- Kristen VanNess
Why Do Dogs Dig and What Can I Do About It?
Why do dogs dig?
Digging is a normal behavior for dogs, though not all dogs will display the behavior. There are many possible functions for this. Understanding the underlying reason for your dog’s digging can help you determine the best training methods to prevent unwanted behavior.
Some dogs will dig at blankets, dog beds, or furniture before resting. The digging is usually followed by curling up. Occasionally, a dog will use his mouth to re-arrange blankets.
If your dog has this style of preparing to rest, you can cover dog beds or your couch with a protective layer and then additional lightweight blankets or towels. This will let your dog dig and rearrange the bedding, and minimize scratching of the furniture underneath. You might prefer a bed with sheets perfectly flat, but some dogs have other preferences!
Animals like rodents or insects can be interesting to dogs. Your dog can smell and possibly even hear these animals. Digging holes in your yard can be a fun and interesting way for your dog to get closer to the pests. While all dogs may have this interest, many types of terriers were specifically selected for their predation skills, and may be more likely to show a strong interest.
There may be pet-safe and environmentally safe options to discourage the animals from being in your yard. As they move out and the soil is less disturbed, your dog may be less likely to return to digging.
Dogs will dig in the ground on hot days to access the cool and moist soil. They are often especially attracted to less compacted soil areas, and areas with more moisture.
Providing your dog with other cool surfaces can help discourage this type of digging.
Play or Entertainment
Energetic dogs sometimes discover the joy of tearing up sod or tearing tree roots out of the ground. This is especially common in situations where a dog does not have very much to do, and when he may be frustrated or bored.
Increasing the amount of play with your dog can decrease this type of digging. If you meet his needs for play and interaction, he will be less inclined to pursue these needs on his own.
There are some dog-specific toy products that are designed so that you can attach the toy to the ground, a tree, or fencepost to give your dog some of the same tugging experiences without you having to be at the other end of the toy. Note that this isn’t always as fun for the dog as sod or tree roots. If a toy is too sturdy, it may not give the satisfaction of ripping/tearing that a dog receives with roots or sod.
Digging can be a great form of exercise and is sometimes part of a dog’s physical rehabilitation plan.
Caching refers to when animals store food for future access. This is more common in some species of animals than others. Not all dogs display this behavior. There are some dogs who will hide treats, food, or toys for later access. While a dog might use dirt or leaves if outside, he might use couch cushions, his bed, or your blankets as indoor locations.
The easiest solution is to be cautious of what you give your dog. You might restrict him to a room or area when he has special chew items. Some pet parents may put a dog in a crate when giving special chew objects. This can prevent your dog from caching something in your bed. You can be sure your dog finishes the item, or you can remove the item when your dog is released.
How to stop a dog from digging
By gathering more information about why your dog is digging, you can look for other ways to meet his needs. Some families will go a step further and create a digging pit with sand or mulch. By burying treats or toys in that area, dogs may be more likely to investigate the area and play there rather than dig in the flowerbed.
You can also remove access to certain areas to prevent digging. This might mean a garden fence, or using landscape rocks to cover preferred areas. If your dog is more likely to find the sod fun after it rains, you might go on leash walks at those times instead of playing in the yard.
Spending time with your dog in the yard and engaging him in other activities can provide opportunities for positive interaction that are not digging. Your dog might enjoy finding his meal spread out in the grass, fetch or tug games with you, or training games in the yard.
When a dog starts digging in one area, a dog is likely to continue digging in that area. You can temporarily avoid that area or temporarily prevent access, especially if weather or wildlife changes may be contributing to your dog’s interest in that zone.