OCTOBER 2009

HI THERE,

Digging dogs! Everybody knows the frustration if you have just renovated your garden and your canine friend (in your absence) surprises you with his contribution to a beautiful environment.

Just remember digging is normal dog behaviour and can be explained under the following instinctive "needs and desires" of the dog: (Please be open-minded and try to see this from your dog's perspective)

Self-care behaviour:
Inherited from their ancestral wild forefathers, dogs have the instinct to hide any extra food, to be utilised during the leaner times. The only way to hide food from scavengers is to bury it - and what better place than the soft soil of your flowerbed. Resolution: Do not provide too much food, chewies or bones - it will get buried.

Dogs not provided with proper housing facilities (a kennel or a proper dog bed) will dig holes like their wild forefathers to create a den. Resolution: Provide your dog with a proper kennel and blankets.

Investigatory behaviour:
Have you ever thought of all the interesting smells in your flowerbeds - compost, manure, bone meal, etc. This is doggy heaven. Dogs are curious and will dig to find out how deep these smells are hidden and just maybe there is a hidden bone going with the scent of bone meal. Resolution: Fence in your flowerbeds or alternatively provide an area where your dog is allowed to dig. Dig this area over, work in some good smelling compost (the dog's point of view), and hide some bones, toys and chewies there. Soon your dog will understand that he is allowed to search for interesting stuff in this specific location.

Mimic behaviour:
"Oh Mom - you are digging. Why am I not allowed to?" Your dog sees you digging and planting some stuff and he wants to be part of the fun - only he usually destroys whatever you have created. Resolution: Try not to work in your garden when the dog is around. Some people will suggest you get a second dog, as the first one might be bored and resorts to digging. Chances are that the second dog might also mimic the digging behaviour of the first culprit - and you end up with double trouble.

Aggressive behaviour:
Aggression, associated with frustration, might lead to dogs digging near the fence in an attempt to escape and get to the dogs in the street or in the neighbour's yard. Resolution: Manage the dog's mobility in your yard and his access to fences (or make fences dog-proof!) and neuter male dogs (to lessen dog-on-dog aggression).

Eating (Ingestion) behaviour:
Some dogs (like the Dachshund and smaller Terriers) were initially bred to hunt underground for their prey (such as rats). This genetic trait is still present in those breeds, and they will dig, regardless of what you do trying to prevent them from digging. Resolution: This is genetically inherited and if you cannot deal with an untidy garden, consider a different breed of dog.

Comfort-seeking behaviour:
Imagine how comfortable a shallow hole in a recently watered flowerbed would be on a hot day. Compare this to just lying in the shade. If you were a dog, what would be your choice? Resolution: Fence in you flowerbeds.

Sexual/reproductive behaviour:
A bitch, about to give birth, will start digging a hole as a nest for the puppies. Resolution: Provide a proper whelping box and watch her!

The smell of a bitch on heat in the neighbourhood will entice your male dog to attempt to escape - again digging near the fence in an attempt to get out. Resolution: Neuter male dogs - this will lessen the urge to roam in search of a bitch on heat.

Relaxation behaviour:
A dog that is bored and alone will be naughty. All he has to keep him busy are his paws and teeth. Digging and chewing provide exercise and recreation. Resolution: Provide toys and chewies when your dog is alone at home. See to it that your dog gets enough exercise.

Social behaviour:
Dogs are pack animals. If a dog is left alone for too long, they might again start digging at the fence in order to get out and visit "doggy friends". Resolution: Get a second dog to provide company.

Abnormal digging behaviour may occur because of social deprivation, attention seeking (negative attention in the form of the owner's scowling) or anxiety.