Updated: Apr 7
Dogs dig holes for various reasons. Not just that they dig holes in the ground, but some of our indoor pets even enjoy digging carpets, furniture and ground out of big flower pots. In order to adapt to the climate and maintain their body temperature or cool down, wild dogs used to dig holes in the ground & use them as a temperature regulated shelter of a kind. Food preservation was also a strong motive to dig. Wild dogs used to hide the remains of food for later use in such holes. Domesticated pet dogs don’t ever have to scavenge or hunt for food, yet the instinctive need to bury it somewhere safe just in case, remains. Some females dig holes in the ground shortly before they give birth to puppies. They do it in order to create a stable temperature and a safe place for the puppies, which is also a reminiscence of wild dogs’ behavior. Exploration “Hidden treasures” that who knows when and how ended up buried in your backyard may just be what motivates your dog to dig holes. As trivial an object as long forgotten food or a bone that some other dog may have buried shallowly can cause your dog to dig. Digging is a natural way to exercise, explore, and have fun. If you are able to provide your dog with an area you would allow him to dig in – great! Keep in mind that keeping your dog from turning the whole yard into his digging area may take some training and establishing certain rules that you should not change! Punish digging anywhere else but in the allowed area.
Boredom and Stress Related Digging
Combined with a taste in that kind of fun, boredom is a very common cause of digging. Dogs with too much energy left unspent do it in order do have some fun by themselves and exercise.
Fireworks and thunder storms are some of those situations. Manic digging may also be a consequence of a more serious issue of your dog feeling deprived of your attention. In that case, digging is a means to attract your attention and release anxiety.
How to Stop the Digging? Most people are not fine with having their backyards or furniture dug into. Dogs who dig for fun and exercise do it when the unspent energy builds up. One way to prevent this from happening is to exercise your dog regularly. Running, jogging and playing with other dogs are some of the ways to exhaust the energy that your dog builds up while you are doing something else. It is easier to clearly show your discontent when you catch the digger in action. If you do, be loud and punish your dog by sending him to his kennel and ignoring him for a while afterwards. Same goes for the house dogs. Dig into the rug – spend the rest of the day in the doggy basket. Fill in the holes in the ground your dog dug in front of your dog. Sounding upset and noisy while doing that may also help pointing out how displeased you are.
Fear or Anxiety Triggered Digging
Phobia of thunder or fireworks may trigger your dog’s urge to dig. In this case, dogs do it because they do not know how else to handle fear and use the digging as a stress-release mechanism. Based on our knowledge on the instinctive behavioural patterns that originate from the past, the digging may be explained as an attempt to create a shelter that will tone down noises. If your dog does suffer from a phobia of thunder and fireworks it is very hard to miss. If your dog is one of those dogs, rather than training him not to dig, help him adjust to loud noises or provide him with an indoor shelter until the storm is over. Drawing negative attention probably followed by a punishment should alarm you that your dog is anxious and bored to death and that he reaches out for you at any cost. Try paying more attention to your dog, play together and exercise more often.
The main difference lays in the fact that the worst thing that can result from digging elsewhere in the yard is having a hole in the ground, but digging under the fence can result in losing your dog or having him seriously injured. Some owners point out that blocking the visual access to what’s behind the fence is what stopped their dogs from digging to the other side. Some dogs are, on the other hand, motivated by sounds, smells or simply curiosity, therefore blocking the visual element will not do the trick. In this case, the goal must be to make the act of digging unsuccessful. There is a DIY solution based on installing a net by digging it into a several inches’ deep dirt all along both sides of a fence. Those who tried it noticed that dogs found digging the net unpleasant and that they stopped soon after. Some experiences conclude that the most reliable solution is to build a concrete path along the fence. It may seem radical, yet this action will permanently remove the danger of your dog creating an unsupervised way out of the yard.