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Digging Dogs

Do you have any advice on keeping my 5 month old Rat Terrier from digging in my flower beds and lawn? My lawn is St. Augustine, I would have thought it too thick for his liking. Not only does he dig in established plants, but bare spots also. His first plant was a mum about to bloom and he’s even gone after sweet potato vine. What do I do?

I’ve recently become acquainted with a pair of dogs who are a blend of Jack Russell and Rat Terrier, Lucky and Angel. I’ve seen firsthand the breed’s love of digging.

The three most common reasons for digging are entertainment, creating a cool spot to sleep and genes. I suspect genes in the case of your Rat Terrier. These dogs are natural hunters.

The best way to stop a dog from digging in the garden is through training. I went to my library and pulled out my copy of Dog Friendly Gardens, Garden Friendly Dogs to see what author Cheryl Smith had to say on the subject. She suggests that you set up a special spot in your yard just for the dog to dig. Outfit the area with a mix of soil and sand to keep it loose and well-drained. Make it "as wide as your dog is long and one-and-a-half to two times your pet’s length." When you see Fido attacking your flower beds, redirect their actions toward the new spot through positive reinforcement. Get your dog’s attention, run to the spot and call them over. Encourage them to dig and praise them when they do. With hunting dogs, Smith suggests that you bury a treat or a toy in their digging area.

Training takes vigilance especially with breeds like Rat Terriers, which are quite focused in their ways. You’ll need to supervise and consistently praise the dog for good behavior. Your neighbors will probably think your nuts, but the end result will be an outdoor space that both you and your four legged companion can enjoy.