Behavior Tips: The Digging Dog

Is your dog’s digging driving you crazy?

Digging is a normal behavior for most dogs, but may occur for widely varying reasons. An effective approach is to address the cause of the digging.

Digging When Seeking Entertainment

Your dog may be digging for entertainment if:

  • He’s left alone in the yard for long periods of time without opportunities for interaction with you.
  • His environment is relatively barren, without playmates or toys.
  • He’s a puppy or adolescent (under three years old) and doesn’t have other outlets for his energy.
  • Your dog’s breed (like a terrier) is bred to dig as part of his “job”.
  • He’s a particularly active type of dog (like the herding or sporting breeds) who needs an active job.

Recommendations:

  • Walk your dog regularly. It’s good exercise, mentally and physically, for both of you!
  • Teach your dog to fetch a ball or frisbee and practice with him as often as possible.
  • Teach your dog a few commands and/or tricks. Practice these commands/tricks every day.
  • Take an obedience class with your dog and practice daily what you’ve learned.
  • Keep interesting toys in the yard to keep your dog busy even when you’re not around.

digging dog

Seeking Prey Through Digging

Dogs may try to pursue animals that live in your yard. Your dog may be pursuing prey if:

  • The digging is in a very specific area, usually not at the boundaries of the yard.
  • He or she is digging is at the roots of trees or shrubs.
  • The digging is in a “path” layout.

 Recommendations:

  • We recommend that you rid your yard of pests. Avoid methods that could be dangerous to your pets.

Digging When Seeking Comfort or Protection

In hot weather, dogs may dig holes in order to lie in the cool dirt. They may also dig to provide themselves with shelter from cold, wind or rain, or to try to find water. Your dog may be digging for protection or comfort if:

  • The holes are near foundations of buildings, large shade trees or a water source.
  • Your dog doesn’t have a shelter or his shelter is exposed to the hot sun or cold winds.
  • You find evidence that your dog is lying in the holes he digs.

Recommendations:

  • We recommend that you provide your dog with other sources for the comfort or protection he seeks. Make sure it affords protection from wind and sun.

digging dog

Digging to Get Attention

Any behavior can become attention-getting behavior if dogs learn that they receive attention for engaging in it (even punishment is a form of attention). Your dog may be digging to get attention if:

  • He digs in your presence.
  • His other opportunities for interaction with you are limited.

Recommendations:

  • We recommend that you ignore the behavior.
  • Don’t give your dog attention for digging (remember, even punishment is attention).
  • Make sure your dog has sufficient time with you on a daily basis.

Trying to Escape

Your dog may be digging to escape if:

  • He digs along or under the fence.

Recommendations:

  • Bury chicken wire at the base of the fence (sharp edges rolled under).
  • Place large rocks, partially buried, along the bottom of the fence line.
  • Bury the bottom of the fence one to two feet under the ground.

Regardless of the reason for digging, we don’t recommend punishment after the fact. Not only does this not address the cause of the behavior, any digging that’s motivated by fear or anxiety, will be made worse.

Is it time to call in the professionals?
AHS offers private dog training lessons and public dog training classes.

October 7, 2016
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