Why Does Your Dog Dig and How to Stop Their Digging Habits?

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Tetiana Zhudyk

Curiosity, playfulness, boredom, and sometimes just a bit of mischief – dogs have a bunch of reasons for digging up your garden! In this article, we'll explore the fascinating world of your pup's digging habits. We'll uncover the "why" behind their digging adventures and equip you with friendly, effective tips to redirect and manage this behavior.

Understanding Dog Digging Behavior

No matter the undesired behavior in your pup that you want to deal with, the first step is always understanding the root cause. The most common reasons include:

  • Boredom: When dogs are bored, they may dig as a way to find stimulation: they might even dig under the fence, dig holes in your beautiful garden to entertain themselves, and even dig when you leave them home alone without much to do (but make sure it’s not due to separation anxiety).
  • Lack of Supervision in Puppies: If you catch them digging, you can discourage the behavior (by redirecting them to a toy or a designated place where they’re allowed to dig). If you start this practice when your dog is young, it's less likely they'll develop a digging habit as they grow older.

  • Burying Items They Want to Hide: They're just doing what comes naturally to them as dogs. The best you can do here is to always supervise your dog (if you can’t supervise your pooch directly, you should manage their surroundings in a way that prevents digging, e.g., by putting vinegar in the holes, providing lots of toys and chewing options, etc.).

  • Digging for Comfort: Dogs may dig around their bed simply out of a desire to make that bed more comfortable to lie down on or dig holes in the ground when seeking a spot to cool down in hot weather.

Digging can also be caused by separation anxiety in dogs. If your furry friend starts whining, pacing, or panting when you're about to leave, they might resort to digging as a way to cope with anxiety. If your pup seems to be struggling with separation anxiety, the Woofz app has a set of exercises to deal with it.

Breeds prone to digging

Some dog breeds, such as Terriers and Hounds, may dig due to their high prey drive, as they have a natural instinct to dig to find small animals. Usually, this behavior manifests as barking, whining, and being oddly fixated on the ground.

The best thing you can do here is interrupt this behavior as soon as you see it and engage them in another activity, like playing, learning commands, etc.

You can also try to prevent this behavior by removing ground critters, thus reducing the urge to hunt them.

Digging might also be more common in working dogs, given their breeding for tasks and high energy levels. When these dogs get bored, digging becomes a way to seek stimulation.

How to Stop Digging Out of Boredom?

If your pooch just enjoys digging under the fence or digging in the yard when you’re not watching, here is what you can do:

Provide Mental Stimulation: Keep your dog mentally engaged with puzzle toys, interactive games, and training sessions. Mental stimulation can be as tiring as physical exercise.

Regular Exercise: Ensure your dog gets enough physical activity through daily walks, playtime, and other forms of exercise. A tired dog is less likely to dig out of boredom.

Teach the “Off” Command: When you catch your dog digging, you can use the “Off” cue (you can learn this easily with Woofz) and/or ask them to bring you a tug toy to play with. If your dog stops digging, remember to reinforce your dog by playing their favorite game so that they’re likely to choose this behavior next time!

Create a Digging Area: Designate a specific area in your yard where digging is allowed, and encourage your dog to dig there by burying toys or treats. This can redirect their digging instincts to an acceptable spot.

Rotate Toys: Introduce new toys regularly to keep your dog interested. This prevents boredom and reduces the likelihood of destructive behavior like digging.

Interactive Feeders: Use food-dispensing toys or puzzles to make mealtime more engaging. This not only provides mental stimulation but also keeps your dog occupied.

Quality Time: Spend quality time with your dog through bonding activities, cuddles, and positive reinforcement. A strong bond with you can alleviate boredom and prevent undesirable behaviors.

How to Stop Digging for Comfort?

Digging holes to lie down when it’s hot outside

Create a comfortable resting spot to discourage digging for a cooler spot. If you don’t have a cool room in the house, try a pool in the yard or a shaded area so that your dog has somewhere cool and comfortable to go.

Schedule outdoor activities during cooler parts of the day, use paw protection to shield them from hot surfaces, and keep them mentally stimulated with interactive play.

Bed Digging

Usually, dogs dig in their bed because they want to make it more comfortable. What you can do here is simply place a blanket on it or even change it for a more cozy one to make sure your pet is happy with their sleeping area.

Wrap Up

Now, let's quickly review how to address digging behavior with the following Dos and Don'ts.

Don’t Scold Your Dog: This may create fear or anxiety, worsening the behavior. Instead, redirect their digging behavior to something appropriate and treat them when they choose the right thing.

Avoid Unsupervised Time in the Yard: If you head indoors, bring your dog along. If they must stay in the yard, provide mental toys with treats to keep them engaged and deter digging.

Don't Ignore Boredom: Make sure your dog has enough physical exercise and playtime both when you’re at home and when they’re home alone.

Don't Give Up on Training: Consistency is key. Don't give up if progress is slow; training takes time, and patience is crucial for modifying behavior.

Written by

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Tetiana Zhudyk

Woofz Content Manager with a deep passion for dogs and a strong affinity for positive reinforcement training methods.

Reviewed by

Frederica Caneiro

Certified dog trainer, exclusive positive reinforcement methods & tackling aggression problems.