Why Do Dogs Dig?

why do dogs dig
why do dogs dig?
I am sure all dog owners have seen a dirty face like this before.

Do you constantly find yourself asking this? Why do dogs dig? I know I do, every time my little man (Victor) goes outside he loves to dig in my garden. His favorite spot is in a dirt patch in my unused vegetable garden.

Don’t worry though, flowerbeds and dogs can co-exist. Digging is just in their nature and perfectly normal behavior. But there are things you can do to limit or deter it.

Today you will learn:

  • why dogs dig in your garden beds
  • how to stop dogs from digging in the wrong spot
  • ways to train your dog positively to dig in the right space

Why Do Dogs Dig?

For some types of dog breeds, like a Beagle or Huskie, it is a natural instinct. Dogs love to dig to cool down, make a nest before having a nap, to get rid of excess energy, alleviate boredom and find something new and exciting. Separation anxiety could also be the reason your dog is digging holes. There are ways to prevent your dog from digging holes. These include limiting access to the areas they dig, using natural deterrents such as rocks or vinegar and making a dedicated space for your dog to dig.

Why Do Dogs Scratch Holes All Of A Sudden?

One reason why your pet is digging could be the breed. The worst offenders of dogs that dig are Terriers, Beagles, Malamutes and Huskies. Some have been bred to burrow for hunting, so it’s natural for them to do it when they get a chance. If your dog is a crossbreed, check if they have any of these breeds in their past.

Regardless of the dog breed, there’s a little bit of burrowing behavior in all of them. They all love breaking up earth and getting dirt on their noses.

1. Cooling Down

Dogs are always digging their paws into the ground, even when it’s hot outside.

Why do dogs dig when they are hot?

There is a scientific explanation for this behavior that will have you scratching your head and wondering how you never realized before.

Dogs dig because they’re trying to cool down!

They can’t sweat like humans so their only way of cooling off is by removing heat from their body through panting or digging in dirt.

The act of burrowing also helps them stay cool because it increases the surface area available for perspiration to evaporate, thus lowering his temperature.

2. Nesting

Your dog’s natural instinct is to burrow and build a nest before sleeping or relaxing.

After 32,100 years of domestication, they still have this instinct to make a nest. So every time they go to sleep, they dig before lying down.

It gives them a sense of safety, comfort, and warmth, and is normal and non-destructive behavior that shouldn’t be discouraged.

why do dogs dig a hole and lay in it

3. Not enough exercise

Is your dog full of energy? Can’t contain their excavating instincts?

It might be because they don’t get enough exercise.

This kind of behavior can be a way to release their pent-up energy and communicate their frustration with you. So make sure you take your dog out 2-3 times a day—it’s great for your dog and you too. 

4. Boredom

This is also a lack of stimulation but a mental one.

Digging flower pots, garden beds,or your lawn is an activity for a bored pup to play and have fun.

And let’s be honest, digging in soil and dirt is good fun. So your dog may be digging to add more excitement to his day.

5. Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety is common in dogs. It’s not nice for them to see you leave and to be alone the whole day, so they act-out with pawing behavior to release their anxiety. This can be the cause of other destructive behaviors such as chewing.

Extra Reading: A Simple Way To Stop Your Dog’s Aggressive Chewing

6. Exploring / discovering something new

A reason why your dog is digging in the yard and under the fence might be they want to see beyond it.

Dogs have a natural instinct to explore, hunt for prey, often outside the house. So although your dog isn’t trying to escape, it might be exploring and expressing itself through this activity.

And why do dogs dig up roots and soil? Same reason as humans do: to find what’s underneath. It might be looking for whatever is inside the dirt – like slugs, worms, or roots. 

How To Stop A Dog From Digging

how to stop a dog from digging

To be clear: there’s nothing necessarily wrong with your pet’s digging.

A good way to manage digging is to accept that dogs like to do it. So long as it isn’t destroying your home or hurting itself, digging within reason should be allowed.  

To manage or prevent unwanted digging though, you might want to look at the cause or start certain training methods.

Apply common sense here and try out different things to see if they work before training.

For exercise, walk your dog for 45+ minutes a day (depending on the size of the dog).

For boredom, give toys and things for your dog to do while you’re away.

But say your dog’s ruining all your plants and digging up roots and dirt in your yard or trying to make a break for it by digging under your fence. In this case, there are a few more creative ways to curb your dog’s digging.

Limit Access to Digging spots

Supervise your dog when you go out. Avoid that area in your garden your dog loves to dig.

Stopping your dog from going to these places (within reason) will curb the love for creating holes.

In extreme cases (or in particular for fence digging) you could put down a metal mesh under the surface of grass or around the fence line to stop them from burrowing any more holes into your lawn.

If they can’t dig holes or find/bury anything in them, they’ll stop the digging.

Whatever you do though, don’t stop your dog from going outside.

You want your dog to be able to enjoy going outside because that’s required for a happy healthy dog. Even if they mess up your plants and their fur coat.

If limiting access doesn’t work, consider deterring your dog from digging instead.

Natural dog digging deterrents

Using a dog digging deterrent is a good way to manage this.

An effective one you can use is other dog poop: dogs won’t dig where poop has been in case their paws get dirty.

Other deterrents include:

·  Vinegar

·  Citrus peels, (lemon, lime, oranges)

·  Cayenne pepper

·  Rocks

Sprinkle some of these around the yard and your dog won’t want anything to do with their favorite dig-spot anymore.

Give your dog somewhere to dig

It’s good for dogs to explore the world and interact with their natural instincts.

And as we said, you need to accept that dogs like to dig. So create special excavation areas: get your dog a sandbox or create a special part of the yard. Fill them with sand, earth, and soil.

If you do let your dog burrow somewhere, you don’t want them confused about what they should or should not be putting their claws into though.

Establish boundaries through distraction & positive reinforcement

why do some dogs dig holes

Having a dedicated digging area (like a sandbox) is a great digging outlet.

To make sure they only dig there though, encourage them to use it. For this, positive reinforcement works amazingly. 

The best classic approach to dog training: distract and reward.

Positive reinforcement is a widely used dog training method to improve dog behavior, decreasing stress and increasing excitement in your dog’s training regime. 

To apply it, get their attention and distract your dog with toys, chews, and treats.

When you dog stops digging and comes to you give the reward.

Reward your dog whenever they don’t dig in the same spot or dig in their sandbox/corner. Over time, this will positively encourage the correct behavior for them to dig in the correct place. 

Extra reading: How To Train Your Dog Properly

Final Thoughts

So why do dogs dig everywhere? There may be a number of reasons why: breed, boredom, they are hot or anxious. To find out though, you need to look at your dog’s individual situation. 

Next time you see a precious flower bed ruined in the yard—with its petals in your dog’s paw—try to not feel frustrated. Remember it’s a part of your dog expressing themselves and telling you something about who they are and how they feel.

People Also Ask

Why do dogs dig to escape?

Dogs dig under fences, through doorways and even out of windows.

Why do they do this?

Some dogs dig as a form of exercise but many times it’s because they’re trying to escape from an uncomfortable situation such as being home alone or feeling threatened by another animal.

It is important for dog owners to take steps to keep their pup safe and comfortable when left at home alone so that he doesn’t resort to digging his way out in order to feel more secure.

Oh boy I can relate to this and how stressful this situation is.

My boy Victor would dig under my fence whenever we had a thunderstorm.

Thankfully he always came home but we had to add extra reinforcements to the fence so he couldn’t get out.

His anxiety was that bad that he actually ate the bottom of our wooden gate to escape. He actually lost some teeth during his escapes.

The solution that worked best for our family was to leave him inside while we were out.

This has worked well for Victor and a lot of his separation anxiety has gone as he feels safe inside.

If you are in this situation please seek advice from your veterinarian.

More Reading: Why Your Dog Freaks During Thunderstorms – And What To Do

Why do Huskies dig holes?

Huskies are a breed of dogs that have been known to dig holes.

The reason for this behavior is not well understood, but it’s possible they’re trying to create a cool place with shade from the hot sun or maybe they’re trying to find food.

They also might be bored and looking for something stimulating in their environment.

When you notice your husky digging a hole, try filling in the hole with water, which will make it less attractive for them to continue digging there again!

Have any other ideas why your husky may be digging? Share below!