Welcome to our new regular monthly feature,
“A Lesson with Laura”
Many of you will have already met our Deputy Head Nurse, Laura. An invaluable member of our nursing team who is also a font of animal behaviour knowledge.
After joining the Ash Tree family in 2014, Laura began an Advanced Diploma in Canine Behaviour Management, and studies hard for her qualification alongside working full time, hosting behaviour clinics and puppy socialisation evenings, and spending time with her own dogs and two legged family outside of work.
Each month, Laura is going to share some of her knowledge and wisdom with us, so keep your eyes open for these fantastic articles.
Lesson 1: Digging
Dogs love to dig! If you have a dog that loves to dig, although this can be frustrating, try to remember that it is a normal and very natural canine behaviour. Some breeds of dog are specifically designed for digging; breeds which are designed to go to ground after prey or dogs originally from cold climates that need to dig holes in the snow to keep warm. The desire for these types of breed to dig can be very strong indeed. Breeds with a strong genetic desire to dig include Dachshunds, most Terrier breeds, Huskies and Malamutes. However, highly intelligent dogs such as Border Collies or Poodles may use digging as an outlet for frustration, and any breed of dog may use digging as a form of escape.
If your dog has started digging up your garden firstly consider whether they are getting enough physical and mental exercise. Boredom or excessive energy levels due to lack of physical exercise are common reasons for a dog to start digging. Providing your dog with daily exercise and regular play and training sessions may be enough to help stop the digging behaviour.
For the more serious digger other measures will need to be taken. The best way to deal with digging is to provide an appropriate outlet for the behaviour i.e. allowing your dog to dig in a certain area. This way your dog still gets to express normal canine behaviour but in a place that is appropriate, not your flower beds! This can be approached in a couple of different ways:
Teach your dog to dig on command when out on walks. Mole hills are a particularly good target for this! Find a safe area (not in the middle of a footpath where somebody might trip down the hole!) and encourage your dog to start digging. You could drop treats in the earth and encourage your dog to find them or you could start pretending to dig in the earth yourself, as soon as they start digging say “dig” or “good dig”. Repeat this frequently until your dog will happily dig on command. When your dog can dig on command you can then get them to exhibit this behaviour out on walks which should then limit the amount of digging they do in the garden.
Provide an area in the garden where you are happy for your dog to dig. An ideal way to do this is to provide a sand pit full of earth and to hide treats or toys in it on a daily basis to encourage your dog to dig there. If you catch your dog digging in any other part of the garden then re direct them to the sandpit, they will soon start to learn where they can and cannot dig.
If the above suggestions aren’t practical then you may have to consider fencing off the areas of the garden that you do not want your dog to dig up.
For further help and advice with digging, or any other behaviour, please do not hesitate to contact me at the practice, I’m always here to help.
See you next month!