It’s not uncommon to notice your dog’s nose and paws covered in dirt after they come in from the yard. This is often a sign that they’ve been digging, which can be frustrating for pet owners. However, according to Jennifer Abrams, an Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, digging is a natural behavior for dogs and can be caused by a variety of reasons, such as exercise, play, prey drive, or a desire to escape. To prevent your dog from digging, it’s important to understand why they’re doing it and provide them with alternative ways to fulfill their needs.
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1. They’re bored
According to Dr. Sabina Kong, a veterinarian and experienced dog trainer, dogs usually dig out of boredom. Digging can be a fulfilling activity for dogs and a way to seek attention. To address this issue, it is important to ensure that your dog gets enough exercise and mental stimulation.
How to stop boredom digging
- Include additional physical exercise to prevent digging behavior in dogs.
- Consider hiring a dog walker if there is no time for an extra walk.
- Engage dogs in energy-burning games and puzzle toys to keep them entertained and mentally stimulated.
2. They’re hunting for prey
Abrams explains that certain dog breeds have a natural instinct to dig, which is hardwired into their behavior. This is particularly evident in breeds like Jack Russell Terriers, Afghan Hounds, and Greyhounds, whose original purpose was to chase and track small animals into their burrows. These dogs have a strong drive to dig as they are searching for prey, and they will continue digging until they catch it, even if we can’t see the small creatures ourselves.
How to stop prey digging
Toys that cater to a dog’s prey-seeking behavior are a great way to keep them engaged. Puzzle toys that are food-motivated are good, but ones that compel them to burrow or chase, like snuffle mats and self-moving toys, are even better. Flirt poles are also a great option for dogs with a strong prey drive, as they allow for interactive playtime with their humans.
3. They’re making a den
It’s not uncommon for dogs to dig holes in your yard in search of a comfortable and secure den. If you notice your dog frequently lying in the hole they’ve dug or repeatedly digging in the same spot, it’s likely they’re creating a den for themselves.
How to stop den digging
- Dog houses: Dog houses are a great option for satisfying a dog’s denning instinct and providing a comfortable space for them to spend time outside. If your dog will be outside during the winter, consider choosing a heated dog house to keep them warm.
- Cave beds: If your dog enjoys burrowing, cave beds are an excellent choice as they offer shelter and plenty of soft fabric for them to dig into. However, keep in mind that cave beds are typically more suitable for indoor dens rather than outdoor ones due to their soft and cozy nature.
- Dog tents: For outdoor use, dog tents are a fantastic choice as they provide weatherproof shelter and shade during the warmer months. The best part is that they can be easily taken down and set up again as needed, making them a versatile option that doesn’t have to be a permanent yard feature.
4. They’re cooling down
Dogs often dig to cool down, especially in warmer weather. The soil beneath the surface is cooler than the top layer, and a freshly dug hole provides a comfortable spot to relax. If you notice your dog digging shallow pits in your yard and then lying in them, it’s likely they’re doing so to regulate their body temperature.
How to stop digging to stay cool
- Cooling vests: These specially designed vests are made with cooling materials that help regulate a dog’s body temperature while they are outside. They provide a comfortable and cooling sensation to keep your furry friend cool and refreshed during hot summer days.
- Gel-filled cooling mats: These mats are filled with a cooling gel that absorbs and dissipates heat, providing a cool surface for your dog to lie on. They are portable and can be placed anywhere, making them perfect for outdoor activities or even inside the house on hot days.
- Dog pools: A dog pool is a great way to keep your pup cool and entertained during the summer. These pools are specifically designed for dogs and are made with durable materials that can withstand their playful nature. They provide a safe and fun environment for your dog to splash around and cool off in the water.
- Water toys: Water toys are a fantastic way to keep your dog entertained and cool at the same time. These toys are designed to be used in water and often have features like sprinklers or water jets that provide a refreshing and playful experience for your furry friend.
- Frozen toys: Freezing your dog’s toys can be a fun and cooling activity for them. Simply soak their toys in water, freeze them, and then give them to your dog to enjoy. The frozen toys provide a soothing and cooling sensation for your dog to chew on, helping them beat the heat.
- Pupsicles: Pupsicles are frozen treats specifically made for dogs. These treats are usually made with dog-friendly ingredients like yogurt, fruits, and vegetables. They are a delicious and refreshing way to keep your dog cool and hydrated during hot weather.
5. They’re trying to escape
If you have a dog that tends to dig, it’s important to prevent them from doing so in order to avoid any frightening situations where they may escape their enclosure. By stopping them from digging, you can ensure that they won’t run away or get lost.
How to stop escape digging
Is your dog constantly digging and escaping? Consider using barriers like Dig Defence to prevent this behavior. These sturdy metal stakes can be placed in the ground in front of your fence line to cordon off areas where your dog may try to dig. Dig Defence is available in packs of 4, 10, or 25 sections.
Should I See A Dog Trainer to Stop Digging?
If redirecting your dog’s focus to something positive doesn’t stop their excessive digging or if you’re struggling to find effective solutions, it’s a good idea to seek assistance from a behavior professional. Consider looking for dog trainers who are certified by reputable organizations such as Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists or the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Another option is to schedule an appointment with a veterinary behaviorist.