Dealing with your dogs digging

When you come home to find holes all over your lawn, and you have a dog, there may be a correlation there. But don’t bother trying to confront your dog after the fact. Punishment after the fact is widely known as the least effective and potentially most damaging form of dog training on earth. Even if you bring your dog to the spot, hold them by the scruff of the neck, and scold them while you direct their head deep into their handiwork, they won’t have any idea what all the fuss is about.

Instead, take a deep breath, and complete your after work wind-down routine. Then, calmly return to the back yard to locate your dog, with the intention of asking a few questions about their habit of excavating your property.

If you are unable to locate your dog, AND the holes in your lawn are all found right along the bottom of your fence line, then you may not need to ask the first question, which is, “Are you trying to escape?” If your pet is not “fixed” (neutered or spayed), then they may be entertaining their roaming instinct. They will return, and they may even bring a whole family with them when they do.

Another possibility is that your dog is digging to freedom in an attempt to find you. If your dog is near or even somewhere on your property when you return from a period of absence, they may in fact have separation anxiety issues, which you’ll have to treat directly. Once you do, the digging will be an afterthought.

If your dog is there, your next question to ask is, “Are you getting too hot back here when I’m away?” We all know that dogs pant when it’s hot. But they also like to burrow, especially when there is not a spot of shade in sight. So you’ll need to rule this out as motivating factor for your dog’s digging, and make sure they have a place to stay cool.

Lastly, you’ll have to ask your dog, “Are you burying your stuff?” This is simply an old habit that stems from the fact that their ancestors often killed more than they could eat in a sitting. This habit may be tough to break, but changing the range of treats you leave with your dog when away, for instance, a massive juicy bone may be a great treat for your dog when you’re around, but might be something you don’t leave with them when you’re gone.

Nonetheless, you may have to change the dog’s access areas, or fence off an area that you’d like to keep for the kids’ soccer pitch. You can also try setting up a dirt area or sandbox where digging is allowed and encouraged. Many dogs are wild about sand, and you can even attract them to the area by burying treats in the sandbox. I’ve seen this work well.

In the grand scheme of dog obedience problems, however, this should be more of a nuisance than anything. Often I remind dog owners that it’s more than likely their lawn will forgive the dog, and that having a healthy and happy pet sometimes comes with the sacrifice of a perfect lawn.