HOW DO YOU STOP A LABRADOR FROM DIGGING?
Dogs love the outdoors, especially Labrador Retrievers. There are a lot of fun things to play with, and lots of interesting smells to investigate. However, there is one instinctual behavior of Labrador Retrievers that is potentially destructive to your outdoor space: digging. This is a common problem encountered by many dog owners, and may be a very frustrating behavioral problem to deal with. However, it is more important to address the reasons behind your dog’s digging, before you attempt to remedy this behavior.
WHY DO DOGS DIG?
Digging is a natural part of a dog’s life. They investigate smells, bury bones, and dig shallow “dens”. Around the home, however, digging can actually be caused by several factors that you may not be aware of.
Just like children, dogs may engage in destructive behavior to try to elicit additional attention. This frequently occurs in dogs that are left at home for significant periods of time, or are primarily left alone outdoors. Your Labrador is a very social animal, and has a constant emotional need for interaction. When they are lacking in positive attention (such as playtime, exercise, grooming, affection), a dog may try to elicit negative attention instead. Most dog owners, upon discovering that their dog has been digging in their absence, will respond with the classic “Bad dog!”. If the cause of the digging is neglect, this will actually backfire, and reinforce this behavior with your dog. This is because you are giving your dog negative attention, in place of the positive attention that they are craving.
HOW TO FIX THIS
Do not to leave your dog at home alone for long periods of time, and increase the amount of time that you spend with your dog. Try taking them for a long walk, or dedicating a specific time during each day reserved just for them. It is your responsibility to provide the affection that your dog craves, as this will be a huge part of preventing destructive behavior.
Digging can be a symptom of nervous behavior exhibited by dogs that are under significant environmental stress. Dogs are very in-tune with their owners, and may be responding to an unrelated stressful situation in the home. This will cause them to engage in nervous behavior, such as chewing, digging, eating grass, or refusing to sit still. If this could be a cause of your dog’s digging problem, it is important that you address the cause immediately.
HOW TO FIX THIS
Try to provide as much of a low-stress environment for your dog as you are able. If you, yourself are stressed about something, try to relax. Your dog will be receptive to your mood, and may relax as well. Playtime is a great way to combat stress, both in dogs and in humans. Buy some new toys, and spend some outdoor time playing with your dog on a daily basis.
This is a similar situation to digging caused by neglect, though is more common in puppies. Your Labrador puppy is constantly full of energy, and needs to have sufficient outlets for this energy. If you are not providing enough entertainment for your dog (walks, toys, playtime) your dog may dig for their own amusement.
HOW TO FIX THIS
Your dog needs more entertainment! This is usually accomplished by finding new and exciting toys for your dog to play with. There are many great dog toys for sale at pet supply stores, but many household items can make toys as well. Try tying two knots in each end of a short, large rope, and use it to play “fetch” with your dog. A rubber dog toy that is filled with peanut butter can be another great way to entertain your dog for several hours. Interactive toys are best, as they will help your dog to be more engaged in playtime.
If your dog is digging a shallow pit, and then lying down in that hole, your dog is probably digging to escape an uncomfortable environment. Dogs that are outdoors in high-temperature environments will frequently dig a shallow hole to lay down on cool earth. Dogs that are in cold environments will try to create a “den” to escape the cold. This is not destructive behavior, it is your dog’s attempt at self-preservation.
HOW TO FIX THIS
Your dog is trying to tell you something! Purchase or build an insulated doghouse for your Labrador, that offers protection from sun, rain, and cold. There are many waterproof, self-ventilating doghouses available at many pet supply stores, and at some home supply stores. Be sure that the doghouse is comfortable, and spacious enough for your dog to lie down in. Provide fresh water in the doghouse on a daily basis, in a bowl that cannot be tipped over.