Dear Lisa: I'm spending more time outdoors with my young puppy since the warmer weather arrived. However, all she wants to do is dig in the yard. She digs in different places and is destroying the lawn and garden. What can I do to stop her from this annoying habit? --Testing Terra Firma in Topeka
Dogs will dig! It's a tool they use to accomplish many tasks. Reasons for digging fall into two categories: a natural instinct to achieve a goal or a symptom of a behavioral problem.
Many purebred dogs were selectively bred for their digging abilities. The terrier breeds in particular and some hounds are noted for "going to ground" to locate their quarry. While Dachshunds may dig for badgers and Parson Russell Terriers for fox, other breeds use digging to help locate weasels, otters, rodents and other small vermin that live underground.
Dogs may dig when they find moles in your yard. With dogs' acute hearing they can locate them scurrying along in their underground burrows and their keen sense of smell helps identify the exact spot to dig. Some dogs may dig to create a cool spot in the earth during summer's heat or just to have fun.
Other times dogs may dig out of boredom, obsessive-compulsive behavior or the need to escape. Puppies especially have tons of energy and need to release it somewhere. If a puppy isn't mentally challenged or physically exercised enough she could be digging to relieve that pent up energy. Dogs that dig at a fence line may want to escape from the yard either to play with other dogs or to try to locate their owners due to separation anxiety.
If prey drives your dog to dig then remove the vermin. For fun diggers, don't provide easy targets such as bare spots of soft earth. Cover barren patches with stones, tiles, gravel or wood. This may stop digging in one area but may lead to digging elsewhere.
The best solution is not to try and stop your dog from digging but give her a place to dig by building a digging pit or sandbox. Many people also divide their yards into dig-free zones, one for manicured gardens and lush lawns and a fenced-in area for the dog. This compromise gives man and his best friend what they both want with no hard feelings between them.
If you have a question, send it to Lisa at AskLisa@AKC.org and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions she cannot offer individual responses.