Digging is a normal dog behaviour. A dog who digs is not being disobedient. Dogs may dig to help them cope, so punishing them or stopping them without understanding why they’re digging can compromise their welfare and lead to more problems. If you wish to address your dog’s digging behaviour, the first step is to work out why your dog is digging.
Motivations to dig
Dogs may be more likely to dig if they are bored, frustrated, lonely, anxious, or full of pent-up energy. Dogs left alone outside for long periods of time in an uninteresting environment without social interaction, mental stimulation or exercise may resort to digging. In extreme weather, if a dog doesn’t have a resting area protected from the elements, they may dig holes for shelter and comfort (e.g., to lie in cool dirt on a hot day). Dogs who dig along a fence-line may be trying to escape. These reasons boil down to dogs’ needs not being met.
- Is my dog getting enough daily exercise?
- Is my dog getting enough daily attention and social company?
- Does my dog have enough mental stimulation at home? (e.g., fun tasks and chew toys)
- Have I made home the best place to be (e.g., an interesting environment with everything they need like food, water, shelter, a toilet area, and a comfortable sleeping area)
- How long is my dog being left on their own?
Certain scents (e.g., compost, blood and bone fertiliser) may attract dogs to dig. Limit your dog’s access to areas where these are applied.
An approved digging area
If your dog has all their needs met and is still highly motivated to dig, you could try limiting access to areas you don’t want them to dig up and giving them an ‘approved digging area’ by burying safe items (e.g., chew toys) and praising them for digging there.
If digging behaviour is persistent, it may indicate underlying issues. For further advice, consult a veterinary behavioural specialist.