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Does your dog seem to regard your yard as his own personal earthmoving project?
If so, it’s important to realize that digging is a very natural instinctive behavior in dogs. Dogs dig in dirt or other substrates, like mulch or sand, to bury items they want to save for later, like a favorite chew or toy, or to search for items that they have hidden in the past. They also dig to search for prey like rodents or other tasty treats such as insects. Some dogs may also dig because they are attempting an escape or because they are anxious. Though some of this behavior is not only acceptable but perhaps even advantageous in the wild, most owners do tend to object to their dogs digging up their nice lawns or gardens or leaving holes that people can step into and injure themselves.
Here are a few of my favorite tips that might help you curb this unwanted behavior:
1. Supervise. Do your best to monitor your dog every time he goes out in the yard until you get this behavior under control. As soon as you see your dog start to dig, distract him with a novel noise, such as clapping your hands or blowing a loud whistle. Some people like to use shaker cans, which are empty soda cans filled with coins or rocks. If you do use a shaker can, make sure the sound simply breaks your dog’s concentration but does not overly frighten him. Once you have his attention, you can then redirect him to more appropriate behaviors. The goal here is to disrupt your dog’s digging, interrupt his train of thought, and then redirect him to something completely different and fun, like chasing a ball or getting engaged in a game of go-find-it. Something I find very effective is to toss a handful of small treats onto the ground. Your dog will have to use his eyes and nose to search out those tasty treats. As he gets better at the game, you can toss treats into a wider area, and, therefore, he has to search longer for those goodies and, hopefully, he will forget about whatever it was he was trying to dig up! Although, be careful that your dog isn’t eating a lot of grass while searching for those treats, as it can sometimes contain parasites, pesticides or other nasty stuff.2. Contain. Sometimes it is very difficult to suppress what is really a very natural behavior for your canine friend. So in the long run, it may be easier to try and control where he is allowed to dig. You can do this by providing a certain area of the yard that is clearly marked for digging. Mark the area by using low plant borders or fences from your local home improvement store, or set out small flags that are used by lawn maintenance companies. You can also create a distinct digging area where you provide him with certain substrates that he likes to dig in, such as play sand. You can clearly mark the appropriate digging area and then hide fun items, like special toys, partially buried in the substrate. Go out in the yard with your dog and call him over and encourage him to dig up those items. Whenever he tries to dig in the other section of the yard, disrupt him and bring him over to the appropriate area. When he starts to dig out the goodies you have partially buried for him, offer him plenty of praise! Make it very clear to him that all of the rewards and praises are showered on him when he digs in the marked area of the yard.
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