Control Dogs Digging Holes

A reader writes to ask why her mixed breed dog digs. The most common reason is to reach a cool place to lie anytime the ambient temperature is warmer than is comfortable for her. On our Mississippi Gulf Coast, that could even be in December!

Further, it’s the nature of some breeds to dig. Terriers, Dachshunds and most hunting breeds will dig for sheer curiosity. Some may smell something below the surface that interests them and they go after it.

Correcting a digging problem is a real challenge. If you are not willing to dedicate some time and energy to it, skip this and go read about Reed Glenn Dumpster diving. A man once asked me how to solve his dog’s digging problem. For every method I mentioned he had some excuse he couldn’t do that, too much time, not enough extra dirt in his yard, etc. I’m sorry, but there are no magic pills. Time and elbow grease are important parts of the recipe.

If your dog digs holes and lies in them, think of ways to keep her cooler. I make “lawn chairs” for my dogs by nailing two-feet-long 2X4s together to make a square frame, then weave nylon webbing like a “real” lawn chair. Add legs to make it one to six inches off the ground, according to the size of your pet. It’s cool, fleas find it inhospitable, the webbing is easily cleaned, and you can move it to the coolest part of the yard. Use treated lumber and it will last forever.

Another alternative is to pour a small concrete pad in your dog’s favorite cooling off spot. Seems hard as a rock to us, but dogs love it!

Historically, holes have been filled with everything from chicken wire to black pepper to moth balls. Moth balls are toxic to cats, so be careful. Some of these work on some dogs and some don’t. The most reliable, albeit most distasteful, method is to put some of YOUR dog’s stool in the holes he digs and cover it with dirt. Don’t use another dog’s stool because that will interest him and he’ll dig it up. Be patient and persistent. This problem will not end overnight and you will have to fill and cover so many holes you might start meowing. But, it works better than any other method I’ve seen, heard of, or tried.

Another point about digging: our dogs do not know they’ve done wrong when we come home and find a new hole in the yard. The reason they hang their heads is that they’ve been fussed at so many times when we come home that they come to expect it, so they cower. If you don’t find him in the act, don’t correct him. If you catch him red-handed, give a single, firm “NO“, a correction on his leash if it’s already on him, then the two of you go do something else together.

Boredom can be a factor, too. Be sure that your dog gets plenty of attention and socialization time. They are our friends and they want and need to spend time with us.

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