Digging. All dogs do it! It’s a well-known behavior of dogs that many people have come to accept as “it’s just what dogs do.” While in a lot of cases, it could just be a breed trait or an activity your dog loves to pass the time with, in other cases it could be a sign of something that needs to be addressed. Dogs will dig holes in your yard for a number of different reasons, some you may never have even thought of:
- Boredom – This is probably what most people think of first. You’re away at work all day and come home only to find your pup has dug multiple different holes in your yard to make the hours go a bit faster. The best way to offset this behavior is to leave your dog with multiple different activities to keep themselves entertained. New toys, Kongs filled with dog-friendly paste, the popular GameChanger® toy, or even scheduling someone to come mid-day to play with or walk your dog can all help to keep them busy so that they won’t resort to finding their own source of entertainment. The old adage “a tired dog is a good dog” is true!
- Nervous/Separation Anxiety – Dogs are companions and they crave interaction just as much as humans do. Being left home alone all day in a quiet house or yard can create a bit of anxiety for dogs who will then find themselves digging. Some options to help your furry friend feel more comfortable is to leave the radio or TV on so they are less likely to hear the sounds outside of the house and become nervous, use a two way doggy cam so you can talk to them while you’re away and reassure them everything is okay, or to ask a family member or friend to stop by to break up the day for them.
- Investigating/Chasing Rodents – Dogs’ hearing is four times greater than humans. This means they can hear frequencies much higher and lower than humans do. So, while your dog is enjoying some play time in the backyard, chances are they’re able to hear what’s going on underground and decide they want to get a bit closer and check it out! A way around this behavior is to actually encourage it, in an established, approved area of your yard. By giving them an area that they are allowed to dig in and burying toys in the ground for them to find will allow them to investigate within the limits you have set.
- Escaping the Heat – Dogs can become overheated just as humans can. If they don’t have a cool spot to rest, you may find that they’ll create their own spot by digging a hole in the dirt to lay down in. To prevent this from happening, ensure that your dog either has access to the air-conditioned house or a shaded area in the yard and has plenty of cool water to drink while you’re away. If possible, stopping by home on your lunch hour to give them a quick run through the hose can also help cool your pet down.
- Nutrition – Believe it or not, a lack of complete nutrition can cause your dog to dig! For example, if you’re feeding him/her high levels of incomplete proteins, thus they are not getting the necessary amino acids to thrive, they may resort to digging in order to seek out the nutrients he/she is lacking. Ensure that your dog is receiving a complete diet which is comprised of complete proteins, carbohydrates, fiber, fats, and vitamins and minerals. As always, consult with your veterinarian to determine the right diet for your dog.
- Learned Behavior – Believe it or not, many dogs learn by watching human behavior. If we take our dogs out while gardening, our pets can learn to dig by watching us. We often tell our clients to be sure to keep pets indoors when doing significant gardening to prevent certain unwanted learned behavior. Dogs also learn by watching other dogs. Got multiple pets? Kennel your pet often? If there is a digger in the crowd, your dog can learn this behavior.
While some dogs may just dig because it’s in their breed’s nature and some dogs may just be having a good ole’ time, often times there is a bigger picture as to why they’re digging. You may want to get help from a professional to help you determine the reason for your dog’s digging and how to resolve it.
Vicki and Richard Horowitz are dog behavioral therapists and trainers with Bark Busters, the world’s largest dog training company. For more information, call 1-877-500-BARK (2275) or visit www.dog-training-new-haven-ct.com.