Why Do Dogs Dig Holes? 8 Common Reasons and Simple Solutions

One of the most frustrating things about being a dog owner is when your dog starts to dig holes in the yard. It’s especially frustrating when they get into the garden you put so much time and effort into! Your first instinct may be to figure out how to stop your dog from digging, but before you go down that route, you need to learn the answer to the question “Why do dogs dig holes in the first place?!”

Regardless of why your dog is displaying this behavior, you need to observe WHERE they are digging. If you notice they are digging near the fence, you need to stop this behavior as soon as you can. Digging near the fence puts your dog at risk of ‘digging out.’ If they are digging holes in the middle of the yard or in the garden, it can be annoying but at least they aren’t a flight risk!

In this article, we are going to go over why dogs dig holes and then go over the top solutions to put an end to the behavior. Figuring out the “why” first is important because that will determine the action you take to get them to stop.

Dogs Dig Because of Natural Instinct

The reason dogs dig holes can be summed up in one word…instincts. It’s true that different things can cause these instincts to kick in, but in the end it comes down to instincts. In fact, just about all dog behavior comes down to instinct. Here are the primary things that will cause your dogs “digging” instinct to kick in.

  • Survival
  • Anxiety/Stress
  • Boredom
  • Temperature Changes
  • Excessive Snacks
  • Trying to Escape
  • On The Hunt
  • Lack of Nutrients

We will cover each of these below along with how to stop the behavior.

Here Are The Top 5 Reasons Dogs Dig Holes

1: Digging Holes is a Survival Instinct

Even though our adorable pups may look very different from those in the wild, the truth is, their origin means that they have similar genetic and instincts. One of the reasons dogs out in the wild dig is to hide food they can’t eat right away – thereby keeping it safe and protected from other dogs. Once they are ready to eat again, they will return to the spot they buried their food and finish eating.

Apart from hiding food, wild dogs also dig burrows to sleep in and protect their young from other predators. If your dog is digging holes in your yard, you’ll want to check if they are burying their food.

How To Fix

Make sure your dog feels safe at all times. Keep them on a regular feeding schedule (twice per day) so they know they’ll be getting food twice that day. If you accidentally skip a meal, this may cause them to bury some of their food for later. A regular eating schedule is key to fix this one.

2: Anxiety and Stress

anxious dogs are prone to dig in the yard to get out there anxietyDogs get anxious a lot more than we think. Anxiety in dogs leads to a variety of behavioral issues and digging is one of the most common behaviors. Changes in their routine or even changes at home might have them feeling anxious and stressed. To get rid of that stress they end up digging.

If you suspect your dog might be anxious or stressed, consider the following.

  • Has there been a change in your work hours? Maybe you aren’t home at your usual time. This can cause separation anxiety
  • Is there someone new in the house?
  • Did you get a new pet?
  • Did a family member move out?
  • Was there a big fight between you and your spouse?

The list could go on and on, but those are some of the most common reasons dogs get anxiety and stress. If you suspect your dog might be anxious, be sure to give them lots of comforting attention as they become accustomed to these changes.

How To Fix

The first thing is to figure out what’s causing the anxiety and stress in the first place. Once you figure it out, is there anything you can do about it? If not, the only thing you can do is be there for your dog as much as possible until they get used to the changes.

3: Your Dog is Bored and Has Lots of Energy

Let’s be honest…most dog owners don’t provide their dogs with as much exercise as they should. Long walks and regular play sessions prevent your dog from getting bored which will then ensure that they don’t dig to get rid of all that built up energy.

How To Fix

If you believe your dog is bored, there are many ways you can engage and challenge them throughout the day. One of the best options is to get them interactive toys – an example of this would be an automatic rolling ball. If you don’t have time to play fetch with your pup, this ball will roll around and try to run away from your dog. Walking your dog for at least 20 minutes per day is another great way to get rid of some of that built up energy.

4: Temperature Changes

One reason dogs like to dig is because they aren't comfortable with the temperature.For dogs that have thick coats (Siberian Huskies), it can be difficult to deal with temperature changes going into summer. Since dogs don’t have sweat glands, on the extra hot days they look for other ways to cool down…digging is one of those ways.

How exactly does this help your dog cool down? Because the further down they dig, the colder it gets. If your dog digs a hole and then lays down in that hole, you know it’s because they are trying to cool down.

How To Fix

Provide them with plenty of comfort and shelter. You should invest in a dog house that will keep them cool during the summer and warm during the winter. These dog houses can be a bit expensive, but not nearly as expensive as constantly fixing your lawn!

5: Too Many Snacks

We briefly talked about this in the first point, but dogs hide food when they are full. If you feed them their regular meals and then continue to give them snacks throughout the day, there’s a good chance they are going to partially bury the snack in the backyard and save it for later.

How To Fix

The good news is this is easily fixable…don’t overfeed your dog! Only give them a snack or two per day. if you give them an excessive amount of snacks, they’ll go to the yard and bury the snacks for later.

6: Attempting to Escape

If your dog is digging by the fence line, this means they are digging to escape. Don’t worry, just because your dog is attempting to make a run for it doesn’t mean they are trying to get away from you. There could be many reasons your dog wants out. Maybe they saw another dog and want to play, they might be on the hunt, or they might just be curious about what’s out there.

How To Fix

We’ve written an entire article on this subject alone. If you want to learn how to get your dog to stop digging by the fence, click here for methods that have been proven to work. Hint: Chicken wire is your best option for a quick fix

7: On The Hunt

Dogs that are bred to hunt can’t help themselves! If they see anything they can hunt, they’ll do whatever they need to do to catch it…including digging holes in your yard for long periods of time. If your dog seems to be “digging with a purpose”, it probably means that you have some sort of small animal such as a snake or gopher in your backyard and your dog is on the hunt.

How To Fix

This is a tough one for dogs that are bread to hunt. You’re trying to train them for something they were literally bred to do. Instead of trying to fix their natural behavior, the best thing you can do is make sure other animals stay out of your yard. Your dog can’t hunt if no other animals are present. Take a look at the area of the yard they have been digging. Is there a snake or gopher hole right next to it?

8: Lack of NutritionA dog that lacks nutrition is more prone to digging in the yard to get the nutrients they require

Have you ever had a weird craving before? That’s your body’s way of telling you that you need more of a specific nutrient. Take pickles for example. If you are craving pickles, that means your body is telling you it needs more sodium or electrolytes. A dogs body will do the same thing. Dirt contains a number of vitamins and minerals. When a dog is lacking a certain vitamin or mineral, their instincts will kick and and they’ll begin digging as a way to get the nutrients they’re lacking.

How To Fix

This is a simple fix. Check the dog food label and make sure it has been labeled “complete and balanced”. If it has that label on it, then you’re good to go. If not, your dog may be lacking in certain vitamins or minerals.

The Fine Line

Being a dog owner isn’t always easy, and you’ll need to make tough decisions. If you have a dog that loves digging, you’ll need to decide if you should put an end to this behavior or just let your dog be a dog. If this doesn’t happen often, it might be worth just filling the hole that your dog digs up every once in a while. However, if it’s becoming a daily or weekly issue, you’ll probably want to put an end to it. You’ll also want to put an end to it if they are digging close to your fence. Figuring out why your dog is digging in the first place is the key to putting an end to this issue.

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