I am sure there are plenty of differing opinions on training/teaching a dog not to dig in the yard. These opinions can be anything from extremely confusing to straight up abusive to your dogs. I am appalled at what some people do to their dogs in an attempt to “teach their dog not to dig”, and it more likely results in a fear-based relationship that is really teaching the dog to be a mini human…completely impossible and inhumane. Why get a dog, if you aren’t going to appreciate and enjoy his “dogginess”? However, things I tell my clients to consider are:
- 100% supervision
You can’t expect the dogs not to dig if you are leaving them (especially as untrained puppies) in the yard by themselves. Dogs will be dogs and dogs will bark, dig, pee on things, chew on things, etc because it is perfectly acceptable for a dog to do. It is up to us to teach them how to be a dog in a human’s life. As Dr. Ian Dunbar (www.dogstardaily.com) says, “If you want your dogs to follow the rules, stop keeping the rules a secret”.Make sure you give your dogs lots of information, “leave it” for off limit areas, and lots of hearty praise and food rewards to let them know when they are playing in a more appropriate area. You can also tie off Kongs and other toys to set up these appropriate areas.
Make sure you spend every waking moment in the yard with your new dog, or (and especially) your new puppy. Give them “alone time” in VERY short increments of time. When you start this, make sure you are still watching from a window to set your pup up for success so if you see them nearing the “off limits” areas, you can give them their “leave it” (if your dog does not know this yet, it is a prerequisite to learning good outside etiquette, contact Trelle at the website above for more info on this) and more importantly, give them lots of praise and rewards when they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. When I say short increments of time, I mean 2-5 minutes.
- Consider chicken wiring off the “off limits” areas of your yard temporarily. Yes, your zen garden will not be so “zen-like” for a while, but it is a great way to manage it until your dog learns appropriate behavior.
- Clearly section off a small section of your yard that your dog CAN dig. One of my dogs LOOOOVES to dig. When we are at the beach, he knows he can dig. We will even encourage it by putting it on cue “dig it”, and bury balls for him to dig up. Your dog will have fun helping you dig up this section of your yard (clearly demarcated with rail logs, etc). Then, when he isn’t looking, bury something VERY awesome and have him come over to inspect. Cool things to bury include stuffed Kongs, real bones from the butcher, and other toys your dogs love. They will probably start burying things themselves soon. And, why go anywhere else? This is the spot where all the cool stuff is?