful at getting out.  Another option is an electronic fence.  Make SURE you follow the TRAINING directions on the package, if you are unsure of how to train the electronic fence, consult a professional trainer.  You don’t want to make mistakes using this tool.

If you have a dog that is a digging breed (dachshunds, most terriers, some hounds) you had better prepare a digging pit.  Some dogs just seem to HAVE to dig!  It’s what they were bred for for generations!  Accept reality and provide what your dog needs.

Puppies?  They often dig to explore the world around them.  They are curious about everything and that includes what’s underground!  Puppies will often grow out of the digging phase, but if you want to protect your flower beds this year, you can provide a digging pit and discourage the pup from being in your gardens.  Don’t take a puppy out when you are working in the garden – you’ll only build up his curiosity about what is in that dirt that is so interesting!

Most digging problems can be solved, if you can figure out the motivation and treat the problem accordingly.  So, have fun, enjoy the summer and enjoy your dog!

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