Dealing With Digging

Digging is a fun and rewarding pastime for many dogs. Sadly it’s not fun for your lawn or flower beds. If it is becoming a problem in your backyard, it is important to first work out why they are digging.

Is your dog digging near the foundations of buildings or trees, or lying in the holes ?

Your dog is most likely digging as a form of shelter from cold, wind or rain, or to lie in the cool dirt when it’s hot. Bring your dog inside during extremes of weather, to warm up or cool down. Provide them with a comfortable shelter that is close the house, and with the mouth of the kennel facing a door or window so that they can see in. Invest in a bowl that can’t be tipped over and provide ice blocks with treats frozen into them, during hot days.

Is your dog Houdini?

Dogs often dig to try and escape. This may be to chase after a girlfriend if they are an entire male, to go and play with dogs across the road, or due to boredom. Bury chicken wire along the fence line, or place large rocks along it. If you can, bury the fence 1 to 2 feet below the surface. Finally, deal with the boredom issues – try enriching their environment with our suggestions in ‘Home Alone’.

Is your dog digging in a single area, at the roots of shrubs, or in a path layout?

They are most likely digging after animals or insects. Dogs like to roll in insects and/or watch them as they move about. Search for signs of them, and then try to remove, exclude or make your garden unattractive to them. Don’t use any methods that could also poison or harm your dog.

Is your dog digging when left alone for long periods or in a random pattern around the garden, or is he/she a terrier or working breed?

Your dog is probably digging as a form of entertainment. Try walking your dog before you leave them, so that they are content to rest once they are left. Enrich his environment with interactive toys or homemade puzzles – see our article ‘Home Alone’ for ideas.

For terrier and working breeds or truly dedicated diggers, try providing them with a ‘digging pit’. You can use a sandbox or a low fence, and cover the area with loose soil or sand to make it attractive. Temporarily cover his usual digging spots with rocks or chicken wire, to encourage digging in the designated space. Bury toys and treats for him to discover, so that the area will always hold surprises when he digs there, and keep updating them so he will never know what he might find.

Barking

There are many reasons why dogs bark. Barking occasionally is an entirely natural part of being a dog – whether to warn you of a potential intruder, calling their missing humans home or out of excitement during a game. It is when this barking becomes excessive that is can be a problem.

Dogs are result motivated. When someone walks past your yard and the dog barks, the person walks away so the dog gets the desired result. In other words, they won. They do not realise the person was just out for a walk, they believe they made the person leave.

Boredom

The number one cause of excessive barking is boredom. Barking takes away the frustration whilst at the same time eventually gets them attention. Dogs don’t understand time like we do, in the dogs’ world, they bark and eventually someone pays them attention.

Fixing It:

  • Make sure your dog has a good long walk in the morning before you leave. They will be tired and content and more likely to rest until you come home in the afternoon.
  • Enrich your back yard with toys to entertain them.
  • Consider organising a dog walker or minder during the day, or look into a doggy daycare service.

Separation Anxiety

Some dogs will bark when they are left because they anxious about being alone. Dogs are naturally social creatures, and being separated from their human causes some dogs anxiety. They bark and eventually you arrive home – they get the result they wanted.

Fixing It:

  • If you have a new puppy, take care to teach them that being alone can be a safe and pleasant experience – shut them outside with a chew to occupy them whilst you are still in the house, and let them in before they are finished.  It is also a good idea not to go too over the top when coming home and greeting your puppy. It can reinforce the behaviour. Try saying a quick ‘hi’ and then ignoring your puppy for a short while after arriving home.
  • If you have an adult dog with separation anxiety, gradually extend the length of time they are left alone, at levels they are comfortable with. If this is not possible, talk to your local vet or positive trainer for help.

Territorial

Dogs will want to warn you about potential intruders – this is a normal and natural behaviour, and one that you may be very grateful for in the case of a burglar. However, as dogs are result motivated, if every time they bark the person leaves your fence line, they won. Every time this happens, the barking behaviour is reinforced. This can lead to nuisance barking.

Fixing It:

  • Try to prevent line of sight to the outside – put up higher fences or barriers, and block any holes.
  • If your dog always barks at the postman, for example, try to pre-empt their arrival. As they approach the house, reward your dog until they have left again. With repetition, your dog will begin to feel good about having them approach the house, rather than territorial.
  • If your dog is barking at the neighbours dogs, arrange a play date at the local park so that they can get to know each other, and associate each other with positive things.
  • Don’t shout at your dog for territorial behaviour – they will feel confused and anxious about their attempts to protect you and it may make the barking worse. In other words, shouting at them will make them believe they are right to fear the intruder because you are shouting too. They don’t understand that you are shouting at them to be quiet.

Fear

If your dog is barking at night or at strange noises, it is most likely coming from a place of fear. Many dogs are scared of fireworks, lawnmowers and thunderstorms.

Fixing It:

  • Make sure they have a safe place to retreat to such as a kennel.
  • Bring the dog inside during fireworks, at night and during thunderstorms.
  • If the barking is excessive during the day and neighbours are complaining, consider hiring a positive dog trainer to help your dog deal with his phobias.