Why Do Dogs Dig?

Digging is especially problematic in the summer months; however, can be a year round problem in the Bay Area. But do you know WHY your dog digs? While dogs are naturally designed to be instinctual diggers, some instances can actually be the result of a behavioral issue.

Dealing with the HEAT!

Have you ever noticed your dog walk in a circle before she lays down? Do you get frustrated by your dog laying on the bare floor rather than the expensive dog bed you just purchased? Dogs are masters of regulating their own body temperature. Sometimes digging behaviors can be as simple as finding dirt cooler than the warm surface layer. Often dogs will strategically dig holes in areas of your yard with varying ground temperature differences. Creating proper heat shelters for your dog and providing ample amounts of water can help with regulation digging.

I was BORN to dig!

Ever notice your dog pawing at the carpet, couch or even your bed? Possibly a small toy is taking a beating from your dog’s front legs? Some dogs were just born to dig. Terrier breeds and mixes are often more prone to an instinctual desire to dig. At times this is caused by the perceived sound of small critters moving about beneath the surface of your yard. When this is the case, you may see holes throughout your yard in what seems to be a completely random order. This is a good sign you have an instinctual prey driven digger on your hands! You can channel that desire by exercising your dog in open areas where digging won’t create the need to repair an expensive sprinkler system.

LOOK what I can do!

We all know dogs love attention… But what do you do when you arrive home to chewed shoes and trash strewn about the house? Often dogs will act submissive or “cower” away when they have done this. Is it because they “know what they did”? Actually, it’s the contrary. Dogs that don’t get enough mental and physical stimulation will entertain themselves in a way they know will grab your attention! To dogs, all attention whether positive or negative is sought after. If you notice your dog only digs when you are gone, this may be a reason. The unfortunate reality of this type of digging is that there is a corresponding attention demand behavioral pattern that has been created. Mental and physical stimulation are a MUST for this type of digging. You may need to ask yourself if you are potentially responsible for creating this type of behavior? If you think this is the case, a behaviorist can help you come up with a plan to get your dog out of the dirt and on to a less dirty path!

No one will EVER find this here!

“Honey have you seen my keys?” Did you check the back yard? Dogs instinctually bury items of high value as a leftover survival skill. When the canine species lived as packs in the wild, often subordinate members of the pack would bury bones and bits of meat to feed small pups or save for later. Typically the “Alpha” of the pack would eat his or her fill; it became a necessity for those beneath her to hide bits to return to later. You will often see holes hidden in parts of the yard that seem “safe” with this type of digging. Dogs will often bury the prized item by digging a shallow hole that is then covered by dirt with their nose. They may also move items several times to make sure they are still “safe.” Some dogs may even repeat this behavior in the house, so make sure to check your couch cushions for the bone you presented last week! The solution to this type of digging is rather simple: Check your dogs mouth before letting her in the back yard and retrieve all bones or toys you give to your dog. Keep them in your own designated place out of reach of your dirty-nosed canine!

That’s it, I’m LEAVING!

Finding holes near the bottom of the fence? Or possibly on the side of the yard that attaches to the neighbor dog’s yard? Some dogs will simply dig to escape from confinement. This is typically also an indication of an under-stimulated dog left to “pasture.” The grass is always greener especially if there is someone to play with on the other side! Escape motivation can be the most dangerous type, as it is often accompanied by anxiety. Anxiety can be serious. If you suspect your dog is suffering from anxiety, consult a behaviorist right away.

No really… It tastes GOOD!

Find yourself having to tell your dog to “DROP!!” the large disgusting mound of grass and dirt and asking yourself “what is wrong with that dog?” The answer is nothing! Dogs will often indulge on nutrient rich soil or fertilizer. As scent-driven creatures, dogs will find nutrients even in the dirt; especially if its got a little cow fertilizer in it. However, dirt eating can also turn into obsessive behavior for the attention seeking and can make your dog ill. Some fertilizers can also be hazardous. Be sure you are using a pet safe fertilizer on your lawn and garden. If you suspect your dog may be compulsively eating the dirt or grass from your yard be sure to consult a vet as this can be a dangerous habit; especially if you see vomiting. If your vet clears your dog in good health and you are still having the problem, consult a behaviorist about the possibility of a created behavior.

In conclusion, dogs may dig for a number or reasons. Finding the source of your dog’s digging problem is the first step to the rehabilitation of the issue. Stay tuned to your dog’s habits and keep track of what type of digging your dog may be presenting. Be sure to keep your pet safe, happily motivated and healthy! And remember, we are always here to help!

Enjoy your summer!


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