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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 26140
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience
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Our mini dachshund is obsessed with digging up tree roots.

Customer Question

Our mini dachshund is obsessed with digging up tree roots. We've had dachshunds for many years but never seen anything like this. She has destroyed a large option of our backyard digging from daylight to dark. It's like a nervous compulsive action she can't stop. Is there anything we can do to calm her down and prevent her from completely destroying our back yard?
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 10 months ago.
I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner, Judy. I have advanced training in canine behavior and am pleased to discuss Trudy's digging with you.Digging may be a nuisance but it is an innate trait for many dogs. Some breeds may dig holes that provide a cool place for them to lie in. Some dogs use digging as a way to escape confinement or the digging represents an activity similar to destructive chewing that occurs when young dogs are left alone without sufficient stimulation. When dogs become house pets, they often need to leave natural tendencies behind, such as digging, if they are to be good home companions. Most dogs have little problem with this compromise as long as they have sufficient stimulation elsewhere in their lives. Some dogs, however, may continue to dig despite other adequate stimulation, to escape or simply because digging is fun. Understimulated and underexercised dogs may dig as a recreational event. The prognosis varies considerably with the underlying cause. A young dog or intact male with a strong motivation to roam may see digging as providing freedom; these dogs are very frustrating to control. For these cases, keeping the dog indoors in a safe, destruction-proof area or providing a confinement area where the dog is unable to dig to escape may be the only viable alternative. Environmental enrichment is most indicated for those dogs that dig because they have no acceptable alternative. Whenever the pet is left outdoors unsupervised, it is important to attempt to provide an appealing alternative activity to distract and occupy it. This distraction may include large balls to push around or wooden boxes and ramps on which to crawl and explore. Large rubber toys can be stuffed with treats, tied to ropes and suspended from tree limbs for some dogs. The success in enriching the environment is variable and may be negligible for some pets. Increased activity, such as vigorous physical exercise (fetch, jogging, speed walking) provided two or more times daily, may help reduce the amount of time digging. Another option is to provide a sand/soil digging pit with partially buried toys and "chews" to encourage digging in one area instead of many. Adding another pet may be helpful but you might end up with two pets that dig and therefore twice the damage. When dogs are digging to create a cool respite, they may stop if given a cool, shaded area or a wading pool is provided where they can cool off. Dogs that are digging as a response to fearful stimuli may enjoy the comfort and security of a doghouse or other forms of shelter. For some dogs, confinement in a secure pen or run may be the best treatment plan. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish. Not all of the above will apply to your dog, of course, but perhaps you'll be able to glean a few pearls of wisdom that will be helpful in correcting your dog's behavior. Michael Salkin, DVM