Digging is a normal behavior for most dogs. For many dogs, it is even instinctual. Digging may occur due to a variety of different reasons, including to seek attention, to hunt prey, comfort or protection, to escape or merely just for their entertainment. 

As with any improper attention seeking behavior, it is important to refrain from giving your dog the attention they seek while doing the behavior. Instead, ignore the undesirable behavior and reward proper behavior such as coming when called. 

Keep chew toys and other interactive toys in the yard to occupy your dog and keep his mind off digging. Rotate the toys frequently to keep your dog’s interest.

Increase your dog’s exercise. Try taking him for an extra walk each day. Also try having training sessions in the yard to keep your dog both physically and mentally stimulated while outside. 

Search for possible signs of yard pests such as moles, grubs, and other underground animals and rid your yard of them. Be sure to use pet-safe methods. 

Sometimes dogs dig holes to lie in cool dirt or to seek shelter from rain. Provide your dog with a dog house or other suitable shelter from the elements or, better yet, bring him inside. 

Offer your dog an “approved digging area” with loose dirt and sand. This may satisfy their instinctive urge to dig while also keeping your yard in better condition. A kiddie pool or small dog pool can be used in order to avoid digging up more of your property.

If your dog is digging along the fence line, place large rocks, partially buried, along the bottom of the fence line. 

Always supervise your dog when you let him outside. Call him to you if he starts to dig. You must reward him if he comes to you, even if you are angry that he was about to dig. He obeyed your command so needs to be reinforced for that in order to respond the next time you call him. Once he comes to you give him something to play with or chew on to keep him busy. If he doesn’t come to you, go to him, leash him and remove him from the area. Give him something to play with or chew on or take him back into the house.

As always, DO NOT punish the behavior after the fact. This does not address the cause of the issue and instead will promote fear and anxiety. Any digging that’s motivated by fear or anxiety will be made worse. 

If you would like information from an Anti-Cruelty Society Behavior Specialist regarding this behavior topic, please call 312-645-8253 or email behavior@anticruelty.org.

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