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Digging

Digging is a normal behavior for most dogs, but may occur for widely varying reasons.  Many breeds of dogs were actually bred for the purpose of digging.  If you have a dog that is a born digger (many terriers for example), it may be easier to provide an area where your dog can dig to her heart’s content instead of trying to deny instinctual behaviors.

Other reasons dog may dig: 

  • For attention 
  • To hunt prey
  • For comfort or protection
  • To regulate their temperature
  • To escape from the yard
  • For entertainment because of boredom or frustration 

For attention:  Any behavior can become an attention getting behavior if the dog has learned he gets attention while performing the behavior.

Some things you can do to prevent unwanted digging:

  • Keep interesting toys in the yard, and offer stuffed KONGS and other long lasting treats. Rotate the toys frequently so the dog does not become bored with the toys.
  • Increase exercise and training sessions outside of the yard to keep her physically and mentally stimulated. 
  • Be sure to check your yard for grubs, moles and other underground animals that may be stimulating your dog to dig 
  • Offer a dog house or other suitable shelter from the elements.
  • If digging along the fence line, submerge wire fencing into the ground along the fence line or lay a strip of chain link fencing on top the ground right in front of the fence (secure to fence to keep it in one place) in order to keep your dog from digging under the fence.
  • Place a hard surface (garbage can lid or piece of plywood) over the hole and cover with dirt
  • Provide an acceptable place to dig with loose dirt and sand, and make other areas of the yard unattractive for digging
  • Play “detective” – watch your dog’s behavior when he does not see you – use a can with some pennies in it to shake when you catch your dog in the act. 

In the beginning, only let the dog out when you are present to supervise and correct.  You can use a shaker can to startle the dog.  A shaker can is an empty soda can filled with 8 to 10 pennies and taped shut.  When the dog starts to dig the can is tossed in her direction, or just shaken if she is close enough to hear it.  She should not see you holding the can as she will be less likely to dig if she does not know where the noise came from. 

You can also place “Snappy Trainers” over the area.  Snappy Trainers look like mousetraps with a large flap or paddle.  When tripped they spring closed, make a noise while flipping over in the air, and startle, but do not harm your pet.  Snappy Trainers can be placed on counter tops, furniture, garbage cans, or any area that you are trying to train your dog to stay away from.


If you would like to work with a Wisconsin Humane Society behaviorist one-on-one regarding this behavior topic, please call 414-431-6173 or email behavior@wihumane.org to schedule a consultation.