Digging is an innate habit of dogs. Over 80% of dog owners in America reported that their canines have an affinity for digging. But is why dog digging holes all of a sudden? If tunneling isn’t your dog’s habit, something might be up. Your dog might be trying to escape for a variety of reasons. If you’ve been busy in the past days, digging is likely an attention-seeking behavior. Boredom and overheating are also potential culprits.
In this post, I will discuss all of these possibilities. Digging used to be a problem with our dog Sherlock so I know how frustrating it can be, especially if you have precious blooms in the yard.
Why do dogs suddenly start digging holes?
You don’t need to own a dog to know that they love digging. They will tunnel out of nowhere and for unexplained reasons. In other cultures, a dog that digs holes all of a sudden is a bad omen. The elders say that it’s a premonition that someone will die because the dog seems to be digging a grave.
Far from these superstitions, animal behaviorists have simple explanations for this behavior. The following are the common reasons:
1. It’s your dog’s instincts
The very straightforward explanation here is that digging is in every dog’s genes. This traces back to their ancestors in the wild that digs to hide valuable items from predators. It’s usually their remaining food, which they will unearth later. This happens a lot if the soil is cool since it’s perfect in “refrigerating” a wild dog’s food.
Despite their domestication, canines still bear this instinct. Some breeds are more eager diggers than others. This includes Jack Russell Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Beagle, Alaskan Malamute, Schnauzer, Dachshund, Siberian Husky, and Border Collie.
2. Your dog is bored
Like humans, dogs need activities to occupy their time. If not, they will vent their attention and energy to the ground. This will result in incessant digging around the yard.
This is more likely to happen to working dogs that are kept leashed or contained in a small yard. If not stimulated physically and mentally, the dog will find something to pass the time. Take note that excessive digging is a precursor to other negative behaviors.
3. Your dog is cooling down
Is it the summer season? Don’t be surprised if your dog will suddenly dig holes and lay on them. Digging is your dog’s way of finding a cooler surface if the ground and air is too hot. This explains why some canines will only dig holes during the warmer months.
If your dog digs and lays on the hole, you should perform cooling down steps right away. This behavior is a sign that your dog is on the verge of overheating.
Make sure that you give your dog cool (not cold!) water and bring it to a well-ventilated area. I don’t recommend bringing the dog to an air-conditioned room right away. The sudden shift in temperature may cause shock.
4. Your dog wants to escape
Almost every dog owner has a tale of an escaping canine – and that includes me. When Sherlock was just a few months old, he would often dig under our chain link fence to go outside. It turns out that he wants to play with the dog across the street. After rigorous training and fence reinforcement, we were able to correct this digging behavior.
So why will your dog want to escape? The first reason is that something is attracting the pooch outside, just like our experience with Sherlock. However, fear and anxiety are also common reasons. Your dog will also dig and try to escape if it’s left alone for long periods.
Also, rescue dogs that have been recently rehomed will try to escape and go back to their previous homes.
5. Your dog wants your attention
Sometimes, even well-behaved canines will start digging holes. This is your dog’s way of catching your attention. If you’ve been busy lately, this might be the reason why.
You should never encourage this behavior by giving the attention your dog is craving. Training and scheduled playtime are more effective solutions here.
6. Your dog smells something
Dogs have a strong sense of smell. So if you notice that your dog is digging holes and sniffing the soil now and then, there might be something underneath. You should not encourage this behavior because the thing buried under the soil might be unpleasant and even poisonous for your canine.
Why is my dog digging in the house?
While it’s quite common for dogs to dig in the yard, it may look weird once your pooch starts making digging gestures indoors. The reason behind it is just the same as when your dog digs outdoors. It can be anything from boredom, trying to hide a precious item or an interesting smell.
The negative side here is that your dog’s claws will damage the floor material. It’s important to train your pooch out of this behavior since the habit will also take its toll on their claws.
How to stop your dog from digging holes
Your dog’s digging habit is all fun and games until it starts causing damages and accidents. To correct this behavior, you can do the following:
1. Provide proper stimulation
Most dogs dig holes when they are bored. To stop this, you should schedule playtime with your dog. This way, your pooch will not dig just to get your attention and burn its pent-up energy.
You should also provide diversions to keep your dog’s mind out of digging. This includes active toys like discs, ball, tug ropes, and so on. These items will stimulate both your dog’s mind and body so it wouldn’t have the energy to dig holes.
Daily walks will also go a long way in curbing your dog’s digging habits.
If you want to fix your dog’s digging habits for good, training is the only answer. You should brush up your pooch’s obedience training and teach your dog that digging is not acceptable behavior.
The moment you see your dog digging, call its name, and say a firm ‘no!’. When it retreats to your side, give a treat right away. After that, take the dog away from the spot where it digs.
3. Make the digging spot unattractive
You can place chicken wire all over the ground because your doggo will find the texture unappealing to scratch.
Some use strong-scented herbs that canines find repulsive. However, this option may not be safe since herbs with a strong smell may cause irritation.
4. Deal with separation anxiety
I’ve seen a lot of dogs that love to dig, and most of them have separation anxiety. This happens when the pooch is left alone at home with nothing to do. And if the pooch is used to having someone as company, the isolation will drive them bonkers.
You can use calming aids, but these are just temporary and supplementary solutions. Training is still necessary to resolve the problem properly.
5. Set up a dig pit
Sometimes, you simply can’t shut a dog’s instincts. In this case, you can divert your pooch’s digging habits to a spot that will not cause accidents to the people around them.
You can set up a dig pit in one corner of your garden while laying chicken wires on other spots where your dog used to dig. After that, call your dog to the dig pit and give a reward once it reaches the spot. Over time, your dog will learn that the pit is an attractive place and suitable for digging.
Why is my dog digging holes all of a sudden? It’s commonly a case of boredom and separation anxiety. However, it can also be a sign that your dog is overheating or hiding something. Whatever the reason is, it’s important to correct the behavior as early as possible. If not, your dog will develop other negative habits that will be harder to deal with later on.