Ever have a dog who enjoyed “helping” you garden? Curious why your dog digs at her blanket before getting comfortable? Maybe you have a pooch who likes to bury his favorite treasures. Ever wonder WHY dogs dig?
As many of my blogs conclude, there isn’t just one reason why dogs dig. Dogs are very efficient earth movers, and there can be MANY reasons why they choose to do so!
Wolves, whom our domesticated dogs descend from, will often dig to hide food. Much like a squirrel hiding piles of nuts just before winter, this is called “caching” — creating a food reserve for a time of need. This instinctual drive was passed down, and can lead a perfectly well-fed pet dog to bury bones to later dig up.
Some dogs will try to bury coveted items, even if they don’t have earth available to do so! This may be why puppies seem to dig on couch cushions, root around in blankets, or tend to hoard piles of biscuits under the ottoman. Conversely, you can turn this into a fun game for your pooch! Hide a few stinky treats under a pillow, or amongst your dog’s favorite fleece blanket, and let her go hunt, sniff, and dig out the snack!
Another common reason dogs dig is to chase prey, specifically the terrier breeds. Terrier means “to the ground” and we humans bred them specifically to be vermin and small animal hunters. Their digging instincts can come from the natural urge to flush out moles and rodents that have gone underground. If you have a dog with this type of strong digging instinct and they are driving you crazy creating potholes in your yard, try offering a specified “digging pit”. It could be a sand box, or a kiddie pool filled with dirt. Intentionally hide and bury your dog’s favorite toys, bones, and treats, and let her dig to find them! This will get that digging need out of her system, but only where you PREFER her to dig.
Some dogs will dig out of boredom. Does your dog have a dog walker or a pet sitter who will come and give them both mental and physical stimulation? I see this more often when a dog is left unattended outside for long periods of time. The simple solution here is to offer both…mental and physical activities. A tired dog is a good dog, and if you provide your dog with daily adequate exercise, the digging should resolve itself! Hire a dog walker!
It’s also possible your dog is digging to find a cool patch of earth to rest in. Again, I see this with dogs who either live outside or spend extended periods of time outside unattended. Bring the dog inside where there is air-conditioning. Providing ample shade and adding ice to outdoor water bowls will help keep your dog cooler while outside. Dogs sweat through the pads of their feet. Perhaps get your dog a kiddie pool to dip their paws in on hot days!
Whatever the reason may be, dogs love to explore with their paws. Encourage your dog to dig on command, so you can allow your pooch to engage in this fun behavior, but only when it’s appropriate. Happy digging!