Solutions to Jack Russell Digging

Do Jack Russells dig

The Jack Russell Terrier is prone to be a digger. They were originally bred to track vermin underground. This includes digging up their preys burrow to get to them.

This is a natural instinctive behavior for many Jack Russells. You can’t train and instinctive behavior out of a dog, but you can redirect it in a more constructive way.

Jack Russells are a terrier. The word terrier is taken from the word “terra”, meaning earth It is a major part of who they are. In addition, their nails tend to grow faster than most dogs. This gives them the tools they need to get the job done.

Jack Russell Terriers often excel at earth dog competitions. Earth dog trials are a non-competitive way to test the dog’s ability to seek and locate rodents underground. The rats are safely caged and not harmed.

Why do Jack Russells dig

As stated, digging is a natural instinctive behavior for Jack Russells and other earth dog breeds. It is not really possible to train and instinct out of a dog. However, the behavior can be redirected in a more constructive way or managed.

If your Jack Russell is digging excessively it is likely that their are more contributing factors apart from just instinct. Knowing the reason for the digging is halfway to stopping the behavior. These may include:-

Boredom and pent up energy

Jack Russells are high energy and an intelligent breed. It is crucial to provide sufficient exercise, mental stimulation, and keep them occupied. A bored dog will develop behavior issues such as digging.This also includes digging indoors on the carpet or furniture. For a guide to exercise and mental stimulation for a Jack Russell see here.

Stress Relief

Digging can be great way for a Jack Russell to relive stress. Being a fun and instinctive behavior for them it releases endorphins to their brain making them feel better.

It may also be the result of separation anxiety. Dogs that are left on their own for long periods may feel anxious and look for an outlet.  A dog with separation anxiety will look for a way to channel their negative emotions into something productive.


Dogs by nature seek the security of a den. Dens keep them cooler in the hot weather and warm in the cold weather. Provide your Jack Russell their own shelter such as a kennel to meet this need. The key is to have a kennel that is big enough for them to stand up and turn around. If a kennel is too big they will not feel secure and probably won’t use it. For tips on keeping a dog cool in hot weather see here.

If your Jack Russell is a pregnant female they may be nesting.

To escape

If your Jack Russell is digging along and under the fence, the motivation is most likely they are trying to get off the property. This may be because they are bored and want to look for adventure, there is a female dog on heat, or they are coming to look for you. For solutions to stop a dog digging under a fence see here.

To bury something

Your Jack Russell may be trying to hide a bone or a toy. This again is an instinctive behavior designed to hide food and high-value items from predators and scavengers. If this is the case don’t give them bones.

To get to something underground

This is what Jack Russells were bred to do. They may have smelt something underground. This could be a rodent or other animal underground and what to get to it. It may also an old bone. If they are digging in your garden it may be the smell of the fertilizer you have used. Blood and Bone fertilizer is a common favorite for many dogs.

Solutions to stop Jack Russell digging

From the list of causes of digging above you may be able to find a solution. If lack of exercise is contributing to your Jack Russell digging, aim to increase it.

These are some more suggestions to stop unwanted dog digging.

Put something in the hole

If there are existing holes that your dog has dug you can put a variety of items in the hole and refill it to prevent them from digging in that same spot. Examples include;

  • Their own poo – dogs won’t dig in areas that they have toileted.
  • Citrus peels, cayenne, or vinegar – these will irritate their nose discouraging digging
  • Rocks – bury rocks, particularly large flat ones to stop them from being able to dig.
  • Plastic netting – bury plastic netting just below the surface of known digging spots.  Avoid wire as this may cut their paws.

These are what are referred to as hard solutions. Soft solutions are things you can do to treat the motivation of the behavior. If boredom is the cause provide more exercise and activity. If they are trying to keep cool, introduce ways to cool off (see above).

Alternatively, redirect the behavior so they dig in an area set aside for them or provide activities or toys that cater to the natural digging instinct.

Toys for Jack Russells that dig

Toys are a great way to cater to and redirect any natural behavior in a dog. This is true of the digging instinct. By providing a way for your Jack Russell to have an outlet for their desire to dig you can avoid destructive digging behavior.

This can be digging up your yard or flower garden and even the carpet or furniture. Here are some recommended toys and activities to cater to a dog’s digging instinct.


This is the first dog toy that has been specially designed to cater to your Jack Russells natural digging instinct. You simply hide their favorite toy or treats in the flaps and let them dig away to uncover the hidden treasure. Not only will the action of digging help burn off pent-up energy, but the mental challenge of working out how to get to the goodies will help to tire them also.

The iDigg comes in two types – the iDigg Go and the iDigg Stay.

The iDigg Go has a soft outer shell making it easy to pack up and take with you and the iDigg Stay has a hard outer shell.

Check out the video to see how this works or view the iDig Go on Amazon.

Snuffe Mat

A Snuffe Mat is another great way to provide for your Jack Russell’s natural digging instinct and to provide mental stimulation and relieve boredom. A Snuffe mat is a mat that is made of fleece and you can hide dry food or treats into it. If you are someone that is good at crafts you can try to make one yourself.

Alternatively, check out the range of Snuffle Mats at Amazon.

Digging Box

Provide a digging area or digging pit for your Jack Russell. This way they can provide for their nature digging instinct without ruining your garden. Simply fill up a Sand Box with soil or sand, hide some chews or toys in it to encourage them to dig only there.

View sandboxes on Amazon

If you choose to use sand be aware that the sand can get quite hot in the warmer weather. Just wet down the sand before allowing your dog to use it.

Indoor dog digging box

If you are unable to get an iDig or are looking for a lower-cost option for indoor digging for your dog perhaps try a ball pit like the ones used by children. You can hide treats or your dog’s favorite toy among the balls and let your dog go to it. Check out ball pits on Amazon.

Summary – Jack Russell digging

Jack Russells by nature are a digger. However, if your Jack Russell’s digging has become a problem there are probably other contributing factors apart from instinctive behavior.

Figuring out what their other causes are is half way to solving the problem. In addition, there are hard solutions such as putting something in the hole and refilling. See above for ideas.

More Jack Russell related topics you may like

How much exercise does a Jack Russell need

Best Type of Toys for Jack Russell

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