Canine Behavior/Digging


Hi. I have a 15 year old boxer/lab mix. I have had her since whe was a puppy and she has never done this but she is digging this hole. A huge one and she keeps making it bigger and bigger. It is underneath a shed of sorts, and when I find her there, she thinks she has done something wrong. I don't know why, because I don't yell. She is getting old. i know it's close. Could she be digging the whole to go lay in it when its time? It kills me to even say this but I have to know. Thank you

First stop - before using negative reinforcement or punishers - veterinarian.  Let's check out this dog's cognitive function.  Next:  professional exterminator (NO CHEMICALS OR TRAPS) who WILL see the signs of burrowing (animals are going into dens now, this could be a skunk tunnel, groundhog tunnel, etc.)  Once we have ruled out cognitive dysfunction (medications are available, btw) and the presence of little visitors  (seems most likely actually), we will proceed from there.  Until then, YES SHE KNOWS YOU THINK she's done something wrong by your body language or the rush of adrenaline in your body or even the very, very slightest change in your facial expression.  In and of itself, this digging is a zero problem and can be "fixed" but the dog KNOWS it disturbs you.  If you see her at it, walk within reasonable distance toward her on a CURVE (not head on), have treats in your pocket (chopped up Oscar Mayer Weiners, as gross as this sounds, with cheese!), while seated in this posture open your arms.  When she gets to you, give her a treat.  Get up, walk backward and she should follow: squat down and when she gets to you ask for "sit" and give a bunch of treats.  End session.  This is teaching the dog that: no, you are not upset; yes, coming to you is rewarding; no, it has nothing to do with her hole.

Once you have results from vet and expert in wildlife (who will, as I said, find signs that it's most likely a skunk and her kit digging to get under your shed for winter), we'll fix this.  use followup feature please so I can see original answer/question.  Thanks.  Don't worry.  Be happy.

Canine Behavior

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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