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Why Do Dogs Dig

A pet lover passionate about educating readers about animal health and care. Love reading studies and recent research.
Published on
Sunday 25 December 2022
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
Why Do Dogs Dig
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If you’re a pet parent, it’s almost certain that you’ve asked yourself, why do dogs dig? A yard becoming a minefield littered with holes and couch pillows are carelessly strewn every day – you’ve probably been there. The most likely culprit is probably your beloved furball.

Read on to learn why dogs dig holes and how to stop them from making it a habit!

Why Do Dogs Like to Dig 

If your favorite puffball starts digging, there are a few causes that can explain this annoying behavior.

Has your pet dog started digging holes in your backyard, effectively turning it into an active digging zone? While this canine behavior might seem enjoyable for the dog, it can lead to severe and irritating consequences for its owners. Not only is digging destructive to your property, but it also creates possible escape routes for your dog!

Dog digging is not a significant cause of alarm. It is typical canine behavior that most dogs would do at some point in their life. It is an excellent source of entertainment and joy for many canines, so some would repeatedly do it.

Most dogs dig for a variety of reasons. These could include boredom, anxiety, genetics, or the desire to make a comfortable space for themselves to lie down. Understanding the reasons behind this canine behavior might help you find more effective ways to stop it in the future!

Here are the common reasons why do dogs like to dig:

Instinctive Behavior

One of the main reasons for dog digging is the inescapable need to create a safe home and space. 

It is based on the instinct to provide a safe space to raise their puppies and protect themselves from predators or harsh outdoor elements. Female canines are more prone to ‘denning’ since, back in the wild, they were mainly left behind to prepare the dens for their pups. 

Dogs seek a comfy place, but instead of buying a mattress as humans do, these pups dig. In the outdoors, that instinct makes them turn up dirt to soften it and make it well-suited for their body. Inside, the dogs would scratch and dig beds and couches, tossing around pillows and blankets to make the space more suitable for their taste.

Look For Prey

While your furry friend might be far from its wild roots, it would still enjoy chasing around potential prey. Critters like bugs and small mammals can make their way into your property, stirring up your canine’s prey drive.

Not only does a passing critter cause a canine to dig to find them, but their scents also enhance their need to dig. Animal leftover scents or droppings can trigger a dog’s urge to look for prey, leading to excessive digging.

The action of digging is also in a canine’s DNA. While the need to dig is present in all dogs, the impulse is much stronger in certain breeds.

Digging dog breeds have been bred specifically for their digging and hunting abilities since they are experts in chasing tiny animals or critters into their burrows. Humans had a role in creating canines drawn to digging holes. By selectively breeding puppies that are phenomenal diggers, pet parents are left with burrowing and excavating professionals.

Dog breeds that dig are Siberian Huskies, Dachshunds, Beagles, Jack Russell Terriers, and more. 

To Take a Nap

Like humans, dogs also prefer not to sleep on a lumpy or uncomfortable bed. Like how you would rearrange your blankets or pillows for optimal coziness, a dog digs to do the same to their bed or space.

dog digging into their bed is just their instincts kicking in. Rather than misbehaving, it’s their way to find a comfortable space before taking a nap. Let your dog be – unless they accidentally scratch up your expensive throw! Better give them a sleeping area of their own.

In particular, an arthritic dog might circle and dig at its bed to lessen the pain in its bones.

To Bury Things

Do you have a pup that hides its toys from its fellow pups at home? Or a dog that takes a treat and runs to a different room to enjoy it in peace? Dogs like these often hide their ‘treasure’ in a safe spot, ensuring that no other animal would find it.

Some dogs dig a hole in your yard, where they bury their favorite toys. Many pups will hold their favorite item or toys in their mouth while searching for a spot in your backyard to dig a hole.

You might see them drop the item in the newly excavated hole, often nuzzling the soil with their nose as they bury it. If you see your pet carrying a prized and treasured possession around the yard, it’s almost a guarantee that they will bury it.

Escape

Some dogs have the urge to run free. If you have an escape artist for a dog, you must ensure you have a well-guarded backyard! Also, if they can’t find a way to jump over your gate, they probably turn to their next best option — going under.

If a dog digs deeper enough, it might be able to escape from under a fence since they don’t typically go deep underground. It gives the dog the perfect opportunity to make a tunnel and run.

Dogs that dig near your fence are most probably plotting their escape. This escape plan can be dangerous for your pet since they can fall victim to various unfortunate accidents when roaming the world by their doggy selves.

When They Are Bored

You should not rule out boredom when considering why do dogs like to dig. Most breeds do it to entertain themselves and pass the time. Often, when pups have extra energy to burn or have been left alone for too long, they are bound to do something to appease their boredom.

Dogs rely heavily on physical and mental stimulation to keep themselves content and happy. When dogs do not get their needs met, they often experience stress. When their energy is at a new height, you can expect your yard to take the brunt of that storm.

Comfort

Dogs like to dig to make themselves more comfortable. Digging becomes a way for pups living in cold or wet areas to find protection from the harsh environment. They would create shallow holes in the ground to keep their bodies warm. They could also make a hard surface softer and more comfortable by creating a nest of dirt or leaves to lie on.

In Heat

Not only is denning or scratching the bed a pre-bedtime habit, but it could also be heating behavior. It could mean the dog is currently in heat and looking for a place to nest comfortably. Some dogs also dig holes so they can impress their future mates. Intact male dogs might dig their way out of yards to find a female dog in heat.

Also, pregnant dogs tend to dig and scratch their bed to get ready to welcome their pups. It is typical behavior of female dogs in labor as they prepare their ‘nest.’

To Get Attention

Dog digging can be a pup’s way of getting attention. It doesn’t matter how much you ignore them; as long as you’re around, they may resort to this behavior. Take note that punishment is a form of attention, too!

Your dog might be craving your attention, hoping that digging would get you to interact with them. The best way to avoid this from becoming a habit is by ignoring attention-seeking behavior.

To Set Territory

Dogs digging on your bed could mean that they are marking their territory. These animals have scent glands in their paws, which secrete pheromones.

study about scent marking in shelter dogs indicates that scent marking is a dog’s way of transferring information without direct interactions. Dogs dig to scent the spot or area, letting other dogs know it is theirs.

Digging, pawing, or scratching in their beds can effectively spread their pheromones on the area. It shows other dogs that the mattress is part of their territory and that they should proceed carefully.

How to Stop a Dog From Digging

While digging could serve as an excellent mental and physical outlet for pups, uncontrolled excavation is still dangerous. Some soil in your yard could contain choking hazards, toxins, parasites, and more things that can endanger your pet. Moreover, your dog can compulsively and recklessly injure their paws and nails in the process!

These reasons alone will urge you to find ways how to stop dogs from digging.

Provide Stimulation

A fantastic way to stop your pups from digging is to offer other sorts of distractions. There are ample ways to distract your dogs. You can give them a toy or treat to divert their attention from digging.

You can also offer more exercises to tire them out. Think of mental stimulations for your dog outside of digging. These activities will help tire your dog out, leaving them no extra energy to dig around your yard.  

Train Your Dog

Does your dog dig often? You can try training this behavior out of them. Generally, it involves the basic commands like ‘sit’ or ‘stop’ when they start digging. Teach and train your dog to listen to your order. Have a special command for when you want them to stop digging, like ‘place.’ Teach them to return to their bed, crate, or doghouse once you say the word.

Once you give the command for your dog to stop digging, ensure that you redirect their attention or behavior elsewhere — or they’ll start digging again!

Counter Digging With Other Activities

The next time you catch them digging a hole in your yard, distract them by playing a game of tug of war or fetch. Countering this behavior with another activity can prevent dog digging. You can give them a toy or have them perform a trick for a delicious treat. If your pet does not go back to digging after that, you’ll know it is just looking for good entertainment.

Reward Your Dog For a Good Behavior

Ensure you don’t forget to reward your dog for being a good pet! Positive reinforcement in dog training is a great way to encourage or discourage the behavior. In this case, you can reward your dog for not digging a hole.

You can introduce giving rewards while training your dog. Give them their favorite treat or toy if they follow your command. It helps reinforce the behavior you are trying to teach.

Provide Appropriate Digging Areas

One of the most effective ways how to keep a dog from digging is by providing them with an appropriate place to dig. Give your dog a spot in the yard where they can manifest and let their digging behavior out.

By enforcing this rule, you can prevent your dog from getting hurt. You can also control the extent of the damage. You won’t have to worry or fear waking up one day with an upturned or ruined garden or backyard.

Also, ensure that this digging area isn’t close to your fence. This way, you are preventing dogs from digging under the fence and escaping.

Enroll Your Dog In Sports Activity

Dogs have a lot of energy they need to burn. Sometimes, their daily exercises and activities won’t be enough to burn all the excess energy these furballs have. It can lead to dog digging.

One effective way to prevent or avoid this from happening is by finding more ways to exhaust your dog. Enrolling them in a sports activity is an option. There are various dog sports activities they can partake in – ones that could take their minds away from digging!

Seek Help From Professionals

If your dog still digs often, even after all these, it might be time to turn to a professional. You can seek help from a local dog trainer to find more ways how to stop a dog from digging in the yard!

Digging is normal canine behavior. However, there are instances when dogs start displaying concerning behavior or symptoms on top of digging. Seek out professional help if that were the case.

Give Them A Comfortable Space

If your dog likes digging or creating dens, having a dog shelter in your yard might benefit them. Make or buy a cozy dog house for your pup. You may place it where your dog usually digs in your backyard.

It allows them to create a safe space they can call their own. You can fill the dog house with soil or dirt if your dog likes to dig a lot.

If your pup digs to lie on upturned soil, they might appreciate a shady spot they can lounge in. You can provide this to get your dog out of the sun’s glare, allowing them a place where they can cool off.

Many frustrated dog owners have had their lovely gardens decimated by their dogs’ constant scratching and digging. There are just as many worried pet parents who fear that their companion pet might escape by digging their way out under the fence. Fortunately, there are ways to stop dogs from digging!

Your canine companion turns to dig for various reasons. You will need different methods and training approaches to prevent this behavior from nurturing!

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