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Why Dogs Dig and What You Can Do

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Other Behavior Problems to Rule Out

Separation-Anxiety Digging

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 Anxiety.

Escape-Motivated Digging

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 instead.

What to Do If Your Dog Digs

After determining why your dog digs, you can try the recommendations below to manage or reduce her habit. If you need help with your dog’s digging, don’t hesitate to consult a qualified professional, such as a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) or a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or Associate CAAB). Please see our article, Finding Professional Help, to locate one of these experts in your area.

If Your Dog Digs to Keep Cool or Get Comfortable

Dogs living outside in very hot or cold weather often dig holes to sleep in, especially if they don’t have access to proper shelter, like an insulated doghouse. Even with a suitable doghouse, some dogs prefer to retreat under a deck and dig a big hole. Older dogs may start digging later in life if they become unable to regulate their own body temperature as well as they used to.

  1. If your dog digs in an attempt to cool off, provide an insulated dog house, a shallow wading pool, shade, a fan (air blowing over ice feels just like air conditioning!) and/or a bed that allows air to circulate underneath. Hot dogs like to lie flat on hard, cool surfaces or upside down on soft surfaces, so give your dog access to those. If possible, keep your dog indoors, in an air-conditioned area-at least during the hottest time of day.
  2. If your dog digs in an attempt to keep warm, provide an insulated dog house, give her extra blankets or a differently shaped bed that she can burrow into, move her bed to a cozier, less drafty location, or give her access to an area where she can lie in the warm sun. If possible, keep your dog indoors when it’s particularly cold outside.
  3. If your dog digs in an attempt to create a more comfortable resting place, provide a bed. It may help to offer a few different kinds of beds so your dog can let you know which one she prefers. Many dogs like circular beds with a raised edge that can be used as a pillow. Dogs also seem to like beds that are snug, so that they can burrow down into them and get cozy. (Some dogs like beds that seem almost too small for them!)
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