Dog Behavior - Digging

We at Family Pooch care about the relationship between you and your dog.  Today we are starting a series of blog posts on doggie behaviors, what causes them, and what to do about them. The topic for this blog entry is Digging.

Ahhh, just imagine you have a beautiful lawn and garden.  It is morning time, and you take your coffee to your porch to view the morning sun.  Your eyes pulled to motion over in the garden, there is dirt and flowers flying!  Is it a mole, is it a groundhog, no ... it is your dog!! 

Why Do Dogs Dig?

There are many reasons why dogs dig:  

  • Instinct and Genetics.  Many traditional hunting dogs (such as hounds, and terriers), are bred to dig out quarry from their dens. If you have moles and other small animals, your dog is going to dig to get them.

  • To escape.  Some dogs will do anything to get out of your yard.  These escape artists will find ways to tunnel to get under that fence if they can't get over it.

  • Boredom/Anxiety.  Digging is fun for dogs, and if the dog is suffering from separation anxiety, or is just left alone for too long (his/her interpretation, not ours), digging may result.  Digging engages the body and brain, and an important combination for dogs.

  • Denning/Nesting.  Part of the instinct of Dogs is to seek the shelter of a den. Sometimes it is to get cooler, or warmer, or more secure.


What to do about it?

Digging is a very hard behavior to break since it is so instinctually, especially for the hunting breeds who have been bred to dig. Understanding the why helps, but doing something about it is more difficult.

In general, an important aspect is to exercise your dog's brain and body.  Snuffle Mats and Snuffle Bowls are one way to train them to forage (most dogs need to be trained, so please see our blog entry on this).  Still, make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise which will help with boredom and anxiety!   Take long walks, play, and enjoy time with your companion, especially just before you go away for a while.

Consider a special area that your dog is allowed to dig.  Having a sandbox that the dog is allowed to dig is one idea that can work.  You can hide some toys and treats in the sandbox to encourage its use.

One note:  If the problem is where your companion is digging, some people suggest using the dogs feces and/or hot pepper to discourage it in that area.  I have not personally tried it, and would rather redirect to a sandbox, but it may work!


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