Why Do Dogs Dig? Understanding Canine Instincts

If you find your dog rearranging dirt in the yard, it should come as no surprise. Digging is one of the most common (and messy) behaviors to manage in dogs. Here are the most common reasons why your dog has become your resident gardener.

why do dogs dig

1. It’s Fun!

Fido may be digging in the backyard because it’s enjoyable! According to the Humane Society, your dog may dig when they learn that roots and soil “play back”. Many dogs dig if they are left outside alone without any other forms of entertainment. As an antidote, be sure to give your dog plenty of exercise, love, and other outlets for his energy! At least, consider creating a special digging area to help contain your dog’s messy habit.

2. Genetics

Some dogs are more genetically predisposed to digging than others. Hunters originally bred terriers and hounds to track, hunt, and burrow after their prey. So, their natural reaction to hearing a small animal or insect underground is to chase after them! It is difficult to discourage this behavior. When you see your dog digging, firmly tell them “no” and give them a different activity focus on. They will be less likely to create a mess if they can play with you!

3. Escaping

The outside world tempts even the most well-behaved dogs. There are so many new sounds and smells to explore!  Or, sometimes a neighbor’s dog or a thunderstorm can scare your pup into trying to escape from the yard. To naturally discourage this particular digging behavior, remove incentives for them to escape. This could mean installing chicken wire at the base of your fence to keep out wildlife. Also, make sure your yard is a safe environment for your dog.

4. Denning

Have you ever seen your dog digging at their bed before snuggling in? This is called “denning”, an instinctive trait inherited from their wild ancestors. When a dog was ready to whelp her young, she would dig up a safe and dry environment in which to raise her pups. Dens tend to be cooler in warm weather and warmer in the cold weather. This is a very difficult behavior to break because it is such a strong instinct. Give your dog the safety and reassurance they seek: protection against harsh weather, access to water, and a comfortable bed.

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