Why Dogs Dig and What You Can Do
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!)
If Your Dog Digs to Entertain Herself
Many dogs dig for the fun of it. This type of digging is the hardest to
treat because the action of digging is rewarding in and of itself. To achieve
success, rather than attempting to eliminate the behavior, try to redirect your
dog’s digging to an acceptable place.
- Encourage your dog to dig in an area you have allocated specifically for
this activity. Build a digging pit that is especially enticing. To learn how,
please see our article, Creating a Digging Pit
for Your Dog.
- Try to discourage digging in inappropriate locations by installing garden
fencing around areas where you don’t want your dog to dig. Just the effort of
going over or through a fence will stop some dogs. Others may need more
convincing. You can try stringing tight twine across planters to create a
“roof” through which your plants can grow. Should your dog hop the fence and
jump into your planters, the twine is bound to feel unpleasant on her feet. If
this fails, you can install a motion-activated device that sounds a loud alarm
or turns on a water hose. (Of course, this plan will NOT work if your dog
enjoys playing with the water hose!) Alternatively, you can try using a
product called a Snappy™ Trainer, which looks like a
mousetrap. It’s designed to make a loud snapping noise that merely startles the
dog but won’t harm her. You can place Snappy Trainers all around your plants so
that when your dog touches them, a sudden unpleasant sound surprises her.
- Some experts recommend burying a dog’s feces in the holes she has dug. If
she returns to dig more in those holes, the presence of the feces can
discourage her. However, she’s likely to just start a new hole somewhere else.
This suggestion is only appropriate if your dog is repeatedly digging in a
single undesirable place and you don’t mind if she digs elsewhere.