Why Dogs Dig and What You Can do About it

Dogs can be puzzling and entertaining, but when they do things that seemingly defy human logic and understanding, owners can go from exasperation to anger in no time.

Consider digging, for example. An innocuous canine behavior most of the time, digging can become pretty destructive for some pets. Let’s take a closer look at why dogs dig and some possible solutions to redirect their one-track mind.

Hard-Wired

The first thing to know about why dogs dig is that this is an inherited behavior that’s 100% normal. Sure, no one wants their freshly planted flowers or newly seeded grass to get shredded by dog paws, but it can be helpful knowing that dogs are simply hard-wired to dig.

A Closer Look

Another reason that dogs dig is temperature control. In the wild, dogs dig holes to stay warm or cool depending on the season.

In other cases, dogs dig because they’re hunting below the surface. With keen hearing and a highly developed sense of smell, dogs can detect mice or moles underground.

Dogs may also scratch until they’ve dug out a proper spot for whatever loot they’re looking to hide. Toys, treats, bones, and other treasured items may end up buried in your yard (or anywhere in a dog’s territory).

When it Crosses the Line

Dogs sometimes dig obsessively as a way to cope with their environment or lifestyle. This type of digging is simply for the sake of destruction, and certain supportive actions to redirect them are necessary. Boredom, stress, and separation anxiety can explain why dogs dig. It’s a sign they need more exercise, socialization, and training opportunities.

Likewise, many dogs dig to escape their confinement, as evidenced by lots of holes along the fence line. If they can’t go over the fence or gate to escape, they’ll do their best to crawl underneath it.

Can They Stop?

Because digging is a natural behavior for dogs, it can be very challenging to get them to stop. Instead, encourage your dog to dig only in specific spots, and surround these areas with fencing. Bury treats there to reinforce the behavior.

Also consider the following ideas to manage your dog’s digging:

  • Do not punish or scold your dog, as this will backfire and reinforce digging and promote fear.
  • Ensure your dog always has access to wind and weather-proof shelter when outside. They need abundant fresh water, as well. Get a shallow kiddie pool to help them cool off during the summer.
  • Increase your pet’s time away from home with routine trips to the dog park, hiking trails, and swimming holes. A tired dog is a happy dog, and you’ll likely see reduced digging afterward.
  • Seek help if you believe your pet suffers from anxiety or stress.

Dogs Dig and it’s OK!

We understand it can be frustrating to watch your dog do things you’ve repeatedly told them not to do, but the fact is, dogs dig because it’s instinctual.

If you need help addressing your dog’s behavior, please give us a call. The team at Leon Valley Veterinary Hospital is always here for you and your pet!

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