All About Marie

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Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at www.blogtalkradio.com/petplace; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 18 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of one baby boy, and pet parent of three cats, two dogs, and a cockatoo.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Dog digs holes in back yard...



Dear Marie:
I have a two year old, male, Alaskan Malamute. He is a wonderful dog but he has one big problem..he loves to dig. We have tried everything to correct this behavior: sprays, pepper, water, noise, burying his waste in the holes he makes; but nothing seems to work. We’ve noticed he digs his holes when he is alone but we can’t be with him all the time because we work. What can we do?
Lynn

Dear Lynn:
Your two year old dog is really just a big puppy. Alaskan Malamutes, like other large breed dogs, tend to remain fairly immature for several years and thus take extra time to outgrow puppy behavior problems.

Since your big guy is digging when you are not home, he is most likely bored or suffering from separation anxiety. I suspect that his digging is probably just a result of boredom since you haven’t reported any other problems occurring while he is alone.

Dogs love to dig. This is a very natural and normal behavior. Sometimes dogs, especially those that are not neutered, dig to escape and see the world...and canines of the opposite sex! During warm weather, like that which we've had a lot of lately, digging allows dogs to make a cool spot in which to lay down. Dogs also excavate yards to bury treasures, like bones, socks, and toys. But mostly, dogs who have no other distractions, (like activities with you and your family), dig because it is just plain fun!

There are two methods of dealing with digging: eliminate the behavior or redirect it. To eliminate the behavior, you must make some time when you can supervise your dog in the yard when he thinks you are gone. Watch him through a window and as soon as he begins digging, administer a consequence of some kind. You said noise and water have not helped. I suggest using a citronella collar that can administer a small "fragrant" correction via a remote control. It will definitely get his attention. In no time, he will associate digging with the unpleasant sensation and he will not know the correction is coming from you. These collars are available at most pet supply stores and are safe and humane.

Plan on beginning this training at the start of your weekend because you will need several days to be successful and break the habit. Also, make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the collar if you employ this method of training.

To redirect the behavior, create a special place in a remote area of your yard that can be used for digging. Take your dog there and let him watch you bury a treat or bone. Encourage him to dig it up and praise him when he does. Do this each day, all the while burying special treasures for your dog to find. In the meantime, correct him if he digs anywhere but the special place and lead him back to the correct location. Eventually, he will only dig in the designated digging place since that is the only location where he gets positive reinforcement (finding fun and yummy treats) and receives no corrections. Unfortunately, this method will not solve digging problems associated with escape behavior. Let me know how everything works out.

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