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EJane

Sudden digging (4-5 year old dog)

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EJane   

Hi, I'm looking for some help in dealing with a problem we have been having with our nearly 5 year old male Labrador.

 

He seems to have developed quite the taste for digging along the back of our house and we aren't having any luck whatsoever in discouraging this habit. He is very new to digging (only started within the past couple of months) so we can't figure out why he is doing it.

 

A little extra info about us -

We have recently moved to our third house - which will be our permanent one. The first place we were at he did not dig at all and was mostly an outside dog. He's generally an excellent dog - minimal barking and good behaviour all around. The second place we moved to he dug a little, maybe once or twice, however it wasn't happening to the point that it was a problem. We have finally moved to our new place and he just won't stop digging along the house.

 

The grass doesn't grow as well along the side of the house so there is a bit of dirt as the sun doesn't hit is as much so at first we thought it was the loose dirt that was encouraging him to dig. We have since built garden beds to cover it up all along the house and also we rolled down some deterrent mesh that is supposed to stop dogs from digging - instead of stopping he just digs at the edge of it however. We are trying to use stern voices whenever we see that he has dug however it's not effective as we never catch him in the act. Whenever I try to catch him in the act and he is alerted to my presence he immediately comes over to me and won't move from where I am until I am completely gone (even if I am standing behind the back door, he will continue to sit there waiting for me until he thinks I am gone). As a Lab he is really affectionate and won't dig when we're outside but does it when he thinks we're not around. Can't quite see the area from the back windows either as the view is blocked.... Um, what else. He is mostly an inside dog now and get's plenty of attention. He goes for a walk in the morning and evening so I don't think it is a boredom thing. He is able to dig a hole in under thirty minutes when I let him outside just to use the bathroom.

 

We've also tried putting down deterrent smells like citrus sprays and other pet deterrent gel's, and those little smelly gravel beads that are supposed to smell bad to dogs and cats but they are not working very well. We are at our wits end! We can't possibly spend any more time with the pup and I love him to bits but he has never acted like this before and I can't find a reason for it!

 

I feel like deep down he might be doing it for attention because lately he has been getting pampered and receiving lots of love so when he goes outside and we are away, even for a very short time, he starts acting up and it is so unlike him. I believe he knows it's the wrong thing to do as he starts avoiding me when he sees that I notice the holes and get upset although I've never done more than get stern with him, he is usually so lovely but when he sees me notice the hole he acts like a guilty child who knows they've spilled juice on the coach and now he's going to get into trouble from Mum!

 

Please any help or advice would be great as we really need it! It's becoming very frustrating and I've researched the topic a lot but not seeing a lot else I can do at this point. I am worried about going off to work during the day, my partner and I both have full time jobs and simply can't watch him all the time. We have considered keeping him as 100% an inside dog but I really want him to spend time outside as well without having to worry about watching him constantly. I know that dog's dig and that's it's natural but I'm worried as it's never been a problem before....

 

He's really a beautiful dog and this is really the only problem we've ever had with him (: Thanks everyone.

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The funniest photo I have is of my 4 year old Bitch showing her daughter how to dig :laugh: 

 

I LOVE a nice garden but dogs love to dig. I have a sandpit for them but they need lots of reinforcement for using it. So....I use compost panels to lie on top of the ground/grass whilst I’m waiting for things to grow, I train and walk/run them daily AND they are all inside when I’m away from home. Leave them outside for 5 min unsupervised and, yep, they will dig somewhere. It’s a normal dog behaviour that I use management and training to deal with. Punishment is pointless. I just suck it up when they dig something up and balance that annoyance out with how much JOY they bring me. 

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It is a normal doggy thing to do ..it is not 'acting up ' . Why not give HIM that part of the yard to dig in/play in/chew bones on /have his pool on ..and know he is entertained, relaxed and happy to keep occupied ?  many dog owners would be thrilled if their dog would entertain themselves in a particular area  :D

Compromise ...pick your battles ... be pleased that he does this instead of , say 'fence running/barking at next door people/dogs' . 
Sorry ..probably not the advice you wanted  :P 

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EJane   

Okay if it's normal then I guess it's okay... he is just ripping up the grass and digging to the dirt underneath plus he used to spend a lot of time outside at our other places and we didn't have any problems with it - just seems to be at this new place that he has taken it up (which is why I thought maybe there was another reason for it rather than it just being instinct). I may have to invest in getting a patch of dirt or a sandpit that's in another area for him to dig in and direct him to dig there as it would be preferable. Thanks for the tips so far (:

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EJane   

To The Spotted Devil - you mention that you use management and training to deal with dog digging. May I ask what kind of strategies you use when you are with your pups?

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1 hour ago, EJane said:

To The Spotted Devil - you mention that you use management and training to deal with dog digging. May I ask what kind of strategies you use when you are with your pups?

I scatter dry food in the sandpit, put dig on command and make sure they have something to DO when I’m outside with them as they are BUSY working dogs. Also, I never ever weed the garden in front of my youngster because her idea of helping is getting straight into that area and digging it up :eek: So I’m more likely to take them training and/or for a walk/free run. They they chill inside whilst I work on the garden. We have a bush block up the back and I weed that whilst they run wild as they can dig all they like. Provided our chickens aren’t up there that is :laugh:

 

To add, my Dalmatian has never been much of a digger and he’s nearly 12 so he hangs out with me in the garden. 

Edited by The Spotted Devil
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We have a designated digging area :) Same as TSD, I scatter food in the allowed area. Sometimes I go in an turn the dirt over to make it "new and interesting" again over the areas I'd rather they not dig in. Like smack in the middle of the yard.

 

Pretty good about it, fun to watch them dig and I appreciate it being kept to one spot. For the couple of errant holes in the middle of the yard, I didn't correct them or anything. They don't really understand boundaries like I do. Just popped their poo in it and covered over, then hid something REALLY GOOD in the allowed digging area.

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EJane   

Okay thanks! I think we are going to build him a dirt pit towards one end of our yard and see if I can encourage him to dig there instead (: 

 

I have actually NEVER seen him dig a hole with my own eyes and he only does it when we're not around. When we were building our garden beds and raking up all the dirt in the area to make the ground even under the pallets we were using he was with us (because I wanted him to be involved) but he didn't dig or try to help us even when we were right in front of him knee deep and messy in the dirt :/ is this normal for him to never do it in front of us even when we're digging too?

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RuralPug   

The new house probably is fun to dig in, where the other yards weren't, I'd say. When I've had a foster that digs where I don't want them to dig, I have found that filling the hole about 3/4 full, then, like Thistle, popping in some of their poo before completing the fill, deters them from digging again in the same spot.

And there is a special part of the garden that they can dig in and enjoy that spot. I can't use sand there because we are surrounded by bush filled with feral cats who will travel miles to poo in a sandpit! So my lot have to dig in clay LOL - but a few treated pine boards or an inexpensive raised garden bed make a sandbox very easy to construct for a large dog and heaps of fun!

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Tassie   

Great advice here, and kudos for seeking and considering fixes which should keep everyone happy;   Just a few extra thoughts.  The partl filling and then adding his poo could well work .. did for a couple of my early dogs.   (I did leave them with one giant hole on a raised bed just outside the family room … it was shaded by a bush, and a lovely cool spot to lie.   My long time neighbour and I were just reminiscing about that hole just the other day.:laugh:)

   The difference in the quality of the dirt between this place and the others might be contributing.  If there are little tiny grubs or a particular soil mix.   My two Border Collies tend to dig little holes and then nibble on something in there.  (Adds to the aeration done by the bandicoots.)

And finally, it's worth considering that he doesn't actually 'know' he's done something wrong .. but he does make a connection between your reaction and the evidence .. we just don't know quite what connection he's making.  But by giving him his own largish digging area, with all sorts of buried treasure .. toys, treats etc. and having a lot of fun in the early days helping him to discover the goodies and having a play with him, theoretically that digging pit should be a special place for him and associated with you having a good time with him.

 

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Dogsfevr   

I would consider yourself lucky to not have had a Lab dig for all those years but also consider in his short life he has had 3 new yards ,alot of change to a dog .Maybe he is feeling insecure when you leave with the change of yard .Maybe look at setting CCTV in that area so you can see what is going on when your out .
If hes not been a real digger before then something is interesting enough out there to want to dig .Is the fence type different .The biggest concern obviously if its stratco type fencing & not dug into the ground then yes the dog could dig out .
Do you have neighbours there & could they have something interesting on the other side of the fence ,are frogs more verbal in that area ?Do cats toilet around there ,as mentioned different soil .

 

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Big D   

Dogs will often dig out cool holes to lay in when they are hot, usually in shady parts of the garden.

 

Otherwise they dig when they are bored or anxious.

If you leave a retriever alone for extended periods, digging is common.  Keep in mind that it is also a habit, and once started it may continue even though the anxiety has decreased.  So it may have started with anxiety over moving house, and has simply become a habit.

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Mine dig for the sheer joy of it :laugh: I put it on cue as well (on a towel and in the sandpit) because it’s brilliant for shoulder strengthening. So they get treats for it too :rofl: 

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