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Canine University 71 Clinton St. Malden, MA

Canine Behavior

Does your backyard look like the Grand Canyon?

Does your dog redecorate your yard, by digging crater size holes indiscriminately? Have your neighbors ever wondered if a UFO landed in your backyard or perhaps yours is the only yard in the neighborhood that got hit with a meteor. Dogs dig for various reasons but mostly because it's fun. Digging is an innate tendency in most breeds but almost all dogS will dig at some point given half a chance. If you're tired of your yard looking like an ankle break waiting to happen there are several ways to help discourage your canine architects desire to landscape your backyard for Doggie Digest.

Many dogs dig simply because they are not being supervised enough and are not ready for free access of the yard without some guidance from you, the owner. When a puppy is young it is best to go out in the yard together and play, rather than leaving him out alone. This way you can teach him what your basic rules of the yard are going to be. In most cases these rules include no barking at people or animals passing by, no barking to hear your own voice, no eating the bushes, flowers or shrubs and no digging. A spray bottle or rolled up towel to squirt or launch at the dog (hide it so he doesn't see it coming will surprise most dogs enough to stop digging if you time it so that you deliver the squirt or bop at the moment the dog begins to dig, preceded by a work like "hey". The word "hey" will then later become the word you use to warn your dog to change his behavior to avoid the bop or squirt.

An even better idea is to make an area in your yard where the dog is allowed to dig. A digging pit filled with sand will give your dog an outlet for his need to dig and make training easier. The digging pit works like this. An area maybe 5' by 5' with about 3-5 " of sand (sand is less messy when it rains and doesn't wash away as easily as soil). A decorative fence or even a wooden frame will help keep the sand in the area. Next you need to get creative by burying treats, marrow bones stuffed with peanut butter, and other toys in it for your dog to dig up. The more exciting you make this, the more likely you'll be to designate the digging to the right area.

The 3rd step is to supervise your dog in the yard and when he goes to dig elsewhere, correct him with a squirt or a bop and take him to his digging pit to dig. Another solution is either invisible fencing to keep your dog in his part of the yard or a free standing kennel run with a digging pit at one end. This way your dog can be outside without digging up the begonias. The key to correcting the digging problem is to realize that digging is a natural behavior and we are not trying to stop it from happening, we are trying to designate where it is happening. By providing a place to dig and a little guidance you can teach your dog to respect outdoor boundaries and once again enjoy your flower gardens and landscaping. Keep in mind when treating lawns and feeding plants that many fertilizers and pesticides are toxic to dogs and humans, and you should either not use these products all together or not allow your animals to be on the grass, etc. until after you've watered it thoroughly for a few days after treatment. I hope this helps get you on your way to a better springtime outdoors with your dog.

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