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Ed Jorden PET VET

Dear Dr. Jorden: Two years ago, we adopted a wonderful springer spaniel mixed with a cocker.

Her only fault is she loves to dig. We need help! Is there anything you can suggest to stop the digging? She is now 3 1/2 years old.

Digging is a real nuisance and a very hard habit to break. Here are a few suggestions that have worked for some:

- If your dog digs in certain areas repeatedly, try placing chicken wire over the area and putting dirt or mulch over the wire. When she starts to dig, the wire won't let her get very far and is uncomfortable to her paws.

The more places you put the wire down and she unsuccessfully tries to dig, the sooner she will find out that digging is no longer fun and will quit.

- When you clean up the yard, leave her feces on the spots she likes to dig. When it is their own feces, they will often leave that area alone.

- Think about what is happening when your dog is digging. I realized that my dog digs when the underground sprinkler system is on. She can hear the buzz of the water going through the plastic pipes, and she was digging to get at it.

In every hole in my yard, and there were a lot of them, there was a plastic pipe exposed. The only way around this is to pen up the dog when the water system is working.

- Catch her at the digging and scold her. You have to do this while she is digging, not afterward. It does no good to scold her, even if you bring her back to the hole. She just will not get it.

Along this line, I have heard about using shock collars to teach them not to dig. Some shock collars work by remote control. When you see your dog starting to dig, you activate the shock. It is not a severe shock (most of them are adjustable), but it is a memorable shock.

It only takes a few times for most dogs to realize that it is just not worth digging when it shocks you. The problem with the remote shock collars is that they are pretty pricey.

- Cement your entire yard and put up a basketball hoop OR add water to the hole and call it a swimming pool.

OK, the last suggestion may not work for you, but sometimes you get frustrated enough to do it. Some dogs will dig until they get too old to do it, which is about 12 years old. By then, it just doesn't matter that there is another hole in your yard.

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Another related topic to digging is plant fertilizers and rose beds.

It is a common thing to mix fertilizer and bone meal together and dig it into a rose bed. The bone meal must be easily detected by the dogs and really tasty because they will dig the rose plant up to get at the bone meal.

The bone meal doesn't hurt them, but the fertilizer does. Vomiting starts, and dogs get really sick when they ingest fertilizer. If this happens, your pet will need veterinary care.

Have questions about pets? Write to: PetVet; c/o The Billings Gazette; P.O. Box 36300; Billings, Mont. 59107-6300. Questions of general interest may become topics of future columns.