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Hot Diggity Dog: Why Dogs Dig (and What to do About It!)

Most of the time, dogs do things that amaze us, but our canine companions can also be really exasperating at times. Some pets have especially challenging habits, and when dogs dig holes all over the backyard, owners may find themselves being tested beyond measure.

So, what’s up with this canine behavior, and what can you do about it?

It’s Natural

Digging is a completely normal behavior, but the reasons why dogs dig may vary by breed, personality, and mental state. It’s crucial to remember that digging is an instinct that may be difficult for some dogs to curb. The good news is that owners can put strategies in place to better understand and manage this behavior.

Digging Deeper

Many breeds naturally dig their own dens, just like their ancestors would have done. Dens provide shelter and security, but many large breed dogs (like Huskies) dig holes in order to stay cool. Conversely, dogs also dig holes in cooler weather to stay warm. Female dogs may dig in preparation to give birth and raise puppies.

Fun to Hunt

Dogs can sense rodents moving underground, and a dog on the hunt will stop at nothing to find their prey. You might be shocked to see the extent of their damage, but you can bet Fido had a blast digging all those holes in your yard!

In addition, dogs dig because it feels good physically, and it helps them to relieve mental stress, boredom, and anxiety. Indeed, a dog who digs has a lot of time and energy to spare.

Freedom!

Some dogs dig because they’re looking for a way out. They may be driven to find a mate or simply feel the need to explore. If they can’t jump over a fence or slip out a gate, tunneling under is the only way to go. Please be sure to microchip your dog to help facilitate a happy reunion should your pet ever escape.

Bait and Switch

To help distract dogs who dig, provide your pet with additional opportunities to burn off excess energy. Increase the time they spend on walks or runs. If it’s difficult to make this commitment work with your schedule, consider hiring a dog walker or registering for doggy daycare.

To enhance your pet’s mental and physical stimulation at home, play with them in the backyard to distract them from digging.

If the digging is temperature-related, install a shallow wading pool full of chew toys and other pet-safe items. Your pet may be quite muddy at the end of the day, so be sure to rinse and dry them once playtime is over.

Dogs Dig… but Not Always!

Some dog owners have found success by filling the holes with their dog’s own feces or lava rocks. This will train your dog not to dig there, but it may not stop them from digging elsewhere. Continue with this tactic until your pet stops the behavior, usually within a couple weeks.

Don’t let your dog see you digging in the yard. Gardening, planting flowers, or filling holes they previously dug can reinforce the behavior. Always supervise your dog closely when in the backyard.

Positive Reinforcement

As with other types of unwanted canine behavior, training your dog not to dig is only successful with positive reinforcement. Never scold or punish your dog, as this will have the opposite effect.

If you need additional help with training or have more questions about canine behavior, please don’t hesitate to let us know.

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