10 Reasons Why Dogs Dig

Why Do Dogs Dig

Dog owners learn quickly that their yards are no longer sacred. Not only do dogs litter the yard with poop, tennis balls, and torn up toys, but can also contribute to the landscape by digging a bunch of holes. For most cases, digging is a normal behavior for dogs. Any dog of any breed can develop digging as a habit, and they can do it for the right or for the wrong reasons. But why do dogs dig? And how can the problem be fixed or reduced? Below are listed just a few reasons why dogs dig and a few solutions to the problem.

Why Do Dogs Dig Holes in the Yard?

1. The Dogs Ancestry

In the wild, animals like foxes and wolves dig big dens to give birth to and raise their young in. In some cases, dogs will act on that same instinct and dig holes for protection and shelter. However, this is not as common today.

2. Hunting Prey

So why do dogs still dig? Many dogs have the primal desire to hunt small prey. Ground-dwelling animals like moles, mice, and other rodents are especially alluring. As such, a dog may take to digging in the yard as a way to hunt small animals. If a dog finds an animal hole they might start digging until the prey is caught or has escaped.

3. Breeding

Dogs like terriers were bred to dig. They were used to hunt small animals like foxes and rabbits. As such, the digging behavior was cultivated in certain breeds. However, when this behavior transitions to household pets it is not usually valued. In these cases it will take a lot of patience and training to stop the dog from digging.

4. Entertainment

For most dogs digging can simply be a form of exercise or a distraction. If a dog is alternately digging and running around, acting playful, then they are likely to be digging just for fun. In most cases the holes they dig will be shallow and randomly located. It is often the result of a dog spending too much time alone with little else to do or if a dog does not get enough exercise throughout the day.

5. Comfort

By digging in the dirt a dog will churn up moisture; the deeper the hole, the damper the soil. This is why dogs dig on especially hot days. They are rooting around in the yard, looking for a place to cool down. If a place in the shade is simply not enough, then the dog might dig a circle in the ground for a comfortable bed in the damp earth.

6. Hiding Food or Toys

Another reason why dogs dig is to bury things. Food, chew bones, toys, and prey are all prized possessions to a dog. As such, they want to keep these things safe. This behavior links back to their ancestry and was once the key to survival. If a dog wants to bury something to save for later, they will dig a hole, place the item inside, and then use their nose to cover the item back up. A dog might even bury, uncover, and re-bury an item several times. Some dogs will even take this habit indoors, using dog beds, laundry, or blankets to hide up their treasures.

7. Eating Roots and Dirt

If your dog is not on a proper diet full of the nutrients they need, then a dog might start digging too find roots and dirt to eat. If this is why a dog digs, the holes will be restricted to a small number of spots, usually under trees or in garden soil.

8. Anxiety

Many dogs suffer from separation-anxiety. They become depressed or distressed when their owners are gone for extended periods. So a dog may begin to dig to either get to a family member or simply escape from being alone. Other signs of anxiety may include pacing, whining, and other destructive behavior.

9. Escape

Why do dogs dig? Some do it to get out of a confined area. This behavior is likely to be accompanied by other signs of aggression like barking, running along a fence line, and lunging at both humans, and other dogs. If a dog is unaltered, another reason why they might dig to escape is so they can go find a mate.

10. Mimicking

Another funny reason why dogs dig is because they are mimicking human behavior. If their owner is out digging in the garden, some dogs will join in the work or play. As a member of the pack the dog wants to participate and contribute, whether it is for work or just for fun.

Ways to Stop Uncontrolled Digging

  • Teach your dog to stop digging on command
  • Be sure the dog is entertained with toys or exercise
  • Allow your dog to socialize with other dogs
  • Have your dog spayed or neutered
  • Get rid of small prey your dog may be hunting
  • Provide your dog with proper comfort and protection
  • Establish a digging zone for your dog
  • Eliminate temptation
  • DO NOT punish your dog after the fact
  • DO NOT hurt your dog
  • DO NOT chain up your dog
How to Stop Uncontrolled Digging

If a dog is digging up a storm in the back yard, then it may be time to take action against the unwanted behavior. There are many tips and tricks you can use. By finding the underlying cause for a dog’s digging behavior you will be better equipped to know which methods will work best.


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