- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
We’ve all been there. Your beautiful yard has become a minefield of holes, your couch pillows and blankets are carelessly strewn about every day, and…your dog is the culprit. Let’s answer the question, “Why do dogs dig?”, and learn how to stop your dog from digging up the yard, the carpet, or the bed. We promise that once you understand their reasoning you’ll have a better idea of how to deal with your mischievous canine buddies.
Digging is in the DNA
There are many reasons that dogs dig, but it seems best to start with the basis of it all—evolution. It’s in every dog’s DNA to dig, though there are certain breeds that are even more inclined to putter around in the dirt than others. Mini Schnauzers, Yorkshire Terriers, and Dachshunds are especially adept at making your yard look extra holey (good thing they have such adorable faces).
Why these breeds in particular? All of them were used to hunt animals for food and pest control. Yorkies caught vermin in mines and clothing mills and Dachshunds were renowned badger hunters. Other hunting dogs like small hounds also have digging in their blood, so if there are any enticing small animals in your yard (gophers, mice, etc.) they’re bound to keep searching for them, regardless of the damage they might cause to your landscaping.
More “primitive breeds,” like the Chow Chow, retain their self-preservation instincts strongly, which leads to digging for safety and shelter. Lastly, northern breeds like Huskies and Malamutes often dig in order to find cooler spaces below the surface. This instinctual behavior is amplified by general high energy and working instincts.
Other breeds prone to digging include:
- Cairn Terriers
- Basset Hounds
- Jack Russell Terriers
- Siberian Huskies
- Chow Chows
Digging due to boredom
When it comes to this topic, we also can’t rule out the fact that some dogs just find digging to be an entertaining way to pass the time. Often times when pups have energy to burn and have been left alone for a period of time, they’re bound to find something (like digging) to do to appease their boredom. Digging can also be a way for dogs to relieve stress, particularly for those that suffer from separation anxiety.
And there are those escape artists-in-training. If you happen to have an outside fence that doesn’t go underground, chances are your pup may try to work his way under it. Make sure to keep a close eye on them!
Though the digging may just be for fun, there could be other reasons that Fido is trying to escape. Are they unspayed or unneutered and looking for a mate? Is there some animal or noise in the area that’s frightening them? Or are they simply bored with the play space you’ve given them? Explore all of the possibilities, and their behavior may start to make more sense.
Digging by instinct
Another huge reason that dogs dig is their inescapable desire to create a safe shelter or home. This instinct is based on the need to provide a safe space to house and raise puppies and to protect themselves from predators and harsh, outdoor elements. Female dogs are often more prone to “denning” since, back in the wild, they were generally the ones preparing dens for their pups.
Dogs also want to sleep in a comfy place (just like us!), but instead of buying that extra foam-top mattress, they like to dig. Outside, that means turning up dirt to make it soft and well-suited for their bodies. Inside, they toss around pillows and blankets to make their spaces more suitable. It’s like us fluffing our pillows before turning in.
Another reason your pup might be digging? Temperature regulation. Northern breeds like Huskies, in particular, are instinctively inclined to seek cooler temps when the weather warms up. If they can’t take a quick dip in a pool to cool off, they might try to dig and find a nice place to hang out. The soil beneath the surface is cooler, after all. Typically, their favorite digging spots are in shaded, cool areas (like underneath trees or patio furniture).
How to keep dogs from digging: training, redirection and more
Now that you understand more about why your dog digs, perhaps it’s time to figure out how to change – or at least calm – that behavior. This helpful article goes more in-depth about training your dog to stop digging, but here’s a list of basic and straightforward options for starting out.
- Provide your pup with more playtime and exercise to help zap their destructive digging energy.
- Offer more/different toys to keep them entertained (rotate them to keep things interesting).
- Give them an area that’s actually intended for digging like a sandbox or small section of the garden.
- Discourage them from digging with the help of buried rocks, smells they don’t enjoy, or an automatic sprinkler (that’ll teach ’em!)
- Make sure there aren’t any rodents or other wildlife hanging in your yard and agitating your pup – and get rid of them if there are!
- Does your yard have a nice shady space where they can stay cool? Make sure to create one if it doesn’t already exist.
Still having trouble with your dog digging up your yard or manhandling your couch cushions? We know it’s frustrating, but since it’s such an instinctual, natural behavior it’s important to be patient with your furry best friend – especially with those breeds who are most prone to playing in the dirt. Remember not to scold them after the fact (that’ll only make them more anxious and confused). Training and supervision are always the best ways to manage undesired behaviors.
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