My Puppy Wants Desperately To Dig: Should I Let Her?

Polaris wants desperately to bury her toys. I’ve never seen a dog with such a stong instinctual drive to dig.

Yesterday, she jumped up on me carrying a giant rope bone in her mouth. She pushed it down between my body and the arm of the couch, then began tugging at the throw blanket I had over my legs. Interested, I let her to see what she was trying to do-- it seemed like such odd behavior for her.

She pulled the blanket over to where the toy was stuffed and started using her nose and paws to push it down into the crevice “burying” the toy. She then started pulling on my robe, stuffing the hem down into the “hole”, too. I pulled it out after a few minutes. When she saw it, she gave me an indignant look, jumped up, and began the process over again. I could just see her thinking, “Look, fur-less one, I put that there for a reason!

She did it again tonight, making this the second night in a row she’s done it. I’ve seen her stuff mouthfuls of food under her bed cushion. She tried to figure out how to worm her way under the area rug.

My husband left her outside with the older dog last weekend. She found a dirt pile left over from the building of the flower bed and dug a tunnel almost two feet deep down into the side of it. (I am greatly impressed by the amount of effort she must have put into this.) It’s a prodigious hole-- one to be proud of, I tell ya.

Our puppy is a digger. I don’t know if something so instinctual can be completely trained out of a dog. She’s always going to want to bury things. (Somewhere in the alphabet soup which is her mutty DNA, there is a tunnel-dog.)

So why fight it? Why not build her a “digging box?” I’m talking about a five-by-five area of loosened topsoil which she could dig in to her little heart’s content without destroying our lawn.

But Hubby had a very good point-- how are we going to restrict her digging to that one spot? If we allow digging, won’t she think it’s okay everywhere? Dirt is dirt, after all.

How do you deal with your diggers? Can it be stopped, or is it like chasing rabbits-- something which is an almost uncontrollable instinctual compulsion? Could it be developed into something useful, like when I want to plant a shrub to call her over to dig the hole for me?

What do you do when they bury a toy? Do you go back later and dig it up? Do they remember they’re there?

Not to be mean spirited, but a picture is worth a thousand words:
an effective training tool

I’ve got a digger dog- a dachshund. It hasn’t been much of a problem with him, but the books tell me that you should furnish her with acceptable places to dig, like a pile of old blankets inside and a corner of the yard, and reward her for digging in the “right” places and her punishing her when not.

Thanks for the laugh.

My mom recommends spraying her with the garden hose.

That’s one cute puppy.

If she’s anything like my golden, repeatedly taking away from her what’s she’s about to dig will probably tell her not to bury objects. Of course, maybe she’ll want to dig for the fun of it and if you can’t provide a special place for her, pick her up (while you can!) and continue to say no. That’s a word she must learn.

As for my pup, we moved a year ago, so his garden is no more. There’s a park right in front of us and he gets to play and exercise, more than other neighboring dogs, even. He has the habit of taking rags and “burying” them on the rock-solid floor. :dubious: He’s so cute. :smiley:

Hi Lissa … I know from previous threads that you get a lot of old-school advice re: your puppy.

The new-school of thought is to provide your dog with a sandbox or like gaucho recommended - a special “digging spot”.

Training her to use it is just like you would use for teaching her what to chew and what not to chew - when your dog chews on something unacceptable, you give it something that IS okay to chew and praise it to the high heavens.

Same with digging - if you catch Polaris digging in the wrong spot, don’t punish her or anything, just take her to the new spot and when she starts to dig there, give her a ton of praise and love. To encourage her, maybe hide some yummy treats there or something to give her the idea that this is where you want her to dig.

Or go ahead and use the garden hose if you want to make her afraid of you, and water and hoses. :rolleyes:

My dog, Snoopy, never outgrew digging. She did bury a few things, but mostly she just liked to dig large holes. We had a good-sized heap of sand trucked in; she enjoyed this, but it disappeared quickly. She knew where she wasn’t supposed to dig, but she would test us anyway by gently scratching at a patch of ground while we were watching. (This was mostly my fault - she seemed to have so much fun digging that I always let her get away with it.) She never did much “digging” in the house, though occasionally she would rake her claws through the carpet, which crushed the pile enough that we would have claw marks all over the carpet until we vacuumed.

I would try dedicated digging areas, both inside and outside.

I’d try the digging spot. Dogs can be taught that there’s a right place and a wrong plang to do things. I’v read that it’s possible to teach your dog that there’s one spot in your yard where it’s acceptable to relieve himself, so you don’t have to walk around picking up poop everywhere. Give it a shot.

Good Luck!


sorry, no help here, just a story.

my basenji/chow mix digs like a machine. even before i had a house and yard, before she ever actually dug in dirt, she was scratching at the carpet, shoving bones underneath rugs, and bloodying her own nose refilling said imaginary hole with imaginary dirt (which entailed scraping her nose on the carpet for a half hour).

well, now that i have a yard, she’s moved on to digging huge holes. i mean, she goes INSANE. and if you 're digging too, like doing yardwork, forget it. if you plant something, it’s coming up as soon as the dog can get to it. and she has an incredible nose, too. just yesterday she started digging in a random place (or so i thought) in the yard, and before i could shoo her away she had an old tin can in her mouth that she dug up.

i can’t figure anything out. she also has the tendency to go INSANE when she’s off leash, probably because she was an apartment dog for so long, and never got to run. if you let her outside, she runs in figure eights basically all day. you can’t catch her, she has no interest in food in that state, so you basically have to find some way to trick her into coming inside, or just wait until she wants to come in.

and all this from an otherwise very well behaved dog.

My puppy digs in our back lawn when she gets the urge. We tell her “NO” in a very stern angry voice, standing very tall, if she gets anywhere near the garden (pretty much anywhere else is fine by us). She gets the message.

She won’t bury or pick up a bone unless she knows absolutely nobody is watching her, so we all have to turn our backs and pretend we’re not looking :smiley:

Spray our dog with the garden hose and she will run around like she’s on a combination of speed, coffee, crack, caffeine, and sugar, barking like mad and jumping up and down, for hours.

I solved the digging problem by teaching my dog the command to “dig.” For whatever reason, it gave her the idea that she should only dig when she’s commanded to.

Not that she’s perfect, but I have only rarely caught her digging (except some occasions when she’s been really bored and mad at me for being left in the backyard all day). She still digs on command though, and its really funny to see people’s surprise at the beach when I tell her to “dig!” and she does.
My roommate’s dog has the “bury the bone/toy/whatever” urge too and we have so far had NO luck in curing her of it. We stopped giving her rawhide because we’d find them in the couches and, in one memorable incident, my sockdrawer. She has rubbed her nose raw getting under the cushions. Removing them only makes it worse because then she looks for the missing items frantically. Wish I had some advice for you regarding this. I’ll be watching this thread to see if anyone else has some suggestions for it.

Oh yeah, I have read that if you let your dog see YOU digging, it will act like a signal to the dog that digging in your garden is okay for him/her too!

I didn’t believe this until last fall when we got a dumptruck full of dirt to level out our front yard … our dog who I had NEVER seen dig before suddenly started digging like crazy after watching us shovel it into wheelbarrows …

IANAPDT (Dog Trainer) but certain breeds ( terriers come to mind, and those little weiner dogs) go to ground and it is instinctive to dig.

With other breeds, I would think it would be a combination of instinct and boredom.


My dog doesn’t dig, but she does love sticking her head down woodchuck holes.

She’s already afraid of water. When I give her a bath, she screams like I’ve set her on fire. No treats or cooing or encouragement has changed it. Afterwards, she trembles in my arms for a good half hour, like she’s been through an awful trauma. I think that her first bath at the pound before we brought her home must have been very unpleasant.

I wouldn’t spray her with the hose, but I have found a water pistol to be an effective training tool. Whenever she’s doing something naughty, I shoot her when she’s not looking. She starts, jerks around, trying to see where it came from, and sees that I’m innocently reading my book. Most of the time, by the time she’s gotten over her startle, she’s distracted by a toy.

Rather than punishment foming from me, she seems to get the idea that if she chews on something forbidden, something unpleasant automatically happens. It only takes a couple of times, and then she avoids doing whatever it was that got her shot.

A garden hose just puts out too much water. If I shot her, she’d be soaked, and I’d have to bathe her. Unpleasant for both of us.

There may be some kind of terrier mixed in there. She has a tail which curls up over her back, green eyes, and when I bathe her, her hair gets little wiry kinks, like there might be a curly-haired dog somewhere in her ancestry.

I think I am going to build her a digging box. I’m set to do a lot of yard work this spring, anyway. Maybe it’ll keep her out of my flower beds-- but I’m not holding my breath. :smiley: I’ll count myself lucky if digging is the worst habit she ever acquires.

Have you guys ever seen your dogs dig in their water bowls? This evening, she dug in about an inch of water, paws going like jackhammers for a good ten minutes.

This may not work for you (you’ll see why), but here’s how I trained my old dog not to dig in the yard.

When she was youngish, we began leaving her outside while we were out. She was on one of those dog-runs, and could get at most of the yard. She started digging. Digging GREAT BIG HOLES. Once she dug one that apparently went down to the water table, as there was always water at the bottom of it. (She wasn’t dying of thirst, by the way; we took good care of her.) We’d tell her “NO,” and fill the holes back in as best we could, but it didn’t take; she’d dig again as soon as we were gone.

One night, after quite a lot of beer (I was youngish myself back then), I figured out what to do.

Instead of teaching the dog that “digging is bad,” what if I taught her that “this is MY turf, not hers”? No problem, I figured. I went out back, found the hole she’d been digging most recently, and “marked my territory,” just like dogs do. Well, I didn’t lift my leg, but you get the idea. I gave it a couple more “treatments” that night.

The next day she wouldn’t go near it. She started a new hole; I hit that one too. And so on. Within three or four days of this, she stopped digging completely, and never once did it again (she lived for nearly ten years after that).

I’m no dog trainer, but this definitely worked the only time I tried it. YMMV.

Is it just the bath that she’s afraid of? When my dog was a puppy, she put up a lot of fuss when we gave her baths; however, she was fine with a lawn sprinkler or a kiddie pool. At some point we stopped bathing her inside and just washed her outside with the garden hose; she really enjoyed that.

We got her in Jaunuary, so I haven’t yet had a chance to try anything different.

Isn’t a garden hose cold, though?

At her daycare center, they have a kiddie pool that they put outside in the summer for the dogs. I’ll have to wait to see if she’ll play in that.

Ah. Forgot to mention that we only washed her outside during the summer; when it got colder, we took her to the vet’s for grooming; they weren’t expensive at all, and always did a great job. The hose water never seemed too cold in the summer, though I guess this could vary based on where the water supply comes from, whether or not the hose has been sitting in the sun, etc.

No real advice except that you should go along with the special digging spot idea. If a dog can be trained to pee in a special spot, it can be trained the same also.
My great dane Scooby used to love digging in his younger years. One time (in a matter of about 3 hours) he dug a hole-nay- TUNNEL that went all the way under our 25 foot wide porch and came out the other side. Needless to say, we had to fill it back in so he didn’t kill himself or collapse our porch. Another time we looked out in our back yard to see dirt flying in the air randomly. Confused, we walk up to the hole to see Scooby in a hole that is about 6 feet deep, digging away.

Luckily, this behavior only lasted a while :). He’s outgrown it- for the most part. Sometimes he will start to dig at the grass, but he always does it in the strangest way: he’ll take huge bites out of the grass/ dirt, spit it out- then start digging.

I’m just saying, there’s hope! And even then- you’ll have stories!

Gawd allmighty, that dog is enormous. That hole must have been large enough for you to squeeze through.

For those interested, I just added some new pictures to the page linked above of Polaris that I took tonight while she and my older dog were playing tug-of-war. Some of them are full body shots, so maybe someone can identify what sort of mutts are stirred in the mix.