Sometimes, all you need to do to expose your dog’s behavior is to... follow their trail. Dogs enjoy playing in the yard just as much as they do crunching on a large stick or bone. No matter how much space they are given, dogs will inevitably cause wear and tear on their favorite parts of your grass. It is just in the nature of things. You might notice your dog walks the exact same route around the yard every single day and wonder what is it about those particular spots that he likes so much? Let’s find out more about why dogs like to make trails in the yard and learn how to prevent them.
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The Root of the Behavior
Dogs are territorial by nature and creatures of habit. It shouldn’t come as a surprise when they feel the need to pee on everything from a fence post to an old basketball. Add this to a muddy trail and you have a complete picture of what it’s like to balance between what the designer in you wants and what owning a dog requires. It’s been said that dogs are simply following their natural instincts when making trails, digging up holes or urinating on certain spots. Wolves are doing it too… although not in your backyard. When using trails and paths, wild animals like to conserve their energy by not switching to a different, unknown route. Much like humans, dogs prefer a path that is clear of obstacles or brambles. Furthermore, by creating a trail, your dog is simply following the shortest point between the entrance to and their favorite place in the yard.
It could also be that they are marking the territory by creating a layered scent trail and establishing to other dogs not only that they’ve been there, but that they've been there a long time. Digging can also be a sign of boredom or redirected anxiety from other animals or objects. This means that whenever they catch another animal on the other side of the fence, they build up frustration by not being able to reach them. Be attentive to your pup’s extremely destructive behavior in the yard, as it could lead to other issues you might not be aware of. In terms of breeds, you should know that Terriers and Dachshunds are naturally born diggers, whereas herding breeds, such as Corgis, Collies, Shetland Sheep Dogs, and Australian Shepherds prefer to move in circles. Other dogs, like Doberman Pinchers and Rottweilers, will more likely be seen following the landscaping fence very closely.
Encouraging the Behavior
How do you prevent your manicured lawn from becoming a nightmare backyard? There are different ways you can approach this issue to make sure your yard doesn’t become a havoc. Begin by thinking about your dog's specific behavior and needs. Trying to confine your pup to a certain area of the yard might not seem practical or attractive neither to you nor your dog. If you insist on keeping the grass, you could try a tougher type like Zoysia, Bermuda, or Centipede. Because these are self-healing, they are superior to clumping grass for damage-prone areas. You can also try to use ornamental grasses or native shrubs to help divert your pup's activity. Placing bushes along the edges or planting some creeping vines can create a natural and free space for your dogs, but it won’t stop them from walking right along the fence.
Various objects that block the pathway should be placed strategically where your dog walks. Think big flower pots and picnic tables that will make your yard look more like a garden rather than a dog park. The bad news is that they will probably pick another path and do the same thing all over again. But don’t worry, you can always consider paving or using synthetic grass as an alternative. It holds up to dog traffic, stays green, and never needs mowing.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If nothing else seems to work, how about some good ol’ training? If you have consistent problems with your pup’s urine spots, for example, you can train him to restrict his "toilet space" to a designated area. Work with your dog to improve his behavior and once he understands what is expected of him, you will have less to worry about maintaining your yard in pristine condition. Leash your pup and take him to the same “bathroom spot” every time. Come up with a few words that he will soon associate with that spot and stay with him until the “business” is done. Then, don’t forget to praise him lavishly so as to reinforce this positive behavior.
Whatever solution you choose for your backyard, remember that dogs love wandering around paths. It is important to have that in mind when you think about your yard’s design and proper maintenance. Because after all, it is not about creating an out-of-this-world playground for your dog, but working to address both the wants and needs of your four-legged friend and your creative landscaping as well.