Jumping, Digging, Chasing, and Stealing Behaviors in Dogs

All of these actions are within the range of normal dog behaviors. However, a dog that is not kept active enough or has had poor training may behave excessively in one or more of these ways. This can be especially true of dogs that are normally high energy by genetic disposition or character.

Jumping up excessively as part of a greeting, for example, can be associated with separation anxiety and the excitement of having the human companion return home. Digging can often be associated with other behavioral disorders, neurologic disorders, or abdominal pain.

Symptoms and Types

Jumping on people

  • During arrivals, departures or greetings
  • Exploring the contents of countertops
  • Digging
    • Along a fence line
    • In areas of recent gardening
    • At rodent holes
    • On interior flooring
  • Stealing
    • Items displaced, hidden
    • Food items missing from surfaces (i.e., tables)



    • Excitement, encouragement of excited behavior
    • Separation anxiety
  • Digging
    • Following scent of rodents
    • Anxiety
    • To increase or decrease their body temperature
    • Boredom or lack of adequate exercise
    • Hunting behaviors (food catching or retrieval)
    • Escape from confinement
    • Pain
    • Separation anxiety
    • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
    • Neurologic disease
  • Stealing
    • May be attempt to get your attention
    • Desire for a food item,  lack of internal discipline
  • Chasing
    • Herding instinct
    • Hunting
    • Play
    • Defense


Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam on your dog, including a neurological exam. Diagnostic tests usually include a complete blood profile with a chemical blood profile  a complete blood count and an electrolyte panel as well as a urinalysis. Before your doctor concludes a behavioral basis for your dog’s unruliness, medical causes will need to be ruled out or confirmed first.

In addition to the medical work-up, your veterinarian will need a background history of your dog’s health, living conditions, level of activity the dog is allowed each day, diet, family background, and the level of training you have given to your dog.


Medical care and prescriptions will be entirely dependent upon whether there is an underlying condition that requires medical treatment. Otherwise, if your dog is diagnosed with a behavioral problem, your veterinarian will advise you to begin by increasing your dog’s activity levels with a training and behavior modification program.  Follow-up appointments will assess the progress your dog is making and adjust the treatment accordingly.

Living and Management

Tips to Preventing Jumping:

  • Use a head collar and leash to control movement
  • Greet visitors outside – away from dog
  • Keep the dog in another room until the visitor is seated
  • Teach your dog “sit” and “stay” as an appropriate greeting
  • Practice having the dog sit for a food reward in different areas of the house
  • Say “stay” when the sitting is a few seconds; take a step away, return to the dog and reward; increase time to 3–5 minutes.
  • Keep sessions reasonable; 3–5 minute sessions with 8–12 repetitions per session
  • Repeat near the door when leaving the home and returning
  • Have the dog sit for a food reward when returning from work, etc.
  • Reward the dog for remaining seated as visitors enter
  • Dogs that like to retrieve and are too excited to sit may do better if a ball is tossed as a visitor enters
  • When guests call, walk calmly to the door and speak in a quiet voice before allowing them in, making sure to already have your dog in a “sit”(you may need 2 people to do this exercise)
  • If the dog jumps on guests have them turn their body away from the dog
  • Avoid stepping on the dog’s toes, squeezing the paws, or kneeing in the chest.

Prevent Digging

  • Adequately heat or cool dog’s shelter
  • Control rodent population around home
  • Resolve separation anxiety, phobias, or OCD with your veterinarian’s help
  • Increase the dog’s exercise routine
  • Create an area where it is acceptable for the dog to dig in, such as a plot of ground or children’s sandbox.
  • Training involving redirecting the dog to another activity as it starts to dig

Prevent Chasing

  • Use a no-pull harness or head collar
  • Desensitize (gradually expose to) and counter-condition (teach a different response) the dog to the stimulus
  • Use the “sit-and-stay” command with the addition of a “look” command, while using a treat brought up to eye level
  • Work in a quiet yard with leashed dog: sit, stay, step away, return, look, and reward
  • Keep sessions reasonable; 3–5 minute sessions with 8–12 repetitions per session
  • If able to keep dog’s attention, stage the chase stimulus to pass by at a great distance (which shortens as dog improves) while training the dog
  • When dog ignores the chase stimulus in the yard, try the same exercise while on a walk                                                                                                                                                                                                               Prevent Stealing
  • Give adequate attention, exercise,  toys and appropriate training
  • Do not chase the dog; walk away, get a treat or toy, and call the dog to you
  • As the dog is dropping the “stolen” item to take the treat or toy, replace it with the treat or toy and reward the dog with praise( “good dog”)
  • Place food out of dog’s reach