April 27, 2022
Before I went to Kansas last week, I planted my vegetables into containers. I do not have an extensive garden, but there are 12 good sized containers I am planting this year. While the immediate weather is not forecast as sunny and warm, the last frosts appear to be over. I only added two new containers this year, so preparation was minimal. I removed the leaves from the old pots along with the small shoots that managed to sprout. I had removed the old plants and their root systems last year and mulched them into the yard, so all I had left was to add additional soil where needed and to dig up the top 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) of soil to provide for the new roots. Zena was a constant companion as I prepared the containers. I realized I needed to keep an eye on her to make sure she did not dig them up.
When I looked online, I found a dog’s instinct to dig in the ground is as ingrained as barking or sniffing. There are four main reasons dogs dig and they are all tied to instinct. Dogs are by nature predators, as evident in even the smallest Toy Puddle chewing squeaky toys and chasing squirrels. As the dog explores the yard they may hear and smell animals underground and try and dig them up. Dogs also have a strong instinct to cache things they value (food or toys) and they hide these valuables for safekeeping. One of the hiding places is to dig a hole. A third reason is to regulate the dog’s temperature. By digging a hole, a dog can gain the warmth of the ground during the winter or the coolness during the summer. This is particularly true for Nordic breeds, including the Prerinses Mountain Dog (Zena). The final reason is stress and anxiety. As dogs stress they participate in displacement behaviors, and one of these behaviors is digging.
Zena clearly displays the first three reasons to dig. She has always liked to snuffle in the flower beds. I assumed she was looking for a good piece of mulch to chew (another bad habit) until she proudly brought Melissa the snake she had captured and chewed. Then there was the caterpillar that made the mistake of crawling by her path. Zena is constantly trying to hide her treasures both inside and out. When she catches me watching, she returns to the valuable and moves it to a new location hoping I did not see the new cache. The first hole Zena dug was just big enough to fit her body to comfortably. While it was neither warm nor cold outside, she seemed to find comfort lying in the shallow depression. We will need to continue to stay alert and try to find ways to relieve any stress or anxiety. That is what puppy parents do.
THOUGHTS: When I planted my vegetables, I placed cages around them for support. One of the small tomatoes had two plants in the pot and I placed this bonus in a small container thinking I could get a larger pot and a cage later. Then went to mow the lawn. When I rode by the fence, I noticed the unsupported plant was gone. I finished mowing and went back inside to see what had happened. There was dirt on Zena’s nose and a hole in the soil about the size of Zena’s snout. While the caged plants were left alone, the unsupported plant seemed free to dig. Over the last two years the pandemic has caused stress and anxiety. This has led to a rise in drug abuse, overdose, and violent crime. Since we cannot stick our nose in the ground, we need to find other ways to cope. And, we need to find ways to support each other. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.