Comfort and 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 find water. Your dog may be digging for comfort or protection if:
- The holes are near the foundations of buildings, large shade trees or a water source.
- Your dog doesn’t have a shelter or their shelter is too hot or cold.
- Your dog lies in the holes they dig.
What to do
Provide your dog with the comfort or protection they seek. Bring them inside more often and make sure their outdoor shelter is comfortable, protected against extreme temperatures and has access to water in an un-tippable bowl. If your dog is still a dedicated digger, try setting aside a digging zone.
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Any behavior can become attention-getting behavior if the dog learns that they receive attention for engaging in it. Remember, even punishment is attention. Your dog may be looking for attention if they dig in your presence or have limited opportunities for interaction with you.
What to do
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Ignore attention-seeking behavior and give your pooch lots of praise for “good dog” behavior. Also, make sure your dog has enough walk and play time with you on a daily basis.
Dogs may try to escape to get to something, to get somewhere or to get away from something. Your dog may be digging to escape if they dig under or along a fence.
What to do
Figure out why your dog is trying to escape and remove those incentives. Make sure their environment is a safe, appealing place for a dog.
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To keep your dog in your yard:
- Bury chicken wire at the base of the fence. Be sure to roll the sharp edges away from your yard.
- Place large rocks, partially buried, along the bottom of the fence line.
- Bury the bottom of the fence one to two feet below the surface.
- Place chain link fencing on the ground (anchored to the bottom of the fence) to make it uncomfortable for your dog to walk near the fence.
- Work with your dog on behavior modification to stop their escape efforts.
What doesn’t work
Regardless of the reason your dog is digging, don’t:
- Punish your dog after the fact. This won’t address the cause of the behavior and will worsen any digging that’s motivated by fear or anxiety.
- Stake out your dog near a hole they’ve dug or fill the hole with water.
Next steps: A digging zone
If your dog is a dedicated digger, set aside an area of the yard where it’s OK for them to dig and teach them where that digging zone is:
- Cover the digging zone with loose soil or sand. Or use a child-sized sandbox.
- Make the digging zone attractive by burying safe items (such as toys) for them to discover.
- When they dig in the digging zone, reward them with praise.
- If you catch your dog digging in an unacceptable area, interrupt the behavior with a loud noise and firmly say, “No dig.” Then immediately take them to the digging zone.
- Make the unacceptable digging spots unattractive (at least temporarily) by placing rocks or chicken wire over them.
If you’ve tried all these strategies and still can’t solve your dog’s digging problem, keep them indoors with you and supervise them during bathroom breaks in the yard. You may also want to consult a behavior professional for additional help.
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