If you’ve ever owned a dog, you’ve probably noticed that he or she likes to dig. While some might simply see digging as a good way to play until they can get access to a favorite toy, others look at digging as more of a way of life. In fact, some dogs go so wild with digging that they can tear up an entire yard – or worse, they might even take the digging to your brand new couch. As a dog owner, your goal needs to be to understand why your dog loves to dig and what you can do about that behavior.
It’s A Dog Digging Life
One of the biggest reasons why your dog digs are because digging is simply a part of your dog’s ancestry. At a basic level, digging is one of those behaviors that’s a holdover from the pre-dog era. Wolves dig as well, so it makes sense that your dog
The genetic component of this is much closer to the surface for some breeds, though. Breeds like dachshunds, for example, were literally bred to be diggers. Their original roles – and the reasons for their elongated bodies – stems from the dog’s ability to follow their prey down into various underground warrens. These dogs dug as a matter of course, and countless generations were spent helping them to get better at breeding.
That’s right – the obnoxious behavior you’re trying to prevent may well be one for which your dog’s ancestors were highly prized!
Going Beyond Instinct
Instinct is just one of the reasons why your dog digs, though. While this might be a classic doggie behavior, he or she does have quite a few different modern-day concerns that are satisfied by digging up your yard.
For some dogs, the digging process is all about hunting. Those terrier breeds that were bred to hunt moles, rabbits, and other underground dwellers still have the same drive to go after prey and they may well be hunting creatures that live in your yard – especially if they roam your yard freely and consider it their territory. Other breeds, including the bigger, fluffier dogs, might be digging because they’re trying to make beds for themselves so that they can get out of the heat.
Of course, the classic reason for a dog to dig is that he or she is trying to hide something. Dogs love to make sure that no one will take their stuff, and that often means hiding them in spaces that the dog thinks are hard to access. This is not only why your dog might bury a bone in the backyard, but why some dogs might try to “bury” a treat inside a blanket.
Some dogs also dig because it’s a way out of a fence. This is an incredibly common behavior for female dogs when they are in heat, for example, and also a common behavior for dogs of all shapes and sizes when they get bored. Yes, another one of the common reasons why your dog might be digging is simply because it is fun to dig.
How to Stop Your Dog From Digging
It’s perhaps best to start by acknowledging that you probably won’t be able to prevent your dog from digging altogether. This is such an important part of dog psychology that you can’t get rid of it all the way, so you need to aim for being able to prevent your dog from being too destructive. Your goal is to first figure out what causes your dog to dig and then try to find a way to redirect those impulses.
A surprising amount of digging can be stopped simply by spending time with your dog. If you can provide your dog with the stimulation he or she needs, your dog won’t feel like he or she needs to dig quite as much. For some dogs, this just means more time on walks and getting exercise. For others, it means not being left alone quite so often. Whatever you can do to make your dog feel comfortable and content will reduce the amount he or she digs.
It’s also possible to reduce your dog’s digging the same way you worked on getting him or her to stop running after strangers or barking at the doorbell. If your dog starts to dig, distract him or her by throwing a ball or trying to play. When your do does new behavior, give him or her plenty of positive reinforcement. In time, your dog will understand that these new activities provoke a far more positive response than he or she might have gotten from digging.
What If He or She Won’t Stop Digging?
Some dogs are just natural diggers. They were bred to dig, they like to dig, and they’re good at it. If that’s the case, there’s no amount of positive reinforcement that’s going to get your dog to give up his or her favorite activity. Instead, you’re just going to have to embrace that your dog loves to dig.
What you can do, though, is to choose to give your dog a good space in which he or she can dig. A sandbox can be a good spot, for example, as can be any place with loose soil. You can make this spot a preferred spot for your dog by burying treats and bones there, helping your dog to associate that new spot with rewards.
If a digging spot isn’t for you, you can also enter your dog in Earthdog competitions. These competitions are made for dogs that were bred to chase underground prey, so they allow your dog to go through tunnels in order to chase behind a (caged) prey animal. Scent competitions are likewise a good fit for many of these underground hunters, as they can use their natural instincts to compete.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do I stop my dogs from digging holes?
While you probably can’t stop a dog from digging holes entirely, you can get him or her to stop digging so much by making sure that your dog gets plenty of exercise and attention. You can also work to reduce the amount that your dog is digging by redirecting him or her with praise or treats when he or she starts digging.
2. What breed of dog likes to dig holes?
Many dogs like to dig. In fact, it’s a part of their natural biology and something that’s a holdover from wolves. With that said, most small hunting breeds love to dig, especially if they were bred to go after prey that lives underground. Most larger breeds from arctic areas also love to dig, as this behavior can help them to create cool shelters during the summer.
3. Do dogs grow out of digging holes?
Some dogs might dig less as they get older, but many adult dogs still have a great time digging holes. In fact, digging is one of those instincts that never really goes away with some dogs. Digging is especially common among adult dogs of breeds that were originally bred to hunt underground vermin, so this behavior is almost hardwired into them genetically.
4. Do dogs dig holes when they are about to die?
Dogs often start digging holes when they’re dying, but it’s not because they are trying to dig their own graves. Some dogs will be digging holes because they feel more comfortable under the cooler earth, while others might dig a hole because they are trying to hide. For the most part, though, hole digging really has nothing to do with your dog’s health and much more to do with your dog’s instincts. You don’t need to be concerned if your dog suddenly starts to dig when he or she gets older, but it’s never a bad idea to keep an eye on any older dog who experiences major behavior changes.