Digging: Dogs

When it comes to dogs digging, not all digging is the same. Dogs dig for a wide variety of reasons, and depending on the reason, the approach to stopping it may vary. Some dogs dig to escape, some to stay cool or warm up, for entertainment, due to anxiety, to safeguard their most prized items, or to access critters. So, here are a few answers to the question “why is my dog digging?”

It’s important to understand that digging is an instinct in canines. Certain breeds of dogs, like terriers and some hounds, were specifically bred for their amazing ability to dig out game (foxes, rats, badgers, etc.). In these cases, redirecting digging may be a little more challenging.

 Dog digging to reach a better temperature:

Most of our dogs here in Texas will dig to reach cooler temperatures. Digging deeper makes the soil feel cooler on a hot summer day. Many dogs, especially when left outside for extended periods on a hot day, dig in the yard to cool off. However, digging to keep warm has been a behavior utilized by dogs in super cold climates for ages. Huskies and Malamutes have this behavior in their genes, so even if it’s not extremely cold, they might dig as they would in the snow to create a small den where they can be protected from ice and wind.

Dogs digging for entertainment:

While dogs do enjoy sleeping for long periods of time, many dogs experience under-stimulation in our sedentary lives. Many dogs dig to entertain themselves, whether you are home or not. After all, digging can be a lot of fun. The scents and flavors mixed with physical activity can be quite enticing to a dog with lots of energy or one that is feeling a bit bored.

Dog digging for critters:

As mentioned previously, many dogs have been bred to dig for game. Scent hounds and terriers have a centuries-long history of digging to locate rats, discover burrows where game may hide, and so on. Finding critters and game is also an instinctual behavior, even if your dog is well-fed, as hunting is an inherent part of canine existence. While most of our dogs no longer need to hunt due to the wholesome diet we provide, their instinct to find food doesn’t suddenly disappear. This is why some dogs may dig in the garbage, as the amount of food there can be quite a bounty.

Dog digging to bury something:

Dogs often use digging as a means to safeguard valuable items. This behavior traces back to our dogs’ wild ancestors. Consuming an entire food bounty in one sitting was challenging. Digging a hole to bury the leftovers was an effective way to preserve them. After all, our dogs can find entertainment in a bone for several years. Therefore, it’s not surprising to discover our dogs hiding specific items. Dogs dig, bury the item, and then relocate it to a new spot, sometimes including their bedding. We’ve had clients with dogs that steal various items, such as underwear, socks, chew toys, bones, kids’ toys, etc., just to bury them in the yard for safekeeping.

Digging Due To Anxiety:

Many dogs suffer from anxiety, and separation anxiety can be a significant reason for digging. An anxious dog may dig for two reasons: to reach a family member who has left or to expend excess nervous energy.

Digging To Escape:

Some dogs dig to escape, not because there is anything wrong with their yard, but because the possibilities on the other side are endless. The saying “the grass is greener on the other side” holds true for them.

Dogs can detect scents from distant sources. Perhaps the neighbor’s dog wants to play, or someone is having a BBQ, or there is a scent of roadkill wafting through the air.

Escape digging is also a common issue with unaltered dogs. Intact males may attempt to escape to mate with a female in heat, and females in heat may search for intact males.

Escape digging can also be attributed to fearful dogs. The dog is attempting to get away from something in the yard, which can range from red ants to movers, electrical currents from outdoor outlets, fear of storms, mowers, etc.

Now that you know some of the reasons for your dog’s digging, spend a few days observing their behavior. Does it occur when you are present, after exercise, or does the dog seem hesitant to enter the yard? Understanding the reason for your dog’s digging will simplify finding effective solutions

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