Q. My retriever has been digging excessively, and my lawn is starting to look like I have gophers. It’s hard for me to be with her every minute she’s outside. Is there anything I can do to change this behaviour?
A. This digging behavior can be modified but will require some diligence. The first thing to look at is why your dog might be digging. The most likely reason that dogs dig when left out in the yard is boredom or lack of exercise. You mentioned that you can’t be outside with her every minute, which is understandable. However, this situation does require some supervision, so perhaps she should come indoors when you can’t watch her until she starts to understand what you expect of her.
Many dogs are delegated to the back yard on a daily basis. Even if your yard is large, it still does not provide enough mental stimulation for most dogs. Take your retriever for a daily walk of about 45 minutes minimum. This will give her sustained aerobic activity, which can act as a stress reliever.
Next, get your dog’s brain working. If it’s boredom that is causing the digging, then spend a bit of time teaching her some new tricks by getting involved in some dog sports or obedience. If this will not fit into your schedule, then teach her some activities such as how to retrieve.
Another thing you can do is provide a dig pit for her. This is an area in the yard where she is allowed to dig. You will need to show it to her a few times until she catches on.