Why do dogs dig?

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Watch your dog and you will observe that digging is a source of joy.  The first reason dogs dig is because is because it’s instinctive behaviour, secondly, because they enjoy it!  Let’s take a look at why they do it and explore other reasons why they dig other than for the sheer joy of doing so.  

Dogs dig for many reasons, at the core of the urge to dig is instinctual, going right back to their ancient wolf ancestors. Then we need to take into account that humans developed the digging instinct further in the breeds known as terriers.  Many terriers are from breed lines specifically developed for tenacity, going to ground and digging their way in. 

Dogs of all breeds, not just terriers may dig because they can hear or smell prey animals. If there are rabbits, moles or even mice and rats underground or frequenting your garden, then dogs will dig to try and catch the prey.  Sometimes, it’s an instinctual behaviour and they wouldn’t know what to do with the prey if they came across it!  For other’s they really can be helping with vermin control.

On a hot summer’s day, dogs may dig to find cooler earth to lie on and cool down.

Dogs bury bones and some bury toys as well for the same reason.  Your dog may bury bones and toys when they have finished chewing or playing with it and they want to be able to return to it later.  That way in their mind the bone or toy is safe from being stolen and they car return to it again later.

Dogs will dig too look for food, some dogs enjoy eating bugs and grubs, this is another behaviour pattern that goes way back to evolution.

Particularly troublesome when you garden organically is dogs who dig where you have used blood and bone as a fertiliser or farmyard manure.  In both cases they are searching for the tasty morsels that they can smell.  They don’t care that they’ve dug up your precious vegetables or prize winning flowers.

Dogs will dig to get under barriers.  Dogs digging near your fence line, especially entire males or in-season bitches may be trying to go and search for a mate.  Entire males, who show no signs of digging or desire to escape, may well change when they catch the scent of an in-season bitch on the air.

Some dogs may dig to escape because they are unhappy being left in the garden or dog run.  They are trying to find company or company that they want to be with.

Back to the beginning, frequently dogs dig because they enjoy it, they enjoy the gay abandon of instinctual behaviour.  Sometimes, they exercise their ability to dig to curb anxiety or to relieve boredom.  

If you enjoyed this article you might also like to read about Signs of Separation Anxiety in Dogs and Why do dogs scratch carpet?

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