Stop Your Dog's Destructive Ways

Dog psychologist and nutritionist Kathy Huxtable helps a couple to stop their dog from digging in the yard.

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Erika Ireland's 8-month-old Weimaraner, Gracie, had no grace when it came to digging.

Ireland and her husband, Greg, had just moved into a new home in Clovis, Calif., and let her loose in the back yard, which was just dirt. Gracie dug a hole every chance she got when she was outside.

"When we put her out there, she just dug holes, all sorts of holes," says Ireland. So she sought help from dog psychologist and nutritionist Kathy Huxtable of K-9 Klassroom in Fresno, Calif.

With Huxtable's advice, Ireland partly filled the next few holes Gracie made with some of the dog's own droppings. When Gracie went back to the holes and started digging, she found her own poop. The idea worked.

"When she realized the holes had her own excrement, she quit digging," Ireland says. Digging up dirt and urinating on lawns are two natural canine instincts that can cause yard nightmares for dog owners.

"The digging can destroy the landscaping and can interrupt the lawn," says Brenda Forsythe, a veterinarian at Cedar Veterinary Hospital in Fresno. "The urination can kill the lawn because of the acids in the urine, in particular the ammonia."

Dogs often dig because they hear rodents or other critters underground or want to build themselves a bed. But the most common reason dogs dig is because they're bored.

Dogs "spend a lot of time on their own, and they take it out on their environment," Huxtable says. "They are very social animals."

To help with their boredom, give dogs something to do. Fill hollow rubber toys with peanut butter or other treats, and dogs will spend hours trying to get the food out.

Owners also can designate a digging location and teach their dogs to dig there, says Ron Inman of Promise Plus, which offers dog training and obedience classes in Sanger, Calif.

The holes already made can be partially filled with the dog's own excrement or gravel to discourage the dogs from repeating their actions, say Forsythe and Huxtable. But don't let your pet watch you patch up the hole, Huxtable says.

"Dogs will mimic what they see you do," she says, adding that gardeners shouldn't let their dogs garden with them.

If your dog urinates on your lawn, you probably have yellow burn spots in your yard. The best solution to this dilemma is to teach the animal a specific place to urinate, especially when it is young.

"They haven't been taught where to go, so they go everywhere," Inman says.

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