Why Dogs Dig and What You Can Do
Some wild dog relatives, like foxes and wolves, dig dens to
raise their young. Sleeping in a den protects the young pups from extreme
temperatures (both hot and cold) and from predators. Our pet dogs share the
desire to sleep in and under things that resemble a den. They often dig at the
ground and circle before lying down, as though they’re trying to make a softer
resting place. (Many dogs do this on the carpet or furniture as well.) Dogs
also dig when trying to get warm or stay cool, to entertain themselves, to bury
valued items, and when hunting ground-dwelling animals.
Why Dogs Dig
Keeping Cool and Comfortable
Dogs often dig and circle to make a comfortable bed. If a dog is especially
hot or cold, she may dig to find a warmer or cooler place to rest. Holes are
often strategically located in cool or warm areas, such as in the shade,
underneath bushes or outdoor furniture.
Many dogs love to dig. Some breeds, like terriers, are more likely to dig
than others. But any dog can develop a digging habit. Dogs who dig for fun
usually adopt a playful posture and alternate between digging and running
around. Sandy surfaces often trigger bouts of digging. If your dog digs for
entertainment, you’ll probably see holes located randomly around the area.
Burying Valued Items
Dogs bury food, chew bones, toys and prey. This behavior was once key to the
survival of dogs’ wild ancestors because it allowed them to leave food safely
concealed and then return to eat it later. It’s not surprising that our
domesticated dogs still feel the urge to dig. If a dog wants to bury something,
she digs a hole, places the item in the hole, and then uses her nose to cover
the item with dirt. Often the dog will repeatedly bury an item, dig it up and
bury it again in a new spot. Some dogs “bury” things indoors, on carpeting or
furniture, or underneath dog beds or piles of laundry.
Hunting Ground-Dwelling Animals
Most dogs have the desire and ability to hunt small prey such as moles,
groundhogs, etc. If a dog finds a hole with an animal inside, she may dig
relentlessly in an attempt to get to the animal.
Other Behavior Problems to Rule Out
Dogs suffering from separation anxiety may dig to get to a family member or
to escape from being left alone. To learn more about this behavior problem,
please see our article, Separation
Some dogs dig to escape from confinement.
Eating Dirt or Other Inedible Objects
Some dogs dig holes to consume soil, roots and other inedible material.
They’re usually selective about the soil they consume, so this kind of digging
is usually restricted to a small number of spots.
Digging is a normal behavior for dogs. Certain breeds are more likely to dig
than others. For example, terriers were bred to hunt underground prey, such as
rabbits and badgers, so they tend to dig a lot. However, any dog of any breed
can develop a digging habit under the right (or wrong) conditions. To deal with
a digging problem, you’ll need to identify your dog’s underlying motivation for
the behavior. If you can figure out why your dog digs, you can figure
out how to fix or reduce the problem. In some cases, you’ll need to prevent
digging in unwanted locations and offer appropriate places for digging