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 to.
- 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.