Why do dogs dig?

“If she digs any deeper, she’ll come right out in another country.” Such and similar sayings are always jokingly uttered when my dog Jule is in her element digging. Her upper body always sinks deep into the ground until sometimes only her rear end is visible. In the process, the earth flies around her ears, and often me too. Jule loves to dig for mice and is then completely out of control. But there are other reasons for which dogs dig holes.

This article will tell you what they are and how you can stop your dog from doing them.

Why does my dog dig holes?

You barely let your four-legged friend out of your sight for five minutes in the garden, and he’s already dug a crater in your flowerbed. Or maybe you have a dog that digs a hole outside first before lying down? Why our fur friends dig has very different reasons.

For example, dogs dig because they are hunting for a mouse, mole or other animal. Some four-legged friends are so enraged that they completely forget the world around them and ignore all commands.

Disadvantages of Julius K9 harness
When digging for mice, many dogs go into a frenzy.

At such a moment, the loudest shouting often brings nothing more, but only go and pick up.

But dogs also dig holes because they are bored and/or they get attention by digging. You may find yourself scolding your fur friend every time you catch them doing it. But scolding is also a form of attention. There are several ways to remedy this situation.

  1. You should make sure that your dog is mentally and physically occupied through varied activities.
  2. Let your dog do something else that you can reward him for, for example, call him to you. By giving him a task, you interrupt the unwanted behavior in a positive way instead of punishing him for it.
  3. Don’t leave your dog unattended in the yard if he is prone to heavy digging or give him something to do, such as a stuffed Kong.

Especially in hot temperatures, some dogs tend to dig a hole before lying down. The churned earth is pleasantly cool and helps the animal cope better with the heat.

Mixed breed dog lying half in flower bed
In the heat, any cooling is welcome.

Some quadrupeds dig because they are very excited right now. Digging is how they relieve their stress. However, it can also be a skip action. Such behaviors occur when a dog is in conflict between two instincts. At the same time, the skip action seems absolutely out of context with the situation.


Your dog has discovered something to chase. But he can’t follow that because you gave him the signal to sit. Instead, he now starts digging and solves the conflict for himself in this way.
In this article on the escalation ladder, skip actions are explained in more detail.

Another reason is hormones, which can lead to digging in bitches. During heat, some of them tend to dig litter burrows in preparation for their pups. However, they don’t even have to be pregnant for this to happen; the behavior can occur even without pregnancy.

Digging is natural behavior

Maybe you have recognized your four-legged friend in these descriptions and are now thinking about what you can do against digging. The most important thing is to understand that digging is part of a dog’s natural behavior. It should therefore be absolutely possible for him to live this out.

A dog scratches its head with its hind paw.
Digging, scratching, and other behaviors can be skip actions.

That doesn’t mean you have to be happy when he rearranges your flower beds. It means that you must first identify the reason for his digging in order to take the right action.

  • If he’s digging holes because he’s bored, he needs more exposure.
  • If he digs because he is very excited, he needs help to relax.
  • If your dog is digging because she is in heat, you may want to consult with a veterinarian to see if the behavior is stressful for her.

You can also allow your dog a special area in the garden where he can dig. There you can hide his toys or treats and show him that digging is allowed here. Ultimately, the only way you can keep him from digging in undesirable places is to supervise him. If he is left to himself, he will do what he feels like.

It is also nice to dig together with your four-legged friend. To do this, you can dig something in the ground during a walk or just join in when your dog is digging somewhere. Digging can also be used as a reward.

A dog digging on the beach. That's where a recall is difficult.
Dogs should be allowed to live out their natural needs.

You pick up the natural need of your fur friend and he may live it out specifically. Having fun together with your dog also contributes to a good relationship.

Digging also has positive effects on your pet. It exercises his muscles and satisfies his hunting instinct. It helps him to relieve stress and at the same time the claws are shortened in a natural way.

However, you should keep a close eye on it, because digging is not always safe for your dog. For example, he may be bitten by an animal in the burrow. My dog even dug up wasps once and got badly stung.

Conclusion – digging is part of it

Why a dog digs holes can have very different reasons. Recognizing these is necessary to stop him or to help him find a solution to conflicts.

Digging should not be completely prevented, but should be directed into a mutually agreeable path. If you don’t know yourself what to do about excessive or unwanted digging, you should seek the advice of a dog trainer. This can help you find out the reason and train on it.

Do you have a dog that likes to dig?

What are you doing to stop him?

We’d love to hear your experiences and tips – feel free to share them with us in the comments.


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