So, you see your dog digging a hole in your newly planted garden. What’s your first instinct? If you’re like most people, it’s probably to rush to the scene of the crime and yell at him to stop.
While this may turn his attention away from his excavation efforts in the short term, it won't be long before he is again hard at work.
The best way to put a stop to this unwelcome behavior is to work out what’s causing your dog’s digging and deal with it appropriately.
Why Do Dogs Dig? (12 Reasons)
There are any number of reasons for dog digging. The following is a list of the 12 most common.
1. Lack of Exercise
If your dog is an active breed, chances are she’s digging because she’s not getting enough exercise.
Any active breed left alone for too long will find something to do; you can count on it. And you won’t always like what they come up with.
But any dog can and will dig if it doesn't get the exercise it needs. Adequate exercise is so critical to a dog’s contentment and mental health that it’s the key to many (if not most) problematic dog behaviors. Digging is no exception.
If there isn't much for your dog to do while you're out at work all day, again, don't be surprised if he makes his own entertainment.
This often includes digging, but he may also chew things and pull laundry off the washing line.
3. Lack of Attention
Dogs often dig due to a lack of attention.
If they're left outside for long periods, digging may be the most convenient way to let you know that you need to find more time for them.
All dogs need positive attention from their families, and digging is only one of the nuisance behaviors they might use to try to get it.
Some breeds, particularly the Dachshund and most terriers, are hard-wired to dig.
They were bred to go to ground after small prey, and digging is instinctive. Humans have little need for vermin hunting today, but these dogs have retained the instinct to dig.
Some dogs just want to escape their yard. The intact Casanovas of the dog world, for example, dig to escape. They can smell a female in heat up to three miles away and will dig until they’re exhausted to get to her.
Dogs are pack animals who aren’t made to be alone. If your dog is left outside by himself all day long, he will find something to do to distract himself. Digging is perfect for this.
In warm weather, your dog may dig a shallow hole to lie in because the ground just under the surface is much cooler.
Spitz-type dogs, such as huskies and Chow Chows, are known for this. They have thick coats that can be too heavy for hot summer weather.
Some dogs will do this in the winter for the opposite reason—the ground temperature is warmer than the air. Dogs can also dig to try to find water.
If she lies in the holes that she digs, your dog is probably digging for comfort.
8. Separation Anxiety
Digging and destructive behavior, both inside and outside your home, can be characteristic of separation anxiety, especially in the companion breeds. But other breeds are prone to it, too.
9. Hunting Prey
Dogs sometimes dig in search of insects or other prey that runs on the ground or underground.
This is classic behavior for some scent hounds. They may smell small animals burrowed in the ground.
Pica is an urge to eat abnormal materials such as dirt and soil. Your dog may dig up the ground before he eats it.
11. For Food
We know of at least one breed that digs for food—not for himself, but for humans.
The Lagotto Romagnolo has the traditional job of sniffing out and digging for truffles.
12. Burying or recovering treasure (caching)
Dogs will often dig holes to bury bones. This behavior is called caching. There are four reasons why dogs will cache bones and other treasures.
- It’s a survival instinct. In the wild, dogs learned that there were times of feast and times of famine. When hunting was good, they preserved food by burying it. When food was scarce, they would return to the holes and retrieve the bones they had hidden earlier.
- Today, when a dog is well-fed, he may bury bones simply because he’s full. He buries it to protect it from other animals so he can have it later.
- Out of boredom. Sometimes dogs will bury bones and cover them up because they want you to find them.
- For entertainment—it’s fun! Sometimes dogs will cache treasures inside, just for fun. They will “bury” something deep in a chair or in the folds of a blanket, for example.
As another example, have you ever put your foot into a shoe and discovered a foreign object in there? Your dog is the likely culprit, inviting you to a game of hide-and-seek.
We’ve even heard an owner story about a Yorkshire Terrier who used to dig “tootsie rolls” from the cat’s litter box and hide them all over the house!
How Do I Stop Dog Digging? (15 Ways)
Most important: Do not punish your dog for digging!