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Why Dogs Dig and What You Can Do

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What to Do If Your Dog Digs continued...

If Your Dog Digs to Bury Her Stuff

Wild relatives of dogs and feral dogs often bury or hide surplus food and bones so that they can retrieve and enjoy them later. Not only do they dig to bury their own things, they also dig to retrieve other dogs’ hidden goodies when they discover them. The best way to eliminate this type of digging is to refrain from giving your dog treats, food or chew bones that she will not finish immediately. Alternatively, you can build your dog a digging pit and encourage her to bury items there, instead of in your favorite flower bed. This is particularly great solution if your dog seems to prefer digging in sandy dirt.

If your dog starts chewing something but doesn’t consume it completely, remove it before she has the opportunity to bury it. If your dog reacts aggressively when you take something away from her, immediately seek help from a qualified professional. Please see our article, Finding Professional Help, for information about locating a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) or a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behavior (Dip ACVB) in your area. If you can’t find a behaviorist in your area, you can hire a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) instead-but be sure to determine whether she or he has professional training and extensive experience in successfully working with possessive aggression. This kind of expertise isn’t required for CPDT certification.

If Your Dog Digs to Hunt Small Animals

Most dogs love to chase small, fast-moving furry creatures, even if they never actually try to catch them. If your dog digs to pursue small animals like moles, chipmunks and ground squirrels, you can set live traps and humanely remove those animals from your property. Be forewarned: punishing your dog for this type of digging isn’t likely to work, because the act of hunting is naturally highly rewarding to most dogs, regardless of whether or not it results in unpleasant consequences.

What NOT to Do

  • Do not take your dog to an area where she previously dug a hole and scold, spank or punish her after-the-fact. Your dog can't connect punishment with something she did hours or even minutes ago. Delayed punishment won’t succeed in stopping your dog from digging later-but you could frighten and upset her unnecessarily.
  • Do not fill one of your dog’s holes with water and hold her head under the water for any length of time. This outdated and inhumane procedure won’t solve your digging problems, and it could cause other, worse behavior problems.

 

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WebMD Veterinary Reference from ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist

The ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist specializes in the resolution and management of pet behavior problems only. Please do not submit questions about medical problems here. Only licensed veterinarians can diagnose medical conditions. If you think that your pet is sick, injured or experiencing any kind of physical distress, please contact his veterinarian immediately. A delay in seeking proper veterinary care may worsen your pet's condition and put his life at risk. If you are concerned about the cost of veterinary care, please read our resources on finding financial help.
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