Why Dogs Dig, and How to Stop It

November 5, 2015

dogs dig eselsmannBy Linda Cole

When you peer out a window and see dirt flying in the garden, this can set in motion a frantic race to save the plants from a digging dog. The sight of a dog happily destroying a prized rose may even cause a serious gardener to have nightmares. Dogs dig for a variety of reasons, and stopping the behavior can be difficult. The best place to start is to figure out what is motivating your dog to dig, and then try to find a solution.

Why Do Dogs Dig?

Terrier breeds were bred to hunt and follow burrowing vermin underground, but most dogs picking up the scent of a mouse, mole or other small animal hiding in a hole will likely dig to find the critter. It’s a natural instinct that’s hard to control. Some dogs enjoy digging and others learn that they get attention for doing it, i.e., they get yelled at. Negative attention is better than none at all, in their mind. Random holes in an area are a good indication that your dog is just trying to entertain himself, especially if he’s in an area with sandy or loose soil.

Depending on the weather, a dog may dig to find a cooler or warmer place to sleep. Dogs have been domesticated for centuries, but they still understand the value of a good den, even if it’s just a hole under a shade tree or bush.

Some dogs dig to bury what they consider valuable. He might bury a bone, toy, dead animal or anything he values – even his CANIDAE kibble! This is instinctive behavior. Dog-Animated-no-offerSome dogs dig to satisfy a compulsive disorder called Pica, wherein the pet eats dirt and other nonfood items.

Dogs with separation anxiety that are left alone outside are likely to dig to get out and find their owner. Some canines are natural escape artists and are more likely to dig just because they’d rather be out having fun than cooped up in their pen.

How to Stop the Digging

When the reason why your dog digs is known, it’s easier to find a solution. Bored dogs need proper exercise to stimulate their mind and get rid of pent up energy. If they’re left alone with no toys and nothing to do, they respond by looking for something to do. Active dogs need to be able to run and jump, and being confined in a pen doesn’t give them what they need. These dogs can be helped with daily walks, agility, dock diving or other dog sports they enjoy. A tired dog is a happy dog, and doesn’t need to dig.

Working with a dog to teach him basic commands is another good way to help control his behavior. It’s much easier to get a dog to stop unacceptable behavior, like digging, when he pays attention to commands from his owner. It doesn’t take a lot of time to teach a dog some basic commands, but it does require commitment, patience and positive reinforcement. Some dogs can also be trained to dig in just one part of the yard.

For dogs that are trying to get more comfortable, try a cozy bed he can curl up in. A better shelter that gives your dog a place where he can get out of the sun, cold or wind dogs dig rubencan make a big difference and help control his need to dig. Attention seekers can have their behavior changed with some extra attention. Play fetch, throw a Frisbee, play tug-a-war or any other game your dog loves, or go for a walk. Exercise and training stimulates a dog’s mind and helps him work off excess energy.

The escape artist can have his digging controlled with wire buried just under the dirt. Make sure to put any sharp edges of the wire down before burying it. Another good solution is to make a small walkway at the base of the fence all around your dog’s enclosure using bricks or cement. This solution works best if the bottom of the fence is buried about two feet into the ground.

Trying to stop a dog from digging isn’t easy, but understanding why he digs can help you find a solution that keeps him – and your prized rose garden – safe.

Top photo by eselsmann/Flickr
Bottom photo by ruben van eijk/Flickr

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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