Why do dogs dig? Only by understanding the reason behind a dog’s behavior can you attempt to change it.
There are many reasons for your dog’s digging, with some of the most common being:
- Separation anxiety
- Hiding of bones or toys
- Breed disposition
- Hunting prey
Whatever the reason for your dog’s digging, it is important that you don’t punish them after the fact. Punishment will not address the cause of your dog’s digging problem, and if the digging is motivated by fear or anxiety, punishment will make the situation even worse.
If you try to remedy the problem, but find that your dog is still actively digging, try to provide a safe digging zone where this kind of behavior is permitted.
Here are some ways to do this:
- Use a sandbox or cover the digging zone in the lawn with sand or loose soil.
- Make the safe digging zone attractive to your dog by burying items like toys for them to dig out.
- When your dog digs in the safe digging zone, reward them with plenty of praise.
- If you find your dog digging in an unacceptable area, interrupt the behavior by loudly saying, “No dig,” then immediately take your dog to the safe digging zone.
- Make the unacceptable digging spots unattractive by covering them with rocks, dog poop, or chicken wire.
Digging for Entertainment
Why do dogs dig holes for entertainment? These are the most common reasons:
- The dog is left alone in the yard for long periods of time without human companionship.
- They have no playmates or toys to keep them entertained.
- If the dog is a puppy or adolescent, they do not have another outlet for their pent-up energy.
- The dog may be a terrier or other breed that is predisposed to digging.
- The dog may be an active breed that needs to keep busy to be happy.
- The dog may have seen you gardening or working in the yard, and is mimicking your behavior.
If you want to keep your dog from digging in the yard, you need to help expand your dog’s world and increase their time spent socializing with humans. Here are a few suggestions:
- Take your dog for a walk two times a day. Getting enough exercise can help to deter problem behavior in dogs.
- Play with your dog as often as possible using active toys like balls and frisbees.
- Keep interesting toys in the yard to capture your dog’s attention when you’re not around, and rotate the toys out to help keep their play interesting.
Your dog may be digging to try to catch animals that burrow in your yard. If your dog seems to be focused on a single area in the yard, this may be a sign of digging behavior that involves hunting prey.
If you have burrowing animals in your yard, try to make your yard unattractive to them. Use safe, humane methods to fence them out or to exclude them. Never use any product or method that could be toxic or dangerous to your pets or other animals, and remember that anything that can poison wildlife can also poison your dog.
Digging for Attention
Dogs seek attention naturally. Any behavior can become attention-seeking behavior if the dog learns that it provokes a reaction, even if it ends in punishment. If your dog digs in your presence, or if your dog has limited opportunities to interact with you, then they may be digging for attention. Ignore this poor behavior, and give your dog plenty of praise for good behavior.
Digging for Comfort and Protection
Dogs have been known to find inventive ways to stay cool during hot weather. As such, they may decide to dig holes and lie in the dirt to cool off. In addition to staying cool, a dog may dig to provide themselves with shelter from cold weather, wind, or rain. Here are some signs that your dog is digging for comfort or protection:
- Your dog digs near the foundation of buildings, shady trees, or a water source.
- Your dog doesn’t have shelter outside or the shelter is too cold or too hot.
- Your dog lies in the holes they dig.