All Things Dog

The Digging Golden

Is your Golden's digging wreaking havoc on your backyard and your patience? If so, you're by no means alone. While it's not always easy to cure your Golden Retriever of this destructive pastime, it can be done.

Keep in mind that occasional digging is an instinctive behavior. For thousands of years your dog's ancestors dug dens in which to sleep and give birth, and to find small animals to eat. However, habitual digging can be a sign of something else. Once you determine its cause, it's easier to find a solution.

Is he bored? Often a dog that digs excessively is sending a sign that he is bored. Goldens require a lot of mental stimulation, and if they don't get it, they'll find other ways to channel their extra energy—and most of those ways are destructive.

The solution: Give him puzzle toys, not just chew toys. Try putting a favorite treat in a Kong or other puzzle-type treat dispenser. Your Golden will be occupied for hours as he tries to get at the treat. Exercise should also play a big role in a Golden Retriever's life. Opening the door and letting him loose in the yard doesn't count. Before you leave for the day, take him for a long walk or jog to burn off energy.

Is he stressed? When dogs are stressed they sometimes react by digging. If you notice that your dog begins to dig when there are a lot of people around, especially children or other animals, it could mean that there is too much commotion.

The solution: Try to keep overly stressful situations to a minimum, or let your dog relax with a safe toy or rawhide to distract him.

Is he cooling off? On hot summer days, you may find that your Golden digs a lot more than usual. This can be because he is feeling the effects of the heat and is digging a hole to lay in to cool off.

The solution: During periods of extreme heat, make sure that your dog has enough shade and water to remain cool and well hydrated. If there is an extreme heat alert, it may be best to keep your dog indoors until the weather cools. Another solution is fill a child's plastic swimming pool and let him cool off with a refreshing splash.

Is he just having fun? Sometimes dogs will dig because they are looking for bones that they might have buried, or are chasing rodents. This is playtime for them.

The solution: Set up a water sprinkler in the area where he digs, then position yourself near the faucet. As soon as your dog starts digging, turn on the sprinkler. After a few times he will understand that digging causes the sprinkler to go on. And since he will think it's the sprinkler that's reprimanding him, not you, he should stop digging whether you are around or not.

If all else fails, you may have to set aside a special spot where your dog is allowed to dig. Choose an area and make sure its boundaries are clearly defined. Bury a toy there, and when your Golden finds it, praise him. If he digs anywhere else, you should not praise him.

Over time and with proper supervision, exercise, and attention, these solutions will help him forget all about his digging past.

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