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.

Need more behavior help?

If you have additional questions about your dog's behavior, contact our behavior pet helpline. For more helpful tips and resources for training and managing your pet's behavior, you can also visit our behavior resource library

Contact Behavior Helpline

For caring, compassionate advice and resources to address all your animal concerns.

Contact the Pet Helpline