Ask the Dogfather: Advice for the owner of Billy the digger

This week, the dogfather advises Dylan, whose dog digs at the floor.

Pit bulls are always on the lookout for vermin to chase down. — Ildar Sagdejev via Wikimedia Commons

Tom Shelby, dog trainer to MV and NYC celebrities (and their dogs), answers readers’ questions about their problematic pooches. Got a question for the Dogfather? Contact him here.

Dear Dogfather,

My dog is a pit bull and keeps digging at the same general area of sheet rock and floor, for no reason at all. The area had to be repaired twice and my parents are threatening to get rid of him. His name is Billy and he’s perfect except for the digging. What should I do?


Dear Dylan,

Keep the faith. I’m pretty sure Billy will be staying with you. First of all, you’re saying he’s digging “for no reason at all.” THERE’S ALWAYS A REASON. We just have to figure it out. I had a client with a 4-year-old pug that they had since a puppy that was perfectly fine in all respects, and then, suddenly, started urinating in the apartment and becoming more and more fearful of more and more things.

The first order of business was a thorough physical at the vet to rule out disease or something physiological. Then I questioned the owners at length to see what, if any real changes may have occurred in the vibrations of the house. Lots of fighting with an impending divorce, a job loss, a serious medical diagnosis – any of these things can dramatically change the atmosphere of the house. Dogs are extremely sensitive to any change in the vibe of the house.

My questioning brought me no closer to an answer, so I had the client leave a noise activated tape recorder on the table. There’s always a reason!! Did I mention that they also had an African Grey parrot? African Greys are smarter than dogs. The tape recorder picked up the parrot imitating the the sound of the bell and then, sounding like the husband, screaming at the poor dog for responding to the bell. The bird was having a great time manipulating and terrorizing the dog. There’s always a reason.

As for Billy, he’s a terrier, a pit bull terrier, and terriers are bred to get rid of the vermin in the barn. There’s probably a nest of mice near where he’s digging. Have your parents call an exterminator and perhaps even ask them to thank Billy for the alert upon finding the offending mice or insects. Also, since dogs are great creatures of habit, try spraying

the digging area with one of the many “stay away” products, and more importantly, don’t let him access that spot unless there’s supervision. Good luck.