Why Do Dogs Dig?

Why Do Dogs Dig?

A lush, perfectly landscaped yard certainly will give your home some curb appeal, but it can also look like a digger’s paradise to your dog. Even if he has tons of toys in and out of the house, nothing can beat the feeling of dirt flying up in the air behind him. The collection of holes may come in handy if your planning on planting some trees, but for the most part, the random trenches are more of an eyesore, not to mention a walking hazard!

While you may never be able to get your dog to kick his digging habit completely, you can better understand his motivation and possibly get some ideas to save your garden in the process. 

Why Do Dogs Dig?

“So here is what we know: Obviously dogs are close relatives to wolves and foxes, and wolves and foxes dig dens,” explains Dr. Richard Goldstein, chief medical officer at the Animal Medical Center in New York City. These dens are where wolves and foxes sleep, keep their cubs and regulate their body temperatures on hot days, says Goldstein. So if it’s a warm summer day, your pup may just be looking for a place to cool down.

Some breeds are pre-disposed to digging due to breeding, shares Annie Angell, CPDT-KA and co-owner of My Two Dogs Inc. “Terriers, for example, were bred to ‘go to the ground’ which means some will dig holes to get to squirrels or groundhogs that they are hunting,” she says.

And even if your dog doesn’t come from a burrowing breed, they may dig simply because they enjoy it and find burying their toys—or your keys—the perfect cure for boredom.  “If you leave them in the yard alone too long with nothing else to do, they will create their own fun,” explains Angell.

How to Stop Your Dog From Digging

“Curbing this behavior is easier said than done,” says Goldstein, “especially if the dog is out alone for a long time.” Start by providing your dog with other cool, shaded areas to lie down. You can even designate a space in your yard where digging is allowed, and let your dog go to town, says Goldstein.

Angell suggests creating a digging space for your dog by using a sandbox or kiddie pool (that you can chose to fill with sand or water depending upon how hot it is). Build a small border around it made out of wood so it’s boxed in, fill it with dirt or sand, and hide your dogs toys or treats in there. Draw his attention to the space by calling him over. If he digs up a toy – play with him as a reward.  

“If you catch him in an area that’s not his, get his attention, walk over to his digging pit and tell him to ‘go dig,’” says Angell. “The more you reward him, the more he will go to that area. Just make sure that you load up the digging pit with toys and treats to keep him amused.”

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