Why Dogs Dig

Learn about causes and corrective actions for digging behaviors.

Digging Behaviors in Dogs

Signs of Digging Behavior

  • Digging up moles or other burrowing vermin
  • Digging holes in cool earth
  • Digging under fencing
  • Digging at indoor furniture
  • Digging/scratching at floor, door

Causes and Corrective Actions for Digging Behaviors

Attention Seeking

Dog digs at dirt in the yard or garden or digs at indoor furnishings in front of owner as a means to gain positive or negative attention such as being redirected to a fun game or a scolding for misbehavior.

ATTENTION SEEKING Corrective Actions: Don't reward dog with attention, simply stop him from digging and confine him in a crate or safe area for brief time out away from fun or attention. Increase normal daily attention through training and play to preclude your dog's need for attention seeking behaviors. Increase physical exercise to release excess energy.

Boredom

Dogs that lack adequate mental and/or physical exercise become bored and often look for ways to alleviate their boredom, with digging one of the most common boredom breaking activities chosen.

BOREDOM Corrective Actions: A bored dog needs more to occupy his mind and burn off energy, with mental outlets like obedience, tricks or other training stimulating the mind while running with you, swimming, playing fetch and other activities provide physical work outs. Don't leave your dog outside alone for extended periods. Sometimes a spayed or neutered companion dog of the opposite sex provides the bored dog a welcome playmate, but be aware that this can end up with two dogs digging rather than one.

Escape

Dogs that dig out of their yards to find adventure frequently become one of the countless dogs that sadly never find their way home.

ESCAPE Corrective Actions: A dog who digs under a fence to escape spends too much unsupervised time outside and needs increased interactive activities such as training, playing fetch or other pursuits that burn off energy and strengthen the bond with his people. Frequently play with dog inside your yard to show good things happen at home. Talk to a fencing company about burying additional fencing or other barrier to prevent your dog digging out. Train a strong "Leave it" command to tell your dog to cease digging around the fence the second he starts. If dog digs out to seek company of a favorite canine playmate or nearby kids, arrange playtimes within your yard.

Fun

Dogs enjoy digging in the earth to uncover interesting smells, dig up bugs and for the physical exercise.

FUN Corrective Actions: Provide your dog a digging area in a part of your yard hidden by landscaping or attractive fencing where he can dig as desired, then if he starts digging somewhere else in the yard, tell him "Leave it" and take him to the digging spot. Bury washable toys in an acceptable digging area for your dog to find.

Hidden Toy

Digging between couch cushions or under a chair often indicates a toy has simply gotten out of the dog's reach.

HIDDEN TOY Corrective Actions: Retrieve the toy but encourage your dog to play with it elsewhere as many repetitions of this scenario can lead to it becoming an attention-seeking behavior and/or damaging furnishings.

Hot Weather

Dogs often dig to turn over cool earth to lie in on hot days.

HOT WEATHER Corrective Actions: Bring dog into air-conditioned house or provide a wading pool, sprinkler or similar cooling means outdoors.

Prey Drive

The instinctual drive to hunt prompts most dogs to dig after burrowing critters.

PREY DRIVE Corrective Actions: Give only sturdy dog toys made from rubber or other durable materials that encourage play but discourage attempts to rip apart. Provide exercise and outlet for chasing, grabbing and carrying through frequent games of fetch. Train "Leave it" command that tells dog to stop his current activity and turn attention elsewhere.

Signaling

Dog scratches at floor in front of door or at door to indicate the need to go outside.

SIGNALING Corrective Actions: Encourage this useful behavior but retrain dog to ring a bell hung on the outside door's knob. Cover door area with easily replaced hard plastic covering.

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Give us your opinion Give us your opinion on Why Dogs Dig

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Jenny   quebec, International

1/22/2013 1:16:17 PM

My dog digs up flowers - ugh.

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Michelle   Belmont Shore, California

1/22/2013 12:35:51 PM

Haha - great idea! I had to dig fence post holes once - could have used yoru dog.

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Melian and Tiny   E, CA

12/20/2012 11:11:55 PM

I had a dog that loved digging so much that we ended up just using her holes to plant trees. We planted a lot of trees.

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