Digging

     "I dig because I can." It's the motto of dogs everywhere, and completely normal behavior.

Yet the reasons behind the activity are varied. Your dog may dig to seek entertainment, attention, comfort, escape, prey, or protection. (Despite how you might feel sometimes, your dog won't dig out of spite, revenge, or a desire to destroy your yard.) And just when you think you've outsmarted the old pooch by finding ways to make the area where he digs unappealing, your dog will likely begin digging in other locations or display other unacceptable behavior, such as chewing or barking.

A much more effective approach to the problem is to address the cause of the digging. Here's advice on how to figure out why your dog digs—and how to stop it:

Seeking Entertainment

Dogs may dig as a form of self-play when they learn that roots and soil "play back." Your dog may be digging for entertainment if:

Recommendations

We recommend expanding your dog's world and increasing his "people time" in the following ways:

Seeking Prey

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

Recommendations

We recommend that you search for possible signs of "pests" and then make your yard unwelcome to them. Avoid methods that could be toxic or dangerous to your pets or other animals. For advice on dealing humanely with wildlife, visit our information on Urban Wildlife—Our Wild Neighbors.

 

Seeking Comfort or Protection

In hot weather, dogs may dig holes 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 comfort or protection if:

Recommendations

We recommend that you provide your dog with the comfort or protection he seeks:

Seeking Attention

Any behavior can become attention-getting behavior if the dog learns that he receives attention for engaging in it. (Even punishment is a form of attention.) Your dog may be digging to get attention if:

Recommendations

We recommend that you ignore the behavior:

Seeking Escape

Dogs may escape to get to something, to get somewhere, or to get away from something. Your dog may be digging to escape if:

Recommendations

We recommend the following to keep your dog in the yard while you work on the behavior modifications recommended on our tip sheet, The Canine Escape Artist.

Regardless of the reason for digging, we don't recommend:

Finally, if you've tried all these suggestions and you still can't solve your dog's digging problem, then keep him indoors with you, and be sure to supervise your dog during bathroom breaks.

©2002. Adapted from material originally developed by applied animal behaviorists at the Dumb Friends League, Denver, Colorado. All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of The Humane Society of the United States.

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