April 29, 2014
We continue our look at common canine characteristics that are deeply ingrained in a dog’s DNA and may be challenging to change. Our resident expert, Lynda, received another reader email asking about their furry friend’s favorite pastime: digging. Here’s Lynda’s response to Stevie’s question about Fleetwood’s love of dirt.
Longtime reader, first time writer. I have a beautiful pup named Fleetwood. He’s a 2-year-old pug. I love my snorty smooshy-face to death, but I don’t love his digging habit.
I moved into a new home last summer. We have a backyard where he is free to roam. His favorite thing to do is dig a hole as big as he is and bury everything from balls to bones.
I didn’t try to deter him from digging because my yard was a wasteland and the most landscaping I did all year was refill the holes from Fleetwood. But this spring, I am planting a new garden and I worry about Fleetwood unearthing my tulips or displacing the sod.
Why do dogs like to dig? Do pugs have a stronger drive to dig than other breeds? What’s the point of burying something?
I want my Fleety to be happy so if digging fulfills a deep purpose in him, then I am happy to save a corner of the yard for his hobby. But are there alternative ways to keep him contented?
Thanks for the insight and advice!
Dirt Digging Pug Lover,
Dear Stevie & Fleetwood,
Our canine companions retain some of their wild instincts, and shaping breeds to perform specific functions involved selecting for some of those tendencies. The drive to dig is ingrained in all dogs – it’s a way to secure resources, hunt small animals, and it’s fun! Some breeds, such as terriers bred to chase and dig out vermin, often have a much stronger drive to dig than others. For our pet dogs, digging provides an outlet for excess energy, relief from stress, and perhaps a feeling of comfort.
With any of these natural behaviors, practice makes perfect. Your pug has been “practicing” his hobby for a long time, and since digging is self-rewarding, it’s difficult to stop the behavior altogether. It would be very difficult to set up a consequence discouraging enough to battle something your dog enjoys so much! It’s much more effective and humane to give your dog an appropriate outlet for his energy and drive. The best way to do this is with management.
Here are 5 things you can do for Fleety:
- Fence off your garden space. For a pug, a short garden fence should do just fine!
- Put larger, flat rocks in or on the dirt around your garden – the rocks will discourage digging in that area.
- If you want some extra protection, you can bury a sheet of chicken wire in the dirt that you don’t want dug.
- Give your dog his own digging spot – designate a spot in the yard or even build an easy sandbox! To make this spot more appealing than the rest of the yard, bury some of his favorite toys there to entice him.
- Watch him – if you catch your dog sticking a paw in a “forbidden” area, call him over to his own digging spot and encourage him to dig there instead (re-burying a bone or toy will help!). Repeat as needed when he goes back to his old spots.
There is nothing more frustrating than constantly battling your dog, so allowing an appropriate outlet for that dirt-digging drive will make for more peaceful time in your yard and a better relationship between pug and person.
Do you have a question about your pet that our Team Manager could answer? Email Lynda at firstname.lastname@example.org. If she selects your question, we’ll feature it on our blog with a photo of your pet and we’ll surprise you with a little something in return as a thank you for participating! Win, win!