Ask the Vet

Taking the Dig Out of the Dog

Breaking bad habits in the family pet takes more than a one-time correction. (iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Question:

You helped me find the right Brittany Spaniel eight years ago. She is a joy and very intelligent. I have one problem my training has not solved -- the dog has a tendency to dig. She knows better, and when I ask, "Who did this?" she runs and hides in her doghouse. Any ideas on how to stop her from digging?

Answer:

I am glad you got a good one. I wish I had a quick, easy and cheap solution for you, but this comes down to my three fundamental rules of dog training: One, be clear in what you ask. Two, be consistent in what and how you ask. Three, be able to enforce what you ask.

In this case, you have to be able to consistently interrupt this behavior every time if you are going to break the habit. This means she has to be in a pen with concrete, in the house or in a crate unless you are with her. You can't punish her, especially a Brittany, because they are very sensitive critters. You have to redirect her actions to something else.

I also think it's important to be realistic. At 8 years of age, it's not going to be easy to break her habit of digging. In fact, she may never completely stop. My solution with my Labs is a shovel. I don't enjoy filling the holes as much as they like digging them, but I've learned to pick my battles.

(VM/AG)