Today we will be following up on our previous blog post entitled “Why do dogs dig?”, a post that covered breeds that have a reputation for digging. Today we are going to trace the evolutionary behavior of digging to its origins. After all, as a dog boarding facility or dog owner, sometimes you just get a dog that loves to dig, irrelevant of breed or levels of exercise and attention. In this case you just have an evolutionary “gift” from nature in the form of a dog with digging urges that can be traced back to the origin of the canine species.
Another common characteristic all dogs share is their urge to create shelters as homes. Wolves, foxes, and coyotes all dig dens as part of a behavior called “denning.” While the type and size of the dens vary between species, dens are generally created during winter months for the purpose of raising pups or providing shelter from the harsh weather. Since dogs, wolves, foxes, and coyotes share a common evolutionary ancestor the behavior of digging in dogs can be partially attributed to segments of this “denning” urge still existing in modern decedents (ie domesticated dogs). This theory also helps to explain how female dogs are more known to have digging habits than male dogs within the same breed; females traditionally prepare the dens for pups.
A third hypothesis that has been presented recently to explain the digging behavior of dogs from the perspective of temperature regulation. A common known fact for all dog owners or dog sitters is that dogs cannot sweat. Instead, dogs can only regulate their internal body temperatures through panting or taking a quick dip in a body of water. However, both of these methods have severe limitations because panting has a low rate of heat dissipation and cooling off in a body of water requires water. However, the ground constantly maintains an average temperature of 50 to 55°F due to thermal inertia of the earth (ie the earth is really big so it takes a lot of energy to change its temperature). This suggests that the behavior of digging by dogs is another method for them to maintain a cooler body temperature during the warm season with minimal effort.
Alright Rover-ites! That is all we have time for today but please keep coming back for more answers to questions from dog owners and Seattle dog boarding facilities.