2010-04-08 / News

‘The aerator’ is ruining my yard

Flotsam and Jetsam
By Donna Drago

I have a problem that I don’t know how to solve. It’s this: My puppy will not stop digging holes in my yard.

No matter how many times I pull her away, scold her, put her in her crate and act like she has broken my heart, she just ignores my red-faced angst and finds another spot to dig up.

This habit of hers has become something of a conversation starter at local cocktail parties. Every person who walks or drives by my house has noticed the activity, and I am regularly ribbed about it. When I am introduced to someone new, they often ask where I live and then say, “Oh, are you the folks with the digger?”

It’s embarrassing.

People walking by either see the aftermath, which looks like an IED went off in the yard, or they see the backside of the puppy sticking out of the ground and a fountain of dirt spraying in the direction of her tail. Anyone who gets close enough will get sprayed with flying dirt.

From an anatomical standpoint, she was born to dig – slim, sharp paws and a long, pointy nose are the perfect tools for her hobby. If you were to make a plaster cast of one of her holes, it would look just like her head.

People have come up with new names for her. One neighbor calls her Digger O’Dell, another calls her “The Aerator.”

I have taken to calling her “You Bad Dog.”

When this habit started some months ago, I searched online to get some tips about what to do to stop it. There are dozens of remedies to be found. Most of them only work if the dog only digs in one area of the yard. My dog does not discriminate and digs all over the place; in fact, I don’t think she’s ever returned to the same hole twice. If she did, I could sprinkle an assortment of foul-smelling things in the area of the holes, but I would have to buy out a supermarket’s entire stock of cayenne pepper in order to cover my whole yard. Then, we’d all have it on our shoes and paws and it would create even more problems.

I bought a product that is supposed to repel dogs and cats and all manner of furry neighbors. It smells like a combination of peppermint and asphalt, and it was only on the lawn for about 45 seconds before she decided she liked that scent and dug a hole right where I put it. I would really like to get my $15.99 back on that deal.

The dog behavior experts say that boredom can be a reason why dogs dig. I can’t imagine that she is ever bored – she never stops moving long enough to consider whether she is or not. She chases birds, squirrels and bees. She wags and barks at every passerby, their kids and pets. People come into the yard to talk to her because she is very cute and quite friendly. She has such a busy social schedule I’m surprised she has time to dig.

The only people who don’t stop and talk to her are those who don’t want to get muddy. Her habit leaves her head, shoulders and front paws perpetually covered with dirt.

I can’t keep her in the house because she runs wind sprints around the rooms and flies up and down the stairs until I let her out again. My older dog just stares at me with a disapproving look, as if to accuse me of ruining his life with this whirling dervish in the house.

One day, I accused him of digging one of the holes and he was absolutely mortified that I would lump him into the same category as the puppy. He wouldn’t even look at me for the rest of the day.

Now that it’s spring, my problem is becoming even bigger. One of the tips I keep seeing on doggie websites is this: “Don’t let the dog see you digging in the dirt (i.e. for gardening) or this will be positive reinforcement” for the dog. Come spring, I don’t do much of anything besides gardening.

So now what?

Do I wait until she goes to bed and garden by the light of the moon?

I am truly at my wits’ end about this and would welcome suggestions from anyone who has tamed a compulsive digger.

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