I don’t own a lawnmower. No desire. I did the “big yard, riding lawn mower” experience back a decade ago when I lived in a little town called Emmaus, Penn. Each week, I prayed my mower would cooperate so I could give my five acres a buzz cut. More often than not, a mechanical snafu would make the weekly task even more tasking.
Happily, I am sans lawnmower at my house in Oceanside. I’m big on being a lazy yard keeper. No grass for me. Just low-maintenance shrubs, colored rock and artificial turf for my fenced backyard.
But like many of you, I have a hairy roto-tiller – a four-legger who answers to the name Chipper. Until I had the artificial turf installed, this 60-pound Golden Retriever/Husky mix took great delight in dashing out the doggy door into the backyard to bury her latest prize. Sometimes it was a brand new squeaky toy. Other times, she grabbed a tennis ball. She selected the corner of my backyard and started digging – with the frenzy that would make a school of gophers gulp in envy. She dug deep and then plunked her toy or treat into the hole and proceeded to re-fill it by nosing the pyramid of dirt. Then she tried to get past me like a football fullback to scurry into the house and adorn my white tile with her muddy paws. Oh joy.
Far too many dogs put the “d” in dig. Understanding this canine motivation is the first step in protecting your prized roses, your herb garden and your lawn. Thousands of years ago, dogs did not know where their next meal would come from, so after a kill, they would bury any uneaten food to hide it from scavengers. They returned to this “canine pantry” when they were hungry again. The dirt also helped to keep their food fresher longer by protecting it from sunlight. The modern dog is just following that ancestral urge – doesn’t matter that you feed your dog every day. It’s hard to take that “must stash food for a hungry day” mentality out of your dog.
Another reason dogs dig is to burn off energy and relieve boredom. These are signs that your dog needs to be exercised more often – and more vigorously. Take long walks in the morning and evening and vary the routes.
You can’t take the “dig” out of the dog, but you can re-direct this innate desire and save a few petunias in the process. Fortunately, we have a master gardener (and pet lover) in our own backyard. Judy Macomber, of Vista, is also publisher of Pet Lovers Publications (www.petloverspubications.com) and occasionally offers classes on achieving pet-gardening harmony.
She offers these creative, compromising ways to tame your dig-minded dog and maintain a beautiful backyard:
• Create a mini “doggyland” by devoting a portion of your backyard to your dog. Buy an inexpensive plastic kiddy pool, fill it with dirt and hide a few dog treats and toys for your dog to discover. Or put about one foot of water and create an instant doggy pool. Encourage your dog to bob for balls and replace the water each day to keep it fresh.
• Treat your dog to his own made-in-the-shade spot in the backyard by taking an old picnic table, sawing the legs in half to make it lower in height. This gives your dog the option of lounging under the picnic table for shade or sitting on top for sun.
• Stash your delicate flowers and herbs in hanging pots out of paw’s reach. Designate a small section in your backyard to grow greens like alfalfa, barley or wheatgrass if your dog likes to nibble on grass.
• Spritz your garden with what she calls “pepper pooch.” Mix two tablespoons of cayenne pepper and 6 drops of dishwashing soap in a gallon of water. Place this solution in a spray bottle and apply it to your plants. Schedule this spraying when your dog is not around. Wait at least 10 minutes for it to dry before you allow your dog in the backyard.
• Fill in the holes where you dog has dug and place heavy rocks on top of these spots. Dogs usually prefer soft dirt to carry out their excavations.
I offer this bonus tip: Give your dog a less-destructive indoor alternative by showing him how to can bury his favorite bone or toy under a blanket or behind the sofa. This tactic worked like a charm on Chipper.
Founder of Four Legged Life.com and creator of National Dog Party Day, Arden Moore is an animal behavior consultant, best-selling author, professional speaker and certified pet first aid instructor. Tune into her Oh Behave! Show on Pet Life Radio and enroll in her pet first aid classes. For more information, please visit www.fourleggedlife.com, www.petfirstaid4u.com and www.petliferadio.com.
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