Digging. This oh-so-popular and famously frustrating dog behavior might be the bane of your gardening existence, but rest assured, like most troublesome dog behaviors, unwelcome digging can be resolved. Read on to discover what to do, what not to do, and why, so that you can treat the problem from the root!
So why-oh-why do dogs dig? Dogs dig for a multitude of reasons:
- To escape
- To regulate their body temperature
- Because they’re bored
- For discovery (Oooh, bugs!)
- To hide resources
Knowing why your dog digs is the first step in resolving the issue. Learn how to identify the different motivators and treat each one.
If your dog is digging at the edge of a fence, it’s time to act fast! Fido might be trying to make a break for it. Escape artists love to target fence lines and other boundaries for digging. They can make fast work of a hole, then poof! Fido has disappeared from the yard.
Waste no time for these dogs since resolving the issue can mean life or death. First, reinforce your fence, cover exposed dirt with rocks and/or chicken wire along the edge, and do not leave your dog outside unattended. Another quick tip is to place dog poop in any holes or on exposed dirt around the fence line. Dogs are clean animals and usually want to avoid putting their noses or paws directly in their own poop. Dedicated escape artists may also need training. Working on recall (coming when called) and other basic obedience cues can make a world of difference for the escape artist, strengthening their bond with you and making them less driven to flee.
Fun fact: “Intact” dogs are more likely to be escape artists. Talk to your vet about spaying or neutering your dog if you suspect your dog is escaping to mate.
Does your dog find the shady, cool spot in the yard, then dig a moat the size of Texas to lie in? If so, chances are good they’re either trying to stay cool or warm.
Provide your dog with a cot to lie on. They’re ventilated from below for those hot days of summer, and raised off the cold ground during the winter. Dog cots vary from more expensive chew-proof versions; to inexpensive yet perfectly effective models. They’re also handy for training! If your dog is kept outside for most of the day, consider bringing them inside more often. Overheating is a very real and dangerous threat to dogs, even during cooler months.
Fun fact: Many dogs struggle with self-regulation when it comes to over-playing and over-heating. A dog that knows when to dig a hole to cool off has great survival skills.
Boredom, Discovery, and Hiding Resources
Bored dogs often dig just for fun. These are the pups who love to watch you garden, only to go behind you and pull up every flower you’ve planted. It’s not that they want to make your life difficult. They just like to play in the dirt. In fact, your dog might even think you simply have this trait in common and you planted those flowers just for them.
Similar to bored dogs, dogs that dig to discover are curious types and love to find things in the ground. If bugs and worms cruise the surface, then what else could buried in the dirt? You’ll see these dogs fixate on the slightest little patch of exposed dirt and go to town. Dachshunds and other hounds are famous discovery diggers. With noses like theirs, who can blame them? After all, that’s what they were bred to do.
Hiding resources is a popular choice for dogs with survival in mind. Lovingly dubbed the “hoarders” of the dog world, these dogs will steal and hide things to save for later. While this can be any breed or breed mix, it’s an especially popular behavior pattern for terriers, as they tend to steal their toys and squirrel them away in the backyard. Sometimes they even get creative and steal your things too! I once met a pair of sibling Yorkies that stole sunglasses, keys, and wallets, burying them in the couch, the backyard, and under the bed. True story.
While these three types may have different motivators, we grouped them together because treating them is largely the same.
Digging is an innate behavior, so it’s very difficult to stifle through correction. In fact, over-correcting digging can cause other behavior problems like resource guarding, frustration, destructive behavior, and aggression. So, before you scold, remember that digging is a positive behavior when a dog has an outlet. That’s why iFetch came up with their new digging toy – the iDig.
Like a mini-sandbox for dogs (minus the sand), the iDig uses fabric flaps, which create layers for optimal sniffing and digging stimulation without the mess. The layers also have pockets so you can make it harder for your dog to find the buried “treasure” as they get better at it. Not only is this a wonderful outlet for entertainment; but it involves brain work and using your dog’s natural instincts, making a great tiring activity for dogs who need more mental stimulation. You can also use it outside or inside – saving your garden and your couch cushions in one fell swoop. Learn more about the iDig products here.
So, why do dogs dig? The bottom line is, if your dog is digging, they have a reason. Try to add balance to your dog’s life by providing better options for entertainment in a safe, secure place. Sticking with the process of catching and then redirecting to a better activity will work, and you and your dog will get along better, too. And that, my friends, will solve the HOLE problem! (wink, wink)