When it comes to dogs and their desire to dig rather large holes in the yard it's hard to imagine that you can train your dog where to dig and on one side of the coin it's often thought that dogs should be allowed to continue with their digging as, after all it's in a dog's nature and nothing should stop them from doing what they do best. Another side to this coin is that no matter how much they long for this type of behaviour, there is absolutely no place in any garden for a dog of any shape, size or breed, to participate in this erratic pastime they seem to treasure so much, especially when those rosebuds took so much time and hard work to grow. I'm in favour of a compromise, as I believe that given a small amount of supervision and management, you can train your dog where to dig his or her hole, in harmony with watching the garden grow and that just because a dog wants to express itself naturally it doesn't mean it has to completely destroy the flowerbeds in the process.
If you're wondering whether some dogs have a tendency to dig more than others, it is a known fact that certain breeds are more prone to this behaviour and if you're wanting to take a vested interest in preventing the possibility of a dog digging in your back yard, it would be wise to steer clear of Nordic breeds such as certain members of the Spitz breed, and also Malamutes and Huskies. Terriers are another type of dog that has shown particular interest in digging holes. Incidentally Terrier comes from the Latin word terrarius, meaning "of the earth" so that tells you something. Although these breeds govern the likelihood of a dog's desire to dig, it's not carved in stone but it is however possible to train your dog where to dig regardless of the breed.
There are a number of reasons why a dog feels compelled to dig but here are a few of them:
The need to broaden its horizons. Sometimes a back yard just isn't enough space for a dog, no matter how big the yard is and its only consolation is in knowing what lies beyond that fence. It's the adventure of finding out that lures it into such mischievous activity. Separation anxiety. When you're one side of the fence and the dog is forced to remain on the other, it finds that a straight line is the shortest distance between you and the dog and strategy comes into play when it decides in which direction the burrowing should take place. Boredom. This can cause a dog to do a number of things but digging a hole is one of the first things on its list of priorities. A dog needs to feel it has a purpose in life, a rewarding job to perform that's interesting, keeping its mind occupied and avoiding total frustration. Lack of exercise. If a dog isn't allowed some healthy, vigorous walking, for at least forty-five minutes a day, it needs a way to burn off all that extra nervous energy so digging a large hole seems just the way to deal with this. Some of the more obvious reasons why dogs dig can be dealt with quite easily, such as your dog not getting enough physical activity. That being the case, simply take him for longer walks and more frequently. If your dog becomes easily bored, allow him more toys to play with or things to chew on while you're away. For those dogs that have an uncanny knack of escaping from whatever solitary confinement you can offer, either put him in a crate for a while or keep him inside the house where he's not as likely to leave the premises. There are still some dogs that despite your best efforts dig holes simply for their own enjoyment. For these characters a more subtle approach is required:
Allow nature to work in your favour. If your dog is completely destroying your flowerbeds, plant the type of blossoms that offer their own protection such as roses; they have thorns that most dogs would think twice about messing with, and deep roots, just one more thing they have to worry about. Access can be restricted. One of the best ways to deal with a dog's digging habit is by supervising your dog in the yard; he won't be given the opportunity for digging. Another deterrent nature provides is a dog's dislike for digging anywhere near poop, even those dogs that eat it (a condition called coprophagia). A very effective approach is to purposely leave some of this in strategic areas of the yard where he's likely to want to dig; he'll avoid it at all costs. Not particularly enjoyable for you but at least it works! Spray him with water. Dogs usually don't like to get wet so turning on the hose and giving him a cold shower may just be the answer when you see him digging in a place he knows he shouldn't be digging at all. Lay chicken wire. If laid near the fence or at other locations where your dog is likely to dig, after a few tries he'll get the message and not dig there again - just make sure that it's buried deep enough that it won't be visible; an inch or two under the surface should be just fine. It's a bit time-consuming but it's well worth the effort. Having said all this a dog is still a dog after all and there's nothing that's going to change that and if he feels it's absolutely necessary to dig a hole he will do whatever he can to accomplish that. Before embarking on a lot of time-consuming methods to prevent him from doing what he loves to do, try redirecting his digging habit to a more appropriate area of the yard. It's perfectly natural for a dog to want to dig, just as it's quite normal for you not to want him to do that so why not find a compromise? Select a corner of the yard and dedicate it to the dog and only the dog. That way, once he becomes aware that his digging must only be done in that corner, he'll treat it like it's his own and he will know that he can do anything he wants there and feel quite safe and at home that he won't be reprimanded about things he does there. It's up to you of course to make it known in no uncertain terms that under no circumstances must he dig anywhere else but in his own corner of the yard, he'll soon get the hang of it!
Not everyone can afford to give an entire corner of the yard to their dog. In this case a sandbox is the answer. You can buy one or even make one; it's not that hard to do, just make sure it's deep enough for him to dig in. Place it in an appropriate part of the yard and fill it with a combination of earth and sand, then lay some grass or leaves over it if you prefer, and bury some of those tasty marrowbones he likes, in the sandbox and start to scratch around in there to show him what it's for. Once he gets to know what he can expect to find inside he'll want to check it out as often as he can to see what's new. Give him a treat when he starts to dig in there, as this will encourage him even more. The important thing to remember here is that although he's become acquainted with his new sandbox, he must realize that every other part of the yard is off-limits as far as digging is concerned. Some initial hollering and scolding may be in order to reinforce your point of view. He'll understand soon enough.
To find out more about other types of anti-social behaviour that dog's tend to engage in, check out Secrets to Dog Training. It's what every responsible dog owner needs, an in-depth, how-to reference, full of tips and tricks on raising a well-adjusted, happy and healthy dog: from obedience work to problem behaviours and dog psychology, Secrets to Dog Training has it all.