How to Solve Dog Behavior Problems

Stopping a Dog from Excessive Digging

Digging is another natural dog behavior. They do it for lots of reasons. Terriers, for example, do it simply because they've been bred to do it for countless generations -- part of their original job of digging out burrows and going in after varmints like rats and badgers. Other dogs dig to fix themselves a place to sleep, to stash some food, to make a secure hiding place, or out of pure boredom. And some do it just because it's fun.

If your dog has started excavating your yard or digging holes in your love seat, try to figure out his motive. Is he bored and trying to while away the hours doing a little relandscaping? Is he trying to beat the heat by making a bed in the cool earth? Is he an unneutered male trying to get under the fence and after that female on the next street? Or maybe he's burying bones or other treats to enjoy later on? Once you think you have a handle on his reason for digging, you can take steps to change the behavior.

Now, if your dog is one of those who's been bred to dig, you've got a tough row to hoe. You're never going to get him to quit, so you're going to need to give him the opportunity to dig where it's okay. Try giving him his own plot of dirt or a sandpit (fewer muddy tracks) to dig in. Encourage him to dig there, and praise him when he does. Keep the area appealing with lots of toys and treats. If he digs because he's trying to find a cooler place to lie down, simply provide more shade in that spot or move him to a place where he can be more comfortable -- under a tree or in the house, for instance. The dog who's trying to escape might be a little more difficult to deal with. Some people have gone so far as to put concrete or wire beneath their fences to keep digging dogs in. Neutering or spaying takes away a major motive for escape. Other dogs feel anxious or threatened out in the open for long periods of time. Sometimes, just providing shelter -- access to a garage, shed, or doghouse -- is enough to put an end to the great escape.

Again, use distraction techniques when you catch your dog in the act of digging where you don't want him to. As soon as he stops, praise him, play a favorite game, give him a toy, or take him to his designated digging area. Never correct a dog for digging after the fact. This only confuses him, making him anxious and more likely to dig!

When to Call the Vet

Digging behavior usually doesn't require any veterinary attention.

Now let's look into dogs who fight excessively, and how to stop this behavior. It's covered in the next section.