Dogs dig. Digging is normal dog behavior. There are several reasons why dogs dig. Dogs dig to mark a scrape or elimination area, to bury something, to uncover something they perceive is buried, to regulate their body temperature, and to play with something that plays back such as soil, roots or stones. For some dogs, digging is fun! Digging can also be a displacement activity for other behaviors that the dog cannot or should not engage in. Signs the dog is getting ready to dig are sniffing, the dog may be listening and pawing and may be stimulated by visual, auditory or olfactory cues. Dogs very greatly within and among breeds in their desire to follow scent and buried creatures. When dogs become self employed they may dig as an aerobic outlet (exercise) and may need a more suitable outlet for their tracking (job they were bred for) needs. Dogs dig to get cooler or to get warmer and dogs dig as a form of self play and they quickly learn that roots and so il play back! The only remedy for digging is constant supervision so the owner can stop the dog as the digging begins and active play should be increased. Dogs who dig for amusement are learning they can stimulate themselves. These dogs need more aerobic play with people or objects that play back. There is also a learned component to digging. The longer the digging occurs the worse it will become as digging becomes a self reinforcing behavior. Some dogs start digging to mimic their owners (an allelomimetic behavior) when they watch their owners garden, the dog wants to garden too.


Yield a little as Terry Ryan says, by fencing off part of your yard for a practical doggy playground. Find a suitable spot, shovel out the top soil in an area at least 6 feet x 6 feet and replace it with heavy sand which makes digging easier and muddy paws less work! You can hide some of the dog’s special toys in the sand and then get in the sandbox and start digging and your dog will enjoy watching you dig and find the toys. Make it a game by hiding the dog’s toys and balls and having the dog find them. A children’s hard plastic pool makes a good sand box cover as well as another great doggy playground toy. Fill the children’s plastic wading pool with water and let the summer fun begin.


Other suggestions for deterring a dog from digging in an inappropriate area are: a sheet of chicken wire over a favorite digging place, a commercial dog repellent, a sprinkle of cayenne pepper or landscape prime digging areas with river rock and shrub.


Katherine Smith

Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants), Professional Member APDT, (Association of Pet Dog Trainers), AKC Canine Good Citizenship Evaluator, Animal Behavioral College Mentor