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 Dog Behavior Library

Destructive Digging

What Is It?
Digging holes or trenches.

What Causes It?
Digging is a natural behavior. Destructive digging may result from a combination of boredom, stress, lack of exercise, loneliness and lack of training.

  • Separation Anxiety: Digs near back door
  • Exercise Anxiety: Digs near exit gate

All breeds have genetic tendencies under specific conditions:

  • Maternal Nesting: Hormones trigger digging.
  • Thermoregulatory: Digging to cool off when hot
  • Predatory: Digging for varmints
  • Storage: Digging to bury loot
Increase exercise, companionship, and training to decrease digging.  If desired, you can give your dog a "digging pit", and train your dog to ONLY dig in that area.

Who Does It?
Some breeds are more inclined to dig than others: dogs with genetic predisposition; pregnant/lactating females

Where Does It Happen?
Dogs usually dig outdoors but some will dig indoors, too, especially before bedding down for the night (instinct is to dig a den to sleep in).

How Can I Stop It?
First, complete an analysis of what's causing the digging. Treat the cause not the symptom.

  1. Don't let the dog see you dig in the garden (Your dog may try to imitate you!).
  2. Increase the pet's level of exercise.
  3. Do leadership exercises. For more information on leadership, click here.
  4. If the dog's digging persists due to his particular genetics, try a designated "digging pit" in the yard. Redirect him to dig only in "his" pit.  Consider a child's wading pool filled with sand.
    • Let him see you dig there.
    • Praise him if he sniffs and/or digs there.
    • Bury his food, treats, toys, etc. there.
  5. Discourage inappropriate digging:
    • Reprimand him if caught in the act.
    • Bury his feces in old holes.
    • Fill in, and install chicken wire over, old holes.

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