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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Stop the Digging!

Dear Jan,
Bichon puppy loves to dig up rocks in the back yard. What do you suggest? I don't want my spring lawn to be all messed up when it finally gets green!

Dear Iona,
Dogs dig for various reasons, and each reason can be addressed individually. Let's talk about the dog who digs indiscriminate holes just for recreation.

First, don't scold her for this behavior, because she just won't understand why you're disciplining her. Instead, teach her to CHOOSE not to dig.

Imagine that you see a delicious bonbon sitting on the counter in your kitchen. You just have to have it, so you grab it, bite into it, and discover that the middle is full of mold. YUCK!! You decide not to eat it! The next day, you see another bonbon that looks nice and fresh, so you bite into that one guessed's moldy like the first one. So you go the the candy store and BUY some fresh bonbons. You bite into it and....oh's MOLDY TOO!! At that point, you probably have lost your desire to eat ANY bonbons for a LONG time...maybe even forever. As far as you know, every bonbon you ever bite into is going to be moldy in the middle.

We use the same principle for teaching our dogs to stop recreational digging. When your puppy isn't looking, shovel up some of her fresh dog poop and dump it into the hole she has most recently dug. Sprinkle a little dirt over the top of it to disguise it. Then just wait...and watch. Next time your puppy is outside, she'll probably return to the scene of the crime with plans to resume her digging. As soon as she does, she'll discover her own poop in the hole, and she'll probably walk away from it in disgust.

She'll go dig another hole somewhere. Watch her, wait until she's not looking (or inside) and scoop more poop into the new hole. Sprinkle dirt over the top, and then wait once again for her to return to the hole to resume her project. She'll discover her poop in this SECOND hole and walk away in disgust. She is learning that every time she digs a hole, she unearths her own poop, and that's unpleasant enough to make her drop the habit. Just like you and the bonbons.

You need to sneak around filling holes for about three weeks to make sure she's totally out of the habit. I guarantee you will slow her digging or eliminate it altogether. Do keep in mind that she's just a puppy, and digging/grass pulling, etc., is all a new and fun activity. By next summer she'll probably lose her fascination with landscaping.

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