lab puppy and flower beds

nachborMay 17, 2009

How do I keep my lab pup from digging in my flower beds. He has dug holes and dug up new plants that i have planted. What can I do to keep him out of there.

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The only foolproof method is to fence it. Although if you are very vigilant--you have to be at home watching him almost all the time--you may be able to train him with a water pistol. Several shots of water to the face won't hurt him but along with a sharp "NO!! OUT!!" should give him the idea that you don't want him in there. A really stubborn, sneaky dog (and the labs I've had in the past have been both) may still take advantage of your absence though.

There is also a powder that you can buy at the big box stores that is supposed to repel dogs and cats. I've used it; it kinda works but not if it rains on it.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 11:21PM
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My Newfoundland puppy enjoys gardening in my backyard when I'm watching as well, so I can sympathize. What has worked for me so far is chicken wire fencing around my plants. Although it may not be pretty, it isn't forever-eventually puppies grow up and learn what not to do. My puppy loves water to the face-that is his idea of a party (so goes life with a water dog), but I have found that noise aversion works well. I filled an empty pop can with a few pennies and sealed it shut with some tape. Shaking that thing at my puppy makes him think the world is ending-very affective. Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 5:06AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

I agree with Dorothy that fencing is the only truly reliable answer. It is in a dog's nature to dig, and some dogs dig more than others--but they all dig. You can try everything under the sun, but ultimately you'll find only a fence works 100% of the time. (And, if you have sandy soil and they can dig under a traditional fence, the you'll have to bury the fence several inches underground or use an electric fence to keep them inside the regular fence.)

Our dogs have a fenced dog yard where they stay all day, and then the old dogs sleep in the house and the young dogs sleep in the garage. If we let them out of the dog yard to run wild on our areage, we stay out with them and they play for a few minutes and return to their dog yard. During that "play time" they spend 90% of their time in the field behind the garage and usually spend at least some of that time swimming in the big pond. They have been yelled at and scolded enough over the years that they know to stay out of the flower beds in our presence, but I have a feeling they'd be in the beds in a heartbeat if we weren't watching them---thus, they stay in their dog yard. One of our dogs is a lab and she is, as Dorothy has noted, very stubborn and sneaky and, if she misbehaves and you catch her, she is SO charming in her apology--rolling over on her back with all her paws up in the air, crawling to you on her belly, following you all over the yard and then falling at your feet like "Forgive me! Forgive me!" I can't even yell at her because I just end up laughing at her antics. So, the best way to deal with the dogs is give them their own space and keep them out of yours.

If you don't want to put up a real fence, at least protect your plants with an electric fence. You can get one at a big box store or at a pet store. When we lived in town, we used an electric fence to keep a dog who liked to dig from digging under the wooden privacy fence that surrounded the back yard. It really, really worked. Once he'd had a taste of the electric fence, he never tried to dig under the fence again, and became agitated if I was anywhere near the fence and would try to pull me away from it or put himself between me and the fence.

In my experience, most spray-on or sprinkle-on repellents are only moderately effective and have to be applied every time it rains or every time you water.

The vegetable garden is in a separate fenced area and I have to be sure it is closed before we let the dogs out of the dog yard or at least one of them will head straight for the garden. Because I use soil amendments that dogs find completely irresistable (cow manure, bone meal, blood meal), I can't trust even the old dogs for a minute in the garden. Even my old dog, Biscuit, who is allowed to hang out in the veggie garden when I'm working in it, will dig in the soft soil to make a nice little cool spot to lie down, so I save him a spot that is "his" and he lays there.

Our dogs dig in their own dog yard and that is how they became gardeners. Every fall, I give them old gourds and pumpkins that have been used for fall decorations. They play with them endlessly and end up burying some of them. So, of course, every spring, gourds and pumpkins spring up all over the dog yard. The dogs eventually dig up most of their own gourd plants there in the dog yard, but a few survivors (generally those growing right up against the fence) usually outlast the dogs and produce more gourds and pumpkins, and then the cycle continues.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 5:24AM
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rookiegardener29(zone 6)

I DO NOT suggest the electric fence! My chocolate lab got used to the feeling. It didn't even phase him anymore. Very ineffective and a waste of money! Labs have a mind of their own. If they want something they will try to go over and under then through! Build a fence!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 12:49PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


If an electic fence did not work for you, then I suspect it wasn't strong enough for a large dog or something else was wrong. (Some of the smaller electric fence sets sold for dogs don't give off enough of a shock for some of the larger breeds of dogs.) Electric fences work great. The ranchers here use them to keep sheep, goats, donkeys, cows and horses in place, so they will work on large, determined animals.

Everyone has to do what works for them, but I just wanted to make the point that there is an electric fence for every size of animal. I'm sorry yours didn't work for you. I do have a 130-lb. Rottweiler-terrier mix who is pretty unstoppable, but even he won't argue with an electric fence.

And I didn't mention the Invisible Fence because I don't know how well it works from personal experience. However, we went to a wildfire near a home a couple of years ago and the three dogs (black labs) wouldn't leave their yard because of the "Invisible Fence". Someone had to kill the power to the fence to get the dogs to safety.

For someone who finds a real fence or even an electric fence unsightly in their landscape, the Invisible Fence with its buried line might meet their dog control need and be aesthetically pleasing as well. (Fences don't bother me, but some people hate the way they look--I just grow vines on them!) The fencing system sold under the name "Invisible Fence" requires professional installation and training, but I know people who've bought similar hidden fence kits at pet stores and they installed those themselves. Some people have had good results with them and others not, but I think the difference may be the time devoted to training the dogs initially.


Here is a link that might be useful: Example of hidden fencing

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 1:26PM
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luvmy3afhounds(7a, OK)

Maybe you could buy a kids swimming pool to keep the lab busy. They love water! What about those huge chew bones? That keeps them occupied for awhile. Puppies and flowerbeds don't go together well! I always planted when the dogs were in the house so they would not dig up the new plants. Even then they can smell where you have planted. We have sandy soil so my pups have dug their own swimming pool etc. They live in the house so you can imagine it did not take long to dig. When we got our new fence we had them put wood underneath it so my escape artist could no longer get out. My last pup that is now five years pulled all of my Iris leaves off. She loved doing it. She destroyed my raised flowerbed, but I was going to take it out anyway. Too bad they don't ever learn to dig on command! LOL! If your lab stays out all day maybe get a dog run for him or fence him his own area. Good luck!
***Dawn, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your dogs. I can just picture them playing with the pumpkins and the gourds! I love that you have a cool spot for Biscuit in the veggie garden. I was cracking up about your dog that apologizes so well!!! It sounds like you have come up with some very workable solutions so both the 4-leggers and the 2-leggers are happy.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 3:35AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


The pool is a good idea. We've had one for our dogs forever and the lab definitely likes it more than the other dogs. Some dogs are just diggers, though, and I think it is almost impossible to change their nature.

I love my dogs. We have eight dogs because we are suckers who live in the country and have taken in dogs dumped and abandoned by their "owners". I never intended to have 8 dogs, but so many of these abandoned animals get shot because they go after rancher's calves, colts or baby goats in an effort to avoid starvation. So, by taking in a few, we've been able, at least, to save that many. I would estimate that 90% of the animals dumped in the country don't survive long, so I feel good about the ones we've taken in because they not only "survived" abandonment, but they are a thriving part of a large human, dog, cat, chicken and guinea family.

Our dogs have rewarded us by enriching our lives in so many ways, but the dogs definitely aren't garden-friendly.

One "bonus" of having so many dogs is that nobody, and I mean nobody, messes with you. Someone attempted to burglarize our house once while we were gone (we only had 3 dogs then, LOL), and Biscuit took off after him and scared him away. Word got back to us through the grapevine that the would-be burglar told someone (who told us) "you can't go near that house because that dog will just tear you up!" Everyone needs a dog like that!

We had "only" 7 dogs for several years and then our son stopped in at the animal rescue shelter in Gainesville, Tx, a couple of weeks after the Flood of 2007 tore up that town. There was a little brown puppy, probably some sort of hound dog mix, who was on her last day there. Her entire litter of puppies had been left homeless by the flood. Of course, he adopted her and brought her home, and he told me "I couldn't leave her there. It was her last day and if someone didn't adopt her today, they were going to put her down." So, seven became eight. She's a great dog too.

Another interesting thing about the dogs is their names. We have a golden-brown terrier mix who is named Honey. So, when I am outside calling the dogs to come back from playtime down by the pond, it sounds like I am calling breakfast...."Honey! Biscuit!" LOL


    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 8:40AM
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rookiegardener29(zone 6)

From my experience, which is I am the Business Manager for a Pet Resort, have been for 5 years. I see hundreds of dog owners on a monthly basis, yes hundreds. I have heard many, many horror stories about electric fences. My electric fence was the appropriate size for the dog and set at the correct strength. But my labrador is VERY food motivated. When he saw me through the glass door fixing his food it didn't matter what was between us he would shock himself just to get to that door. The worst story I heard is about a Black Lab named Sadie whom I care for often. Her electric fence was set to the appropriate strength. She was similar to my lab except she had seperation anxiety and when she saw her owner coming in from work she decided to chew the line and now she is retarded. Her brain is fried. She blinks constantly, licks obsessively and has seizures on a regular basis now. We all love her anyways! He thought she would learn her lesson but that very day she came home from the vet she was on the line again. He took it down and threw it in the trash. And I did the same! I never reccomend an electric fence ever ever ever!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 12:29PM
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sammy zone 7 Tulsa

Why don't you just put a fence around the flower beds or give the lab a special place to play if you are not watching it. A digger will dig. We have goldens, and they love to dig. We built a special fenced in yard for them. we take them on a leash when we go other places, but in their own yard nothing can hurt them. I have heard horror stories about the electric fences -- even just an electric wire or an underground fence.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 9:16PM
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rookiegardener29(zone 6)

a lady in my dachshund club built a sand box for her dachshunds.. another just bought the wm kiddie pool and filled it with dirt. we have a horse trough for our 2 big dogs and a kiddie pool from walmart for our dachshunds. they love to play in the water! my lab submerges his entire body in the water with his head laying over the side like he is at a spa! its hilarious!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 11:41PM
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mrsfrodo(z7 OK)

LOL! My dog destroyed a flower bed. He would dig leaving the most established plants for last. Anything just planted- with no roots bigger than a four inch pot- he just pulls out of the ground. Then a toss in the air flips them end over end, to be caught and the toss repeated while running. It's great fun to discover the new toys mom left in the yard. I'd find a petal here, a leaf there, maybe a root ball- and an empty hole if I was lucky. LOL.

I finally resorted to laying wire fencing on the ground and securing it with metal lanscaping staples. I planted fall bulbs before laying the wire. The seeds I have planted in that bed have made it. Sometimes I have to cut a short section of wire, so a plant can emerge. Blu doesn't usually walk in the area, because he doesn't like to get his claws caught. However, transplants are still targets, so I plan to put wire cages around them until established. I need to plant summer bulbs and realized that I should NOT have overlapped the fencing. Oh well, that's what long weekends are for. We'll see if I say the same thing after the weekend.

Oh- dog's will dig, but it finally dawned on me that the worst digging happens after we have given him a steak bone for a treat. Brilliant humans- expect a dog not to dig & then give him a bone that begs for burying!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 12:34AM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

I have old dogs and they still lay on my flowers. Having other nice places for them does not work because they like to try a variety of places to lay. On the topic of electric fences: I have the kind of radio fence where you are supposed to bury the wire. I did not bury the wire too much trouble because I have a huge area for the dogs. It works somewhat. If my dog can see a rabbit he goes through it but can't come back in. I have to take the collar off and with much coaxing get him back in. I live in the country and don't want to pen my dogs in a small yard so this works better than nothing. My friend in town has a chocolate lab that kept getting out. We buried railroad ties at the bottom of her chain link fence, then the dog started going over. An electric fence (not the radio fence) along the top of the fence where she was climbing out did the trick. She doesn't even have the fence connected any more her dog learned her lesson and doesn't get out any more. It was better than having the dog hit by a car or stolen as it is a beautiful dog. Some dogs are more stubborn than others. All puppies are death to plants so be careful that you don't have any toxic plants.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 4:48PM
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I found this thread hunting for a way to keep my puppies from digging up EVERYTHING I've just planted. (They watched me weeding a while back and now they want to "weed" everything... especially plants that their Momma has just planted! Arghhh! I should've noticed how attentively they were studying me as I weeded!)

So far the only thing that's worked is putting ugly metal chicken-wire type fencing around the new plants. They seem to leave them alone then. I made the mistake yesterday of planting a little ground cover plant between some boulders, and I only covered it with a wire shelving-type thing that I happened to have out there. I just now went to check it, and it was politely moved to the side, with a hole where I'd planted. *banging head on wall* (Oh, and when they dig up a plant, they are helpful enough to rip that thing to shreds so Mommy can't possibly salvage it. I can just picture them shaking it vigorously in their teeth!)

We're going to build a sand pit for them as an outlet for their digging... but now I know that I have to put fencing around EVERY little thing that I plant or it's puppy-bait!

One comment about the Invisible Fence. I used to be adamantly against them, because I would never want to shock or hurt an animal.

Well, I have completely changed my tune about the Invisible Fence and think it's nothing short of a miracle. First of all, it's a static shock like the kind you get touching a doorknob in cold weather. It's not painful so much as it is surprising and unpleasant.

The key is the training that you do for the first four weeks. I honestly think it would fail without the training (the Invisible Fence company has a trainer come out for three of the training sessions). The fence keeps not only my two adventurous puppies in, but my older VERY stubborn dog as well. And they're so HAPPY!! They know where the boundaries are, and they gleefully run and play throughout the entire front, side and back yard where they're allowed to, as well as some of the forested area adjacent to us that we included.

We initially only considered it because it was $1300 for our acre of land vs. $5,000 to $8,000 for a regular fence (and that was only 2000 sq. feet of the back yard!!). Plus, we knew our little adventurers would easily climb over or dig under any physical fence. That's not an issue at all with the Invisible Fence! Just wanted to add my 2 cents about that since it's been truly a God-send for us and our puppies. It's wonderful to allow them to have the run of the entire property and know that they are not at risk of escaping and getting killed by a car. Soooo worth it for that peace of mind!

They also offer add-ons so you can protect flower beds etc... only problem is that I have plantings in so many places, that wouldn't be practical... so I'll just stick with my ugly-fencing-around-the-plants solution for now.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 6:22PM
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