Digging and burying behavior

A shelter dog enjoys time in the playyard at AHS

Why dogs dig

Dogs dig for a variety of reasons including boredom, as a reaction to underground noises and scents, to bury objects, to conserve heat in the winter and disperse heat in the summer, to create a bed or to provide a passage or escape. Digging in soil and playing with roots is entertaining, and the digging becomes self-reinforcing. Digging is a natural behavior and is best controlled rather than eliminated. 

Managing your dog's digging

  • Set up a fenced sand digging pit stocked with treat-filled Kong toys, bones, and other play objects. Encourage your dog to play in this spot and praise him for digging there.
  • If a fenced spot isn't possible, supervise your dog when he is outside and redirect the digging to appropriate play with a tennis ball or a Frisbee, for example.
  • If your dog is digging to cool off, provide a wading pool or a shady spot for him to use. If your dog has to be left outside,  provide him with a kennel.
  • Digging behavior can also be controlled with increased human interaction in play and increased physical activity so that your dog burns energy in an appropriate way instead of by digging.
  • Don't punish your dog for his digging. Dogs only relate to events that happen seconds after a behavior, so delayed punishment will be misinterpreted.