Arresting the Antics of the Unauthorised Gardener
By Anne-Marie George
Recently, I’ve noticed that some of my canine friends have become partial to some excavation or what others might call digging great, ankle-spraining holes in the yard. I was perplexed by this behaviour as it had not previously been a feature of their outdoor activities so I decided I must launch an investigation.
My initial assumption was that it was a result of boredom, which it seems it may very well be, however, there seems there are a variety of other potential motivations, including: playing, instinct, release of energy, protection and escape. Previously, I have addressed the topic of boredom in my article Walk Out the Wild, so I recommend reading it for some tips in alleviating deviant behavior. Let’s now consider the other possible causes.
Have you ever been walking your dog or at the dog park and your canine family member has halted abruptly and begun scavenging? Upon investigation you find that they have pulled another dog’s ‘business’ from the dirt and started to eat. It’s a most horrifying experience, especially if your dog subsequently gives you a big smooch on the hand or even worse, cheek. Well it seems that dogs love poo. All types of it, they’re not fussy so if you are a keen gardener and like to fertilise with Blood and Bone, prepare for a digging and eating frenzy.
Obviously, having your garden torn to shreds is most upsetting but feasting on fertilizer has its own negatives and could result in your pet getting very sick. So try using liquid fertilizer, incorporating rocks into the garden beds or fencing off your garden. However, it’s possible your pooch will simply dig under the fence to get to the ‘lollies’. Furthermore, dogs seem to enjoy rolling in offensively odourous things so it might be possible that they’ll frolic in the dirt just to add an additional scent to their coats so you may find it extremely difficult to eradicate this tendency.
Now all of us like to escape the oppression of summer’s heat and our dogs are no different. One of their foolproof remedies is to dig themselves a little hole in which to rest, as the dirt is cool. Thus, if you wish to minimize ‘lazy patches’ it is imperative that you provide plenty of protection from the heat – cover the patio, provide access to under the house or even allow the dog inside certain parts of your home.
Dogs are pack animals, which means that they are bred to be social. If you observe holes along your fence line it’s likely that your dog is trying to escape and find some friends. A dog park can be an excellent way of providing socialization for your pet. Furthermore, you may also make friends, which could lead to doggie play dates and social activities. Another possibility is that your dog is inadvertently trying to tell you that its desperate for some ‘us time’ so make sure you schedule in your diary, quality time with pooch.
Given that digging is instinctual it would seem that prohibiting the activity might be futile. Perhaps the best approach might be to provide a designated ‘dig zone’ within the yard or even assemble a sandpit. Whatever type of area you choose ensure you make it engaging, bury at varying depths, a bone, toys, a Kong with treats inside and any other things that your dog enjoys. When they dig in the specified area make sure you praise them so they begin to associate that area with positive outcomes.
I suspect diverting or eliminating digging will be somewhat of a process but nevertheless, in the interest of family harmony, a necessary investment. Above all, keep the process positive, relaxed and consider the phase an opportunity for bonding with your dog. You never know, your industrious pooch may end up saving your back prior to a weekend’s gardening.
RSPCA, 25 November 2012, My Dog is Digging Up the Garden – What Should I Do?, http://kb.rspca.org.au/My-dog-is-digging-up-the-garden-what-should-I-do_420.html, 13 June 2013.