Why Do Dogs Dig?

You open the gate to the dog’s yard, start the lawn mower, and realize the yard is full of craters.

Your dog has been digging. Why do some dogs dig? How do you stop it?

Studies indicate 80% or more of Americans say their dogs dig. Digging is also commonly on the list of complaints people have about their dogs. The good news is, you can curb your dog’s desire to dig. The bad news is you usually have to know why he’s digging before you can fix it.

Because He’s too Hot or too Cold

Some dogs will dig a hole if they’re too hot or too cold. If your dog is digging because he’s too hot, get him an insulated dog house or a wading pool. Make sure he has shade. Let him in to the AC. Try to find a hard, cool surface he can lie on.

Conversely, some dogs will dig if they’re too cold. Since the temperature of the ground tends to remain constant, it can be cooler than the ambient air in the summer and warmer than the air in the winter. If your dog is too cold, get him a dog house and/or some blankets to help keep him warm.

If at all possible, try to keep your dog in the air-conditioned house when it’s quite hot or in the warm house when it’s cold. This is particularly important with older dogs, as they can have problems regulating their body temperature as they age.

To Get a Gopher, Mole, or Other Burrowing Animal

There’s something about a small, furry creature that makes many dogs want to go after it. Whether they will ever catch it or not is secondary: they just have to go after it. And if this creature is a small burrowing animal in your yard, the yard will suffer as your dog tries to get the critter. Hunting is a strong instinct in many dogs, and they thoroughly enjoy the thrill of the chase. If your dog is chasing something in the ground, you will need to humanely rid your yard of the culprit to get your dog to stop digging for it.

dog dig

©istockphoto/Kymberlee Andersen

To Escape

Some dogs just want to explore the wild blue yonder. And just because you have a fence doesn’t necessarily mean your dog will stay in the yard. If your dog is digging under the fence, you can try partially burying some large rocks along the fence line. You can also try burying some chicken wire or chain link fencing that’s been anchored to the bottom of the fence. Be sure to bury any sharp edges away from your yard. You can also try burying the fence itself one or two feet deep. If you have a chain-link fence that your dog has dug under, a tension wire along the bottom of the fence should help discourage that.

For Your Attention

If your dog is digging to get your attention, ignore his bad behavior and praise him when he does something acceptable. Be sure you’re spending enough time with him: he may be lonely or bored, and any kind of attention, even negative attention, is better than no attention at all to him.

Because He Enjoys It

Some dogs dig simply because it’s fun for them and they like doing it. This can be the hardest digging behavior to stop because the only reason your dog does it is because he enjoys it. Your best bet in this instance is to redirect his digging. Consider getting him a child’s sandbox, or just find an area of the yard where it’s okay for him to dig. Put sand in that area for him. It’s easier for him to dig sand, and also easier to clean off of him.

You may want to put some toys or treats in the approved digging area to both encourage and reward him for digging there. For areas that you definitely don’t want your dog to dig in, try putting some gardening fence up to keep him out. If that doesn’t work, try putting twine across the top of the fence. The plants can grow up around the twine, but it will be more difficult for your dog to get to the fresh dirt around your plants. One thing you do not want to do is to scold your dog after the fact. Dragging your dog over to a hole and scolding him won’t teach him anything—except perhaps to be afraid of you.

Dogs dig because, well, dogs dig. But with a little detective work and patience on your part, you can either discourage your dog from digging entirely, or at least get him to dig in an approved area.

Meet the Author: Pam Hair

Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer, where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.

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