Digging is great exercise for your dog and provides mental stimulation. There are many natural, evolutionary reasons why dogs love to dig. But that’s absolutely no comfort when he’s destroying your irrigation and tearing the sprinkler hoses to shreds. The best way to stop this behavior is through a combination of prevention, aversion and reward.
Conceal all exposed irrigation. Use a tarpaulin or if necessary, or simply block off access to the irrigation using garden furniture. Because the irrigation provides a degree of resistance against Lucky’s paws, digging around the irrigation system is self-rewarding. But if he can’t access the irrigation, he has to divert his energy elsewhere.
Take Lucky for lots of long walks. By tiring him out, you reduce the amount of excess energy he has to devote to digging. Give your pup lots of stimulating play. Use toys, food puzzles and activities that appeal to his character and breed to stimulate him. For example, if he’s a retriever breed, he’ll love fetch. If he’s a terrier, he’ll love tug-of-war.
Create an exclusion zone. Put your pooch on a leash and walk him around the yard. Allow him to roam relatively freely. Give him verbal praise as you walk the yard. Gently tug the leash to distract him when he approaches the irrigation and cease the praise. By giving him praise, then removing it, you teach Lucky that the positive stimulus he had a second ago is removed when he goes into the “exclusion zone.” Eventually, he’ll begin to associate the exclusion zone with the removal of a positive stimulus and will not want to go into it. This process is called negative punishment. The trick is not to discourage digging, but to create an aversion to the area in which you don’t want your dog to dig.
Leash your dog and take him an area of the garden in which he is allowed to dig. Let him roam and explore. While he’s doing this, monitor his body language and if you think he’s about to dig, give him the verbal cue, “Dig!” He may not dig straight away, so avoid repeating the command frequently as it will eventually lose all meaning and will just become background noise. The trick is to use your understanding of his behavior to time the command to arrive just before Lucky performs the action. Reward him with a food treat when he starts digging. This is called positive reinforcement. By giving him treats, you teach him that digging in this part of the yard has a positive outcome.
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.