Why do dogs dig?

Most behaviors of dogs are either the product of instinct, or a learned behavior. Digging behavior is no exception; it is an instinct, but can also be learned. In addition, there are certain breeds, Terriers and Dachshunds, for instance, which were bred specifically for their ability to dig out game, such as badgers, foxes, and otters. They have an even greater digging instinct.

Dogs dig for a variety of reasons.

Dogs will often dig out of boredom. If you leave your dog out alone in the yard for any length of time, he may dig just for something to do. Play with him out there, or provide him with chew toys or interactive toys like a Kong or Pet Planet rubber toy with treats stuffed inside.

Digging is often used as a means of escape. Your dog may want to leave a fenced yard because there are so many more interesting things to do elsewhere.

If you have an intact (unspayed or unneutered) dog, he or she may be digging to escape in order to mate with another dog. If you do not plan to breed your dog, a good way to prevent digging for this reason is to neuter him or spay her.

Since deeper layers of soil tend to be cooler, your dog may be digging to find relief from the heat. Always provide a cool, shady place for your dog to rest when he is outside.

Dogs are great savers. They will bury bones or other treats 'for a rainy day' when they may need them.

If you use bone or blood meal to fertilize your garden, the scent may be irresistible. A dog may dig and dig trying to find that nonexistent bone. Stay away from cocoa mulch, it is toxic if eaten.

Any dog may dig to excavate a den. A female dog may dig in order to provide a nest for babies, whether she is pregnant or not.

The trick to stopping any pet's unwanted behavior is understanding it and then manipulating it into a behavior of which we approve. There are obvious things you can do to prevent digging, some of which are mentioned above. Punishing digging will only stop the behavior in your presence. Until you identify and address the cause, the digging will continue in your absence.

Digging is a deeply ingrained behavior in some dogs. Although you may want to eliminate it altogether, you need to realize that in some breeds, this may be impossible. Sometimes it's better to allow the dog to be a dog and give him an appropriate place to dig.

Give your dog a place where he is permitted to dig and train him, with praise and treats, to dig in that spot and not in an inappropriate place. A digging area can be a cheap, plastic kiddie pool filled with sand. It can be covered when it rains and the sand will brush off your dog's coat easily.

Bury a tasty treat in the sand, let your dog see you do it, then let him dig it up. Periodically place a treat or two in the digging area so the dog will be encouraged to dig there instead of in your garden.

Deter the dog from digging in inappropriate areas. There are many different ways to do this, including putting pepper, citrus or diluted ammonia on the inappropriate area. You can also bury the dog's feces in the spots where they like to dig. There are also commercial products such as Keep Off, No-Dig, or Get Off My Garden. These products work by creating a scent in the area which is repugnant to animals, or which interferes with the animal's sense of smell. Some products can be used directly on plants and grass, some cannot. This is probably the easiest of the solutions. This will also work at repelling nuisance animals other than your own.

Do not plant flowers or work in your garden in front of your dog. They can learn by example and will be all too glad to help you.