Why Do Dogs Dig and How To Prevent This Dirty Problem!

People often wonder, “Why do dogs dig?” There are several different reasons for this typical dog behavior. Some dog breeds dig because they were initially bred to hunt (like Terriers), and some do it to escape.

Still, others might be bored. Many dogs dig by instinct, and some dig more than others because breeders further developed this characteristic.

Fortunately, there are a few tips that you can use to help with this problem. Read on to learn the reasons why dogs dig and what you can do about it.

Reasons Why Dogs Dig

Below are several reasons why your dog digs. Only you might have the final answer here but each one of these are worth evaluating. While discipline might curb his behavior, the underlying reason should still be addressed.

Dogs Dig to Regulate Body Temperature

One reason why dogs may dig is that their body temperature is either too hot or too cold. Digging is an instinctive behavior dating back to the dogs’ ancestor, the wolf.

So, why do dogs dig holes? When it is hot out in the summer, the dirt below the surface is much cooler. Your dog might dig a hole and lay inside of it to cool off!

In the winter, the opposite is true. The air above ground is freezing, but if your dog digs a hole, it can find shelter and warm up.

This is one of the more straightforward digging situations to fix. To combat this issue, you can provide a digging pit for your dog, or you can bring your dog inside where the temp is more comfortable.

Make sure that your dog always has a cool place in the shade to lay down in the summer and plenty of fresh, clean water.

In the winter, your dog should have shelter from the cold. If you do allow your dog to have a digging pit, spend some time training him or her to ensure that your dog doesn’t dig other spots as well.

Dogs Dig When They Are Bored

If your dog is digging holes in the yard, it might be bored or lonely. Dogs are pack animals, and when they spend a lot of time outside all alone, they will find a way to pass the time.

Not only do dogs dig in these circumstances, but they also bark and find things to chew.

It is essential to understand that dogs need something to do during the day. They also need plenty of interaction when you are home.

If you spend time with your dog going for a long walk or throwing a ball before you leave, it may rest while you are gone.

You can also leave plenty of toys for your dog to entertain itself with. Take the time to find out if your dog has a favorite toy.

Make sure that you exercise your dog regularly for at least thirty minutes a day. You can also give your dog a digging pit as long as you train it to use the pit.

Dogs Dig to Get Exercise

Dogs can be very active, and they need exercise. Some breeds require more than others, but they all need some kind of exercise.

Digging is an instinctive behavior, and it is one way that your dog gets exercise when left on its own.

You can minimize this behavior by making sure that you give your dog plenty of exercise. Most dogs need a minimum of thirty minutes a day.

Even within various breeds, some dogs just have more energy than others. Once you get to know your dog, you will learn how much exercise it needs each day.

Dogs Dig Because They Are Hunting

Some dogs were bred to hunt, and this instinct kicks in when they smell a wild animal. There may be rabbits, gophers, or other animals living outside, and some breeds have a strong inclination to dig for these animals. 

Terriers, in particular, were bred to dig out foxes and other wild animals.

You can get this kind of digging to stop by removing the burrowing animals. If your dog has uncovered wildlife living underground in your yard, you can call animal control or a wildlife rescue to see if they can help.

As long as you have wildlife underground, these dogs will try to dig it up.

Dogs Dig When They Have Separation Anxiety

Most dogs are social, but some are even more so. One of the reasons why they make such great companions is that they love to be with you all the time.

If you leave your dog alone for long periods of time, it may start digging to stop its feelings of loneliness. Your dog might dig on the carpet inside or dig on the wood patio even when left alone outside.

Separation anxiety can be very stressful for your dog, so you will need to find ways to help. You can start a routine before you leave to help your dog feel less stressed. Special toys to give them when you leave and other fun ways to keep them entertained helps.

Dogs take comfort in a schedule because it helps them to know what to expect. Take steps to help your dog work through the separation anxiety, and the digging may improve.

Dogs Dig to Escape

Sometimes dogs dig to try to get to the other side of a fence. They may want to play with a neighbor’s dog, or they may just be curious about what is out there.

If your dog isn’t spayed or neutered, this can be a strong instinct. It might be looking for a mate.

You can spay or neuter your dog to stop it from instinctive wandering. If your dog is spayed or neutered and just wants to go out exploring, it will be more difficult.

You need to make sure that the fence is strengthened so that your dog can’t get out. You can also plant bushes or lay rocks near the fence to deter digging.

Dogs Dig to Hide Toys and Treats

Some dogs dig to hide their toys and treats. This is normal dog behavior. They hide these things to save them for later. That way, nobody else will take them.

If you have recently gotten another dog or brought a new baby home, your dog may start hiding its toys in the yard.

There is not a lot that you can do to stop this behavior besides give it time. You can spend quality time with your dog and take it for long walks. Your goal is to redirect your dog’s energy to extra exercise, or you can get a digging pit where your dog can learn to hide its toys.

Dogs Dig When They Lack Vitamins and Minerals

Sometimes dogs will instinctively dig because they are trying to find nutrients that may be lacking. If you find that your dog has suddenly started digging, you might evaluate its diet.

Check the label on the dog food and see if there are any nutrients that your dog might need. You can also talk with your vet to try to get to the bottom of it.

How to Stop a Dog From Digging

Once you identify why your dog is digging, you likely want to try to minimize this behavior. It is essential to try to correct digging before it becomes a substantial part of your dog’s life. There are different ways to teach your dog to stop digging, but it is not necessarily an easy task.

Digging Pit: 

If you give your dog a digging pit, you can train it to do its digging there. This is an excellent solution because your dog can still dig but on your terms.

Exercise:

Digging from boredom or loneliness can be cured with exercise. Take your dog for walks, throw the ball in the yard, and spend time outdoors with your dog. Nearly every breed of dog needs a minimum of thirty minutes of exercise each day, and some can handle much more than that.

Toys:

Make sure that your dog has plenty of chew toys and things to do while you are gone.

Spay/Neuter:

Intact Dogs have an instinct to wander and find a mate, and they will dig under the fence to escape. You can eliminate this instinct by spaying or neutering your dog.

Love and Attention:

Give your dog a lot of love and attention when you are home so that it doesn’t try to get negative attention from you by digging.

Bottom Line: Why Do Dogs Dig?

It is clear that dogs dig for many reasons, but first and foremost, it is an instinct that goes back to their ancestors. If you get a breed that is a hunter, there is a good chance that it will have strong digging instincts.

Many dogs are simply bored and looking for entertainment. If you provide the dog with something to do, the digging may stop.

If you leave your dog outside for many hours all alone, you are more likely to have a digging problem.

Dogs are social animals, and they don’t always do well left alone for the majority of the day. You might consider getting a friend for your dog if work keeps you away too much. Two dogs will be able to entertain each other while you are gone.

Your best bet is to work on the digging behavior as soon as you notice it. You don’t want to let it become too much of a habit.

As long as you know what is causing the behavior, you should be able to redirect it.

Resources & Tips:

  • https://www.cesarsway.com/6-tips-to-help-dog-separation-anxiety
  • https://www.leonvalleyvet.com/blog/digging-dogs-and-what-to-do-about-them

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