Those people who have a dog as a pet know that you can find it digging on the couch, on your bed or on the ground, to hide a nibbled bone or a toy. Now, what is the reason why dogs dig? In the lines below we explain why dogs have this curious behavior. Depending on the occasion, it may reflect anxiety, it could be seeking for entertainment or the manifestation of an instinct.
The action of digging in dogs responds to an ancestral instinct inherited from the wolves. The legs of the dogs are arranged to scratch soft surfaces with the aim of breaking them. This is how they can make holes in the ground to hide food or toys.
The graders work like a powerful shovel, ready to dig. The canine instinct is so strong that even domestic dogs, which have their food needs covered, look for places to hide their treasures or toys. That is how they will be able to enjoy them whenever they are hungry or just want to entertain themselves.
In the female dogs that experience a psychological pregnancy (pseudocyesis) they create a similar phenomenon, that is, they dig to make the shelter where they will protect those they suppose would be their puppies.
The act of digging is not only due to the dog’s need to form a small pantry. It can also happen that there is something under the surface (food or residues of some sort of substance) that draw the animal’s attention. When this event happens, the dog will dig around without stopping until he finds what his nose has identified as something of interest.
It is also very common to see how the dogs, after defecating, dig for dirt to cover it. With this action, the dog makes a visual and fragrant mark so that other canines use that territory for the same purposes.
During really hot days, dogs can dig looking for a cooler place in areas where there is shade. That is why, if a dog digs a hole in the ground, then it is most likely that he is getting ready to lie down to rest in a place that is not hot because of the sun’s rays.
If we observe a dog digging in a compulsive and destructive way, then the animal may be going through an important trance of anxiety or neurosis. The digging is kind of a therapy for the dog, that allows it to discharge of what bothers him and causes him anxiety.
You have to be aware of the uncontrolled behavior of dogs, an animal that scrabbles uncontrollably can end up damaging doors, furniture or any other piece of home decor. In these cases, we recommend consulting a veterinarian, since the compulsive excavator animal could be a candidate to suffer from severe neurosis.
If you want your dog to stop digging uncontrollably, we recommend giving more attention to it. Dogs behave like children in terms of their need to get attention and to be taken care of by adults. It is possible that your dog has learned that by digging holes in the garden it gets more attention and you care much more for it, even if your way of dealing with it is by punishing him. If this has happened to you we recommend you to ignore the animal while digging, and offer much more attention when it behaves properly.
Also, keeping the dog entertained can decrease his need to dig. Make sure you get it distracted with toys and remember to rotate them from time to time to keep the excitement. Get your dog used to leave home at the same time, preferably to places where he can hang out with others of its kind, so he will have the opportunity to run and play. During its daily walk you can play with him throwing tennis balls, the coming and going will leave it quite tired and not wanting to dig a single hole during the day.
None of these activities will restrict the animal’s instinct to dig, but they won’t do it in a desperate and uncontrollable way. It’s important that we, as owners, pay attention to our pet’s behavior, and keep these activities in mind to keep our lovely dog relaxed and happy (and not doing crazy things like eating rocks).